Thursday, June 25, 2015

What has four legs and flies?

Here is a riddle to start your day:

(Q.) Which CRITTER has four legs and flies? 
(A.) The classic answer is "a horse, of course!" (And we don't mean the mythical Pegasus)

If you answered that it was this male Julia heliconian butterfly as it prepares for a landing on a Lantana flower, you would have been wrong. Its proboscis is already extending in anticipation of the sweet taste of nectar, and its landing gear are down. 

Count those legs-- four! But why is this the wrong answer? Stay tuned to find out.

Julia on approach 20150103

Another answer might be pairs of two-legged creatures with wings. Maybe this is cheating because the riddle implies that it seeks the identity of a single creature. Anyway, here are a few couples who, arguably, meet the description. Can you distinguish the males from females?

Mottled Duck males tend to be bigger and have yellowish mostly clear bills:

Mottled Ducks 3-20130209

Pileated Woodpecker males have a red forehead and mustache streak, but both are gray or black in females:

Pileated Woodpecker 20120930

Pileated Woodpecker 2-2008_12_04

The red on the nape and head of male Red-bellied Woodpeckers extends all the way to the forehead, but the female's forecrown is light gray:

Red-bellied Woodpeckers pair 20140427

Least Tern sexes are similar and best determined by behavior.  Males (in the foreground) usually seem to have a brighter yellow bill:

Least Tern pair interactions 05-20140410

Bald Eagle males are noticeably smaller than females and their gape usually extends no more than halfway under the eye, while that of the female (in foreground) may reach past the center of the eye:

Bald Eagle face comparison 20150312

We happen to know that the male in this pair of Burrowing Owls looks as if he has a beard. He also seems to have a deeper "frown," but these are individual characteristics. Normally the female is darker during breeding season because the slightly larger male stands guard outside the burrow and his feathers are more exposed to the bleaching effect of sunlight:

Burrowing Owl pair portrait 20131114

In these Mew Gulls it is anybody's guess as to which is the male. Both have brightest yellow bills during breeding season. This photo was taken in June, 2011 in Denali National Park, Alaska:

Mew Gulls (Larus canus) 2-20110619

From their behavior, we know that the Killdeer on the left is the male. He repeatedly expanded the upper ring on his neck as a courtship gesture:

Killdeers courting 20110412

Mallards-- no problem finding the colorful drake here!:

Mallard Pair 20090427

House Finches-- who wears the brightest coat?:

House Finch pair 20130115

The sexes of Green Herons are very similar, but we think the one presently incubating the eggs is the male because its legs were bright red, not described as a reliable indicator. This pair is exchanging incubation duties:

Green Heron pair exchanging incubation duty 20120325

Male Yellow-crowned Night-Herons are said to be slightly larger than females, but this is a toss-up:

Yellow-crowned Night Heron pair displaying 91-20120304

The male Mourning Dove on a FENCE is all puffed up:

Mourning Dove Pair 2008_08_01

These Purple Swamphens share four legs (not counting those  in the REFLECTION) but sexes are similar:

Purple Swamphens 01-20141030

To be concise, the riddle should have asked: "What has six legs, two wings but only four feet?" That might have been a real puzzler, keeping you on the edge of your seat to hear the answer. The Julia heloconian indeed fits this description.

Top MACRO view, male Julia:

Male Julia Heliconian 20090321

Top view, female Julia:

Julia female 20111217

Side view, male also shows four legs...

Julia heliconian male 20140824

As does this side view of a female:

Julia Heliconian female 20120808

The Julia belongs to the group of brush-footed butterflies or four-legged butterflies. Many species are brightly colored but their under-wings are often dull and may look like dead leaves, as in the case of this species.

In adults, the first pair of legs are much shorter than the other four legs, and are not used for walking. The front legs do not have feet, just little brushes of hairs that are used for smelling and tasting. Like parts of their mouth,they can be so small as to be practically invisible.

Rain Clouds moved into the SKY over the lake a little after sunrise:

Clouds over lake HDR 20150415

A bonus photo-- we have just returned from a rail trip in Canada. This is the view of Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Alberta. It is taken from the window of our room in the Fairmont Chalet. The sun is breaking through the clouds. The Upper Victoria Glacier is visible in the background. The Lower glacier extended well into the lake in the early part of the 20th Century, but now has retreated up and to the right of the mountain.

