Colorful Mandarin Duck

Male Mandarin Ducks are easily recognizable because of their abundant and gorgeous coloring. 

Even in shaded areas, like the photo on the right, their brilliance is discernible if you look carefully.  Ironically, I almost overlooked that Mandarin duck because those varied colors also provide an excellent camouflage on land.

The Mandarin Duck rests during the day on land, often under overhanging shrubs near water. 

Facts About the Mandarin Duck

  • Woodland & wooded areas duck (not a Wood Duck!)
  • Genus:  Aix (water bird) galericulata (small capped head) - which is shared only with the Wood Duck
  • Length - up to 18.5 inches
  • Weight - less than 3 lbs
  • Region - Originally East Asia, but has been introduced to other parts of the world 
  • Largest populations are now found in Japan & England
  • They are not hunted as food since they don't taste very good
  • They prefer to feed at dusk and eat acorns, nuts, rice, grapes, seeds, plants, flowers like roses or rhododendrons, insects, snails and small fish.
  • Preferred Nest - hole in a tree lined with down 
  • Mandarin Ducks keep the same mating partner through several mating seasons instead of choosing a new partner
  • Sexes Differ in Appearance - Males are vibrantly colored, Females are very pretty grayish brown & white with blue tips on a few of her feathers.  The white eye ring and stripe makes her identifiable as a female Mandarin Duck.

Don't they make a lovely couple!

Because of their monogamy,  Chinese culture regards them as symbols of fidelity and affection, therefore they are often used in Chinese art.

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Southern White Rhino

Southern White Rhino Facts & Photos
The White Rhinoceros is quite impressive in size.  They are the second largest land mammal and are surprising non-aggressive.  Their size is only exceeded by the elephant.  Ironically, they are grazers and eat primarily short grasses and leaves.

In the late 19th century, Southern White Rhinos were thought to be extinct.  However, a small herd was found in 1895 and they have been protected ever since.  Statistics now indicate that there are over 20,000 living Southern White Rhinos and they are the only rhinos that are not endangered at this time.   Unfortunately, that makes them a target for poachers and the illegal trade of their horns, which are consumed by the wealthy as a symbol of their elite status.

I couldn't help but think what a gentle giant this sweet Southern White Rhino was when I was photographing her.  She has such a serene look on her face.  She might not normally be the kind of animal that we would find endearing, but this one was.  I only had to stop long enough to really look and pay attention to her.  Oh, and if you look closely at the introduction picture, you can see the hair fringing her ears.

Southern White Rhino
Photo by Cynthia Sylvestermouse


Facts About the Southern White Rhino 

Left Image Attribution:
By TomFawls [CC BY-SA 3.0
from Wikimedia Commons

Right Image Attribution: 
By Ltshears [CC BY-SA 3.0
from Wikimedia Commons
 If you are wondering how you can tell the difference between a Southern White Rhino and other rhinos, you would need to look closely at their mouth.

The Southern White Rhino (image on the left) has a square muzzle instead of the pointed upper lip of the black rhino (image on the right).   

  • Life Span (wild):  30 yrs 
  • Life Span (captivity):  40 yrs
  • Weight:  Up to 5000 pounds 
  • Diet:  Grass & Leaves
  • Almost No Hair 
  • Most Hair found on tail & ears
  • Two Horns
  • Front Horn Length - Up to 60"  (average 24")
  • Regions: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Namibia
  • Near Threatened (previously endangered)

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Bontebok Antelope

Once listed as "vulnerable" due to over-hunting and habitat loss, the Bontebok Antelope is now listed among the "least concern".  In large part, that is due to a farmer, Alexander van der Bijl,  who gave it sanctuary when it was near extinction back in 1864.  While it still has a small range area to live, the Bontebok Antelope does seem to be thriving now.  This truly is an excellent example of what one concerned individual can do that makes a huge difference for endangered animals.

As a note of interest,  there were only 17 remaining Bontebok Antelopes when the farmer provided a sanctuary and saved the species from extinction.  In the 1930's, a national park was declared solely to conserve them.

The Bontebok Antelope can be easily identified by the pure white patch on his rump that other similar looking antelopes do not have. 

 Facts About the Bontebok Antelope

  • Considered a medium-sized Antelope
  • Beautiful rich brown color with prominent white markings
  • Both Males & Females have "ringed" lyre-shaped horns that grow up to 20" long
  • Height Measurement at the shoulder - Up to 3¼ feet
  • Weighs up to 340 lbs
  • Body Length - Up to 7 feet
  • Tail can add an additional 2 feet
  • Region:  South Africa and Lesotho & Namibia of southern Africa
  • Food:  Grass 
  • They can go for several days without water
  • Not good jumpers like other antelope (that is actually how the farmer were able to keep them in an enclosure, thereby saving the species)
  • Bontebok Antelopes run in herds
  • Lifespan:  17 years
  • Endangered Status:  Least Concern

The Afrikaans word "bontebok" literally translated, means patchwork buck.   I find it very interesting that baby Bontebok are light brown (see the photo below).  You can barely see the white patches. 

