Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Longevity and good bowels

The blogging went to shit on me last night (gotta love family drama) so its Two for Tuesday, two blogs about animals and their totems for the price of one.

I saw six, as yet unidentified, cranes and two Sandhill cranes today. I looked up some information on cranes (since I was bombarded with them) and thought they were pretty interesting. So cranes are the subject of the blog tonight, so forewarned is forearmed and anyone not interested in birds should go watch reality t.v. or something else educational.

When I used to live up north, we called Sandhill cranes pterodactyls, because they look and sound like something prehistoric. Not surprising now, since fossils of the sandhill crane are dated to the Pliocene era, circa four million years ago. Fossils similar to the modern crane are dated to the Eocene, about forty million years ago.

Found on most continents, the modern crane is two to five feet tall with a seven to nine foot wing spread. Their bills are straight, with long legs and necks. They fly with the legs behind and the head and neck straight.

Cranes eat a variety of animals and vegetables, such as insects like grasshoppers, crickets, and earthworms; small fish such as crayfish; snakes; tubers; grains and grass seeds. They nest in shallow water, and lay 2-4 eggs. Both the males and females incubate the eggs for 28-36 days. Babies mature quickly and remain a family group for nine months. Prior to the following breeding season, the parents drive the young-adult offspring off and the juveniles form groups. The bird book mentioned something about a spectacular mating dance, but that sounded like a whole other blog entry.

Cranes, especially to the Chinese, are an important totemic symbol. They stand for justice and longevity and help express feminine energy, due to their association with water. Ted Andrews says in his book Animal-Speak that cranes “could very well reflect that you are about it recover what had almost become extinct within you.”

Thanks to a video from, I tentatively identified the new cranes as juvenile Whooping cranes. I was geeked over that one. Whooping cranes are so rare and seeing six of them (in Michigan no less) seems amazing. That’s why I’m not putting too much faith in my birding skills. But, I did start looking through the bird book, and online, for other birds that interest me. So the second animal and totem went to vultures.

In general, vultures are two to four feel long and brownish-black in color with warty heads, hooked bills, medium to short legs, and long toes not adapted well for grasping. They live all over North America.

Normally solitary, vultures raise their young in pairs and live as a family group with the offspring. Both males and females care for the 1-3 eggs in the clutch. The eggs incubate 58 days and the baby vultures won’t leave the nest for six months.

Vultures are the garbage men of the bird world. They will eat fruits or vegetables if meat is scarce, but they prefer offal and carrion, only rarely killing what they eat. For this scavenging, they often get a negative reputation for being dirty.

The vulture totem represents purification, death and rebirth, and new vision. Many cultures, including ancient Mayan cults, have myths and stories about vultures. Their scavenging prevents the spread of disease and helps clean the environment. Even though vultures loose their bowels on their feet (watch your digestive and eliminative system if you have a vulture totem), they are remarkably clean birds. It offers a promise of balance and higher purposes at work, even you cannot see them through the carrion at the time.

Here are some websites with more info:

There’s your Two for Tuesday Totem fix. Actually, it was pretty fun. Maybe it’ll become a thing, we’ll see. Thirsty Thursdays are better though. :-)


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