Sunday, May 13, 2012

Creature Feature: Oilbirds.

Birds and bats tend to have opposite connotations. Birds, as diurnal, innocent creatures that sing pretty songs, are the epitome of innocence; bats are nocturnal mice with wings that spread disease and suck blood. The uncanny resemblance (and true parallel) of a bat wing to a human hand probably doesn't help the divide. Just about the only birds with bad reputations are crows and vultures. Hell, the only real difference between an angel and a demon is the wings.

So what happens when a mad scientist decides to mix a bird and a bat? This, apparently:


The oilbird (Steatornis caripensis) is a bird a little over a foot and a half long, and is native to the southern Caribbean and South America. They used to have a much wider range, with fossils going back as far as 50 million years in Wyoming; now they're in a family all their own (Steatornithidae). They feed on the fruits of tropical laurels, avocados, and Oil Palms. Diet has nothing to do with the name; their name comes from a rather morbid history that will be mentioned later.

Oilbirds honestly think that they are bats. They nest in caves and fly out at night en masse. They nest in colonies hanging above their droppings, effectively oilbird guano. Their claws' only purpose is to allow them to hang from cave walls. Oilbirds are, for all intents and purposes, bats trapped in the bodies of birds.

There are even more similarities where that came from. Oilbirds are the only nocturnal birds that echolocate.This echolocation, unlike most natural sonar, is audible to the human ear. It has been described as sounding like the screams of tortured human beings (leading it to be called "diabolotin," "little devil," in Trinidad). Listen for yourself and post what you hear:

It gets worse. This bird's name comes from how fat it is. It gets chubby from eating, well, oily foods (with very good oils; avocado's awesome like that). meaning that it was once excellent torch-lighting fodder. The babies, which are even chubbier, were once used as fuel for torches. Nonetheless, this bird is not endangered at all, and, with the decline in torches, will prosper as time goes on. Hopefully.

P.S.- Hope you all had a great Mother's Day! :D


  1. This is nuts! They sound like something demonic with nasty cold. Tortuous for sure!

  2. Almost like a garbled voice, eerie. I wonder if the sound effects guys have this one, it's vaguely familiar.