Bontebok Antelopes with Baby (close-up of baby to see tiny horns)

All Photos are the Exclusive Property of Cynthia Sylvestermouse and should not be used without written permission.

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Cougar, Puma, Mountain Lion, Wild Cat

What you would call this wild cat depends on where you live.   Whether you call him a cougar, puma, mountain lion or something else, he is still a very powerful, stealthy cat.  

Cougars are well known for ambushing prey from high vantage points.  A cougar can leap over 16 feet, therefore they have a decided advantage over animals that may appear to be bigger than them.  At night, cougars seek their own shelter of rest in caves or dense thickets.

Facts About Cougars

You may well consider the cougar to be a beautiful cat, but he is definitely not an animal that should be underestimated.   It is best to admire or observe a cougar from a great distance, and preferably though a long range camera lens like the one I used to capture the images in this article.  

  • Cougars are classified as "small cats", not big cats  (not because of size, but because they do not roar)
  • Largest of the small cat species
  • Size:  Males up to 7½ feet, females are smaller
  • Weight:  Males up to 220 lbs - Females up to 145 lbs
  • Cougars growl, rather fiercely, but they do not roar
  • Regions include:  North, Central and South America from southern Canada to Cape Horn
  • Habitat:  Any terrain with enough cover
  • Active Day and Night
  • Frequently stalk their prey, waiting for the best opportunity or high vantage point
  • Carnivore Diet:  Deer, elk, hares, raccoons, beavers, sheep, goats or domestic livestock, seals or otters where available
  • Has 5 retractable claws on front paws, and 4 retractable claws on back paws
  • Most American cats are rarely seen, but we see their territorial "markings" on trees or in the soil
  • Cougars live alone except when parenting
  • Females are the only cat involved in parenting and cubs stay with their mothers for up to 2 years
  • Life Span:  20 years in captivity, average lifespan in the wild, 13 years

There are less than 30 reported human deaths that can be attributed to cougar attacks in the last century.  Since cougars have the most widespread distribution of any American cat species, it is best to know the wildlife inhabitants of any area before you hike or bike.  

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Bald Eagle

 Bald Eagle Photo by Cynthia Sylvestermouse
A Bald Eagle is one of the recognizable birds in the world.  His proud and majestic stance exudes power.
His menacing glare strikes fear in any creature and naturally warns to not get any closer.

The Bald Eagle most often feeds on live prey including cranes, seagulls and ducks.  He also feasts on fish, salmon and snakes.  He swoops down and catches them in his powerful talons.  Because the Bald Eagle is an opportunist, he will also dine on dead fish, animals or even on carcasses left behind by other carnivores. 

Because eyes attract eyes, we automatically look to another mammals face first, but take a moment to really look at the overall beauty of the Bald Eagle.  From his pure white head feathers to his white tail feathers, his bird is gorgeous.  

Facts About the Bald Eagle

As with any animal, there are some truly fascinating things to learn about the Bald Eagle.  For instance, they build the largest tree nest of any animal.  It is built of sticks and twigs and situated close to water, which is, of course, the very best hunting ground.

Bald Eagle Photo by Cynthia Sylvestermouse
  • Body Length:  up to 3½ feet
  • Wingspan:  up to 7½ feet 
  • Size differs in various states with the largest in Alaska and the smaller in the Southern states of the US (based on proximity to Equator)
  • White head, white tail feathers, dark brown body 
  • Fast Flyer with speeds up to 45 mph
  • Dive Speed 99 mph
  • Builds the largest tree nests of any animal species
  • Females are bigger than males
  • Bald Eagles Mate for Life
  • Average Lifespan in the Wild:  20 years
  • Lifespan in Captivity:  Oldest reported - 50 years
  • National Bird of the United States of America
  • National Animal of the USA
  • Previously an Endangered Species, now considered Least Concern

Bald Eagle photo by Sylvestermouse

All Photos are the Exclusive Property of Cynthia Sylvestermouse and should not be used without written permission.


Bring Home a Bald Eagle Today!

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Bongo Antelope

The Bongo is one of the largest antelopes in the dense African forest.  They have been called "shy", but I believe they simply exhibit an extremely acute survivalist instinct.  They run for cover immediately when they sense danger or any other animal around.