Lake Louise 1935PM 20150619

As the lake is fed by outflow of the glaciers, it takes on an emerald color, due to the suspended "glacier dust"  or "rock flour" which is scoured from the limestone as the ice moves down. Depending upon sky conditions, the water may appear any color from gray to deep blue or green.

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to GOOD FENCES by Tex (Theresa). 

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy


Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to I Heart Macro by Laura


Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display



  1. Wow, I love the collection of birds, seeing the couples together is great. Beautiful butterflies. And I love the Lake Louise shot, I would love to visit there someday. Awesome post, enjoy your day!

  2. beautiful shots throughout, along with some education, too! enjoyed it all, ken!

  3. The butterfly is beautiful I love the collection of bird couples you have assembled here. A rail trip to Canada sounds like fun.

  4. Wow - love that pristine lake. And all shots are lovely!

  5. well you kept us guessing nearly to the end Kenneth! Marvellous shots adn get to see males and females of the same species together. Buttliese are all gorgeous.

  6. Beautiful photos - love the butterflies and the shot of Lake Louise. It's on my bucket list of places to visit!

  7. All wonderful photography and magnificent sky shots for SWF ~

    Happy Weekend to you,
    artmusedog and carol

  8. What a great selection of birds and some very interesting facts about them. I instanly recognized Lake Louise although it's been 41 years since I visited it but the memories all came flooding back. Great post today.

  9. I'm certainly impressed by both your knowledge and the quality of your photos.

  10. Beautiful photos and a great post. I really like the male Julia shots, and thanks for the bonus photo!!

  11. Wonderful photography, the lake and glacier is spectacular . Great post

  12. I forgot the riddle by the time I got to the end, because I had to go get my camera and check out this mornings Pilested shots, ...I've never known how to tell the difference. (I had a male. ). So thank you for all the info ... And the beautiful bird couples. And the butterfly photos are amazing.

    Did you love the rail journey?

  13. Fantastic photos. Thrilled to see the last couple of photos as I have just returned from that part of the world.

  14. Good Morning, Ken! Just stopping back to say thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Have a happy weekend!

  15. Spectacular captures (as always) Kenneth - thank you for sharing. The pileated woodpecker shot is stunning, as are the owls.

  16. Incredible photos, thanks for sharing nature at its best!

  17. Beautiful shots of nature's wonderful 'critters'!

    Happy Weekend,
    artmusedog and carol

  18. Love all the sweet loving couples you've shared. Apropos to your anniversary trip too!!

    And butterfly with its landing gear down is a GREAT capture.

  19. Great pictures. The owls are very nice.

  20. Put up a couple of brush-foots (feet?) at my place.

  21. Fantastic view in Alberta! Wow! And I loved your photos of all the bird pairs, and of the Julia! The info was wonderful! Just a really great post!

  22. Your wildlife photography is beautiful. And I love the photo of Lake Louise and the info about the glacier dust. Looks stunning.

  23. Beautiful photos! Lake Louise is always a delight to see!

  24. Wonderful pairs of birds shown, as well as informative. Love that shot of Lake Louise...

  25. Wonderful view of Lake Louise from your room. Stunning!
    I love how you captured and discussed the male and female of each species. Beautiful!

  26. Wonderful series of photos!

  27. WOW, beautiful images of beautiful birds and butterflies. Loved my visit and the Burrowing Owls, we went all over looking for a few in FL earlier this year and never saw any. So delightful those faces. If you have not already, please stop by to say hi. My blog just turned 6 years old ;)

  28. Stunning images as always. You have really lived and visited some gorgeous places. I'd love to see them Purple Swamphens on day:) All my best!

  29. WOW, there are so many wonderful pictures in your post!!! So beautiful!!! The first photo makes me speechless... :)

  30. A fabulous collection of photos! I love all the butterflies.

  31. I trust you enjoyed your visit to the beautiful Rocky Mountains. That bottom photo is an iconic view of the lake. It is spectacular.


Thank you for visiting Rosyfinch Ramblings! I will enjoy a visit to your page just as soon as possible. Some anonymous comments and some containing active links may not be accepted.