Favorite Misfits

The animals that I have included in this section are unlikely heroes. They are often maligned by the general masses because they are considered to be a nuisance or just plain ugly. But a closer look reveals creatures that are quite useful and unique. It is hard not to admire any animal whose adaptations are so perfected that they thrive in this difficult world we have left for them. The species that follow are a few of my personal favorites. I hope to help people see the positive side of these unpopular creatures.

Andean Condor

Male Condor (left) and Female (right)

I sometimes wonder if I have an affinity for the ugly. Or, perhaps there is no such thing as ugly. In nature, I believe the latter is true.

The Andean Condor is the largest vulture species in the world with a wingspan stretching nearly eleven feet across. These magnificent raptors can effortlessly coast on supersonic thermals at 15,000 feet. Like all vultures they possess the ability to digest carrion well past the edible stages for any other bird or mammal. It is a worthy investment of human medicine to study and understand the elements within the digestive systems of all the vulture species that can kill bacteria at such elevated levels. If this ability could be emulated in human medicine, the possibilities for curing bacterial infections would be limitless.

The male Andean Condor differs in appearance from the female. Similar in size he has a paler skin color on his head and neck and sports a fancy adornment on his face. His eyes are hazel in color in contrast to the females which are red. Both are alert and very watchful. The Andean Condor is every inch a quintessential sharp eyed raptor.

Female Andean Condor

The California condor may owe its come back from the brink of extinction in part to the Andean Condor. The Condor Recovery Team first used the slightly more abundant Andean Condor to learn how to breed and raise the species in captivity. Release programs were successful with the Andean Condor which set the California condor up with a renewed hope for survival in the future. With numbers of California condor critically low, risks could be more easily taken with its larger cousin. The knowledge gained in these early experiments with the Andean Condor was the critical link for the survival of a related species.

The Coyote

Being a canid lover I could not omit the Coyote from this list of favorites:

An arid valley high in the Rockies can look at first glance to be lifeless. But a trained and patient eye can spot life of all kinds there. While driving through one of these valleys east of Buena Vista, Colorado, I spotted a coyote trotting through a sage field busying himself with the dilemmas of his day. Clever, tireless and resourceful, lazy, irresponsible and frivolous, a coyote always wins the toss because he is BOTH sides of the coin. The three dimensional character of this mythic trickster positions him as one of my personal favorites.

In the farm and suburban areas of the West and Midwest coyotes thrive. They can live right under your nose and never be seen. They are often wrongly accused of taking livestock, but the truth tells a different tale. Coyotes are fabulous mousers and are not typically effective at bringing down stock animals of any size. If they are guilty of anything it is their ability to survive despite rampant persecution. Few animals in nature can outmatch the coyote’s resourceful knack for survival.

The Crow

The common crow is just that, common. But the amazing intelligence of this beautiful, sleek bird is anything but common. Crows and Ravens have perhaps the most developed brains of any bird species. I have enjoyed spending time with a hand raised captive crow and her cleverness must be experienced to be believed. In her beak she possesses the dexterity of a surgeon, directed by an extraordinary mind complex enough to guide that beak into doing amazing things.

I have found that people either seem to love or hate crows. Very few people are ambivalent about them. Their harsh, brash calls echo through both wooded areas and city streets. I get a kick out of the clever ones in my neighborhood that outmatch the brainpower of some of their human neighbors while they extract trash out of the most “crow proof” of cans. With trash strewn all about to the delight of these sleek smarties, it makes me wonder who has really outsmarted whom.

But with all antics aside, crows fill a valuable niche in the eco system. They are a tireless clean up crew for the many unfortunate animals whose lives have been cut short by automobiles. They help to keep songbird populations in check. They heckle Great Horned Owls mercilessly, awaking the entire woods to the owl’s presence. And most importantly, they add color and dimension to our wild world which just wouldn’t be the same without them.



Copyright © 2015 Joni Johnson-Godsy, All Rights Reserved.