When spotted, they are easy to identify by their size, as well as their deep chestnut coloring with long white stripes that extend from side to side across their back.  In the photos, you will also note that they have distinctive white marks along the side of their face, on their ears and neck.   Their legs also have dashes of white markings.  The alternating white and reddish brown coloring make an excellent camouflage in the rainforest.

Take a moment to really look at the Bongo.  They are really quite beautiful!

This Bongo was kind enough to show off her white markings! 
Note the white lines on the side of her face, on her ears, and on her neck. 

 Facts about the Bongo

  • Near Threatened status
  • Up to 8.25 ft
  • Weights up to 485 lbs.
  • Life span:  20 years
  • Both Males & Females have horns
  • Shorter legs than other antelopes
  • Spiral horns 
  • Horn length up to 39" with one twist
  • Herbivores - They eat plants, fruits, grass, leaves, thistles, flowers and twigs 
  • Run in small herds of couples.  Normally, the herd will contain an equal mix of sexes 
  • Region:  West Africa, northern Kenya, southern Sudan and the Congo

Their lyre shaped horns are one of their most interesting features.  As mentioned in the facts above, their horns are spiral shaped with one twist, which you can see in the introduction photo.  Bongos use their horns to pull and break branches for easier access to their desired food.  They run with their heads thrown back so their horns are against their necks to keep from getting tangled in the surrounding vegetation. 

Not only must they fear carnivores in their natural habitat, they are also hunted for their meat.  Sadly, big game hunters will also track and kill these beautiful antelopes.  All of these factors contribute to their "near threatened" status.

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Hippopotamus Facts and Photos
I caught this couple of hippos lazing around basking in the sun one cool March afternoon.  Normally, they prefer to stay in the water.

I admit, I am fascinated by the hippopotamus.  Such a large creature supported on tiny, short legs.  Plus, they only eat grass and plant food, yet they are enormous in size.

Because a hippo can stay underwater for up to 30 minutes, you might not even realize one is beneath the surface of the water.

Hippopotamus Facts

Most often we see the hippopotamus peeking just above the surface of the water, like the one shown below.  It might appear to be a sinister act, but in fact that is simply their way of staying cool.  The water also allows them to take the weight off of their little legs.

Facts about Hippopotamus

Like many wild animals, hippopotamus are territorial.  The males will defend their area from other males.  This is a natural survival instinct for the hippo.  Because they claim territories along river banks near reeds or grasslands, their territory is also their source of food.

Also like many wild animals, the female hippo is extremely protective of her babies.  She will attack anything that gets near them. 

Because of their territorial, defensive traits, coupled with their size, some consider hippos to be among the most dangerous of all African mammals.  They have no desire to eat meat, but they will bite intruders to death.  

Hippos are not going to be hunting you, so it really is best to just leave them alone.  My photos may be clear and appear up close, but I use a long range camera lens to photograph hippos and other dangerous creatures.

  • Size:  6 to 16.5 feet
  • Weight:  2000 lbs - 9,900 lbs
  • Life Expectancy:  Up to 40 years
  • Food:  Grass and low growing plants
  • The eat in the cooler parts of the day, usually at dusk
  • Babies:  Usually only one at a time, every 3 or 4 years
  • Habitat:  Deep Water near grasslands or reeds
  • Region:  Sub-Sahara, Africa

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Snow Leopards

Snow Leopard
Snow Leopards are quite beautiful with their snowy, soft fur.  Their name "leopard" easily describes the pattern on their fur and "snow" instantly reveals the color.  Although, most of them do have a touch of off-white, tan or yellow highlighting in their coat.

As you can see, the gorgeous Snow Leopard that allowed me to photograph him has that yellow highlighting in his face and chest area.  His back and sides are white with a hint of grey.

That fabulous coat is actually responsible for this big cats demise.  Mortal vanity and the desire to "wear" his coat often costs his life when a snow leopard encounters a human. 

Snow Leopard - Amazing Wild Animals

Facts About the Snow Leopard

In the wild, you will only find the a Snow Leopard in the Himalayan Mountains of Central Asia.  Most likely, our best chance to see one is in an accredited zoo.  There are approximately 250 in American zoos and 600 in zoos worldwide.  Estimates for how many Snow Leopards are still living in the wild, vary drastically.  But, it would be safe to say that there are less than 8000.  Unfortunately, their decreasing numbers make their coats even more valuable.  However, it is illegal to own or sell a Snow Leopard coat.  Personally, I always wonder why anyone would want the real fur when faux furs are just as beautiful, just as warm, a lot less expensive and a life is not lost to feed a vanity.

  • Endangered
  • Approximately 3½ - 4' long
  • Weight:  55 - 165 lbs  
  • Thick Coat for Extreme Cold Climate
  • Carnivore
  • Snow Leopards Do Not Roar (they do growl and howl)
  • Snow Leopards Do Not Attack Humans (only 2 incidents ever reported)
  • Hides in Caves & Mountain Crevices
  • Life Expectancy:  In the Wild - up to 18 years & In Captivity - up to 25 years
  • Region:  Range Mountains of Central Asia

Snow Leopard Photo by Sylvestermouse


Bring Home a Snow Leopard

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Nile Crocodile

The Nile Crocodile is not an animal that is considered very pretty.  Nor is he friendly or one we wish to pet.  It is actually best to stay far, far away from a Nile Crocodile.  However, he is still amazing, so let's talk about him!  We can't get hurt just talking and looking at pictures, right?

Nile Crocodile

I couldn't help but think when I uploaded this image, what a beautiful mosaic tail he has!  Best to keep in mind though, that tail is attached to a very deadly beast.

The Nile Crocodile
Take a Real Close Look at this Nile Crocodiles Head. 
I assure you, he is quite alive.  He is simply stealthily waiting.
The leaf doesn't even bother him.
If you look real close, you can see his teeth and his nostrils.

Facts About the Nile Crocodile

Nile Crocodiles have thick, scaly skin that is quite effective at thwarting potential predators.  However, they are themselves, killing machines.  Because they have a unique respiratory system that allows them to stay undetected underwater for up to 5 hours at a time, you could literally be in their territory for hours without ever knowing they are present.
Just looking at him, you might think he would sink fast due to weight, or swim slow simply due to his massive size.  However, neither is true. 

He swims fast with a terrifying turn of speed that belies his enormous size.
Nile Crocodile photo by Sylvestermouse
  • Cold Blooded Reptile
  • Carnivorous
  • Powerful Jaws
  • Powerful Tail
  • Length:  Up to 20 feet
  • Weight:  Up to 1600 lbs - Average 500 lbs
  • Swimming Speed:  20 - 22 mph
  • Land Running Speed - 7 - 9 mph 
  • Have 64 - 68 teeth
  • Broken teeth regenerate (grow back)
  • Females are smaller than males
  • Food:  Fish, Water Birds & any land Mammal
  • Usually inhabits rivers or marshland, but can also live in saltwater 
  • Live in "families" with the largest being the patriarch
  • Lay up to 100 eggs in a nest
  • Life Span:  Average 45 Years, but can live up to 100 years
  • Region:  Parts of Africa & Madagascar
  • Note:  While Nile Crocodiles are mostly found in Africa, recently several have been captured in Southern Florida in the United States

The Nile Crocodile
I feel sorry for whatever prey is lying in that tall grass!

These predators are massive beasts!  This one looks like he has a full belly.  I assure you, these photos were all taken with a high power zoom lens.  I have no desire to get close enough to this creature to wake him up.  As it was, I felt like he was watching me regardless.

It should be noted that Nile Crocodiles are patient and shrewd.  They might wait weeks to strike, allowing a large mammal to get used to coming to the same spot to drink water.

They can, and do, eat humans.

Nile Crocodile

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West African Crowned Crane

West African Crowned Crane Face
West African Crowned Crane - Balearica pavonina
The coloring on animals is always so fascinating!  Take a close look at the face on this West African Crowned Crane.  The pinkest red patch on his face is the perfect accent to set off his lovely eyes.  His head is topped with a golden crown of feathers.

The golden crown is even more stunning when you see the lush grey feathers covering his body.  Such perfection looks painted, yet this photo is untouched.

The stand of the crown, the color of the eyes and the lay of his feathers are exactly as God created him.

West African Crowned Crane

West African Crowned Cranes

Like all cranes, the West African Crowned Crane has the long slender neck that makes them so easy to classify as cranes.  However, he stands apart from other cranes in one very distinct way.  He is the only crane can roost in trees. 
West African Crowned Cranes 
More Facts About the West African Crowned Crane

  • Also known as Black-crowned Crane
  • Height:  32" - 36" 
  • Weight:  Approx. 8 lbs
  • Diet:  Plants, Insects, Rice, Grain, Reptiles & Fish
  • Lifespan:  20 yrs. in the wild - 60 yrs in captivity
  • Mate for Life
    (if successful in breeding.  The will change mates if no babies are born after the first breeding season together)
  • Region:  West Africa  - Specifically in the marshy areas.  Along the shores of lakes & ponds.
  • National Bird of Nigeria
  • Status:  Vulnerable
Like so many animals today, the West African Crowned Crane is on the endangered species list.  In addition to the natural threats of predators like snakes and birds of prey, the encroachment of humans into their habitat and pollution of their water has played a large part in their decreased population.  Sadly for the Black-crowned crane, they are at even greater risk because they are captured and sold to bird collectors.

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”

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