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The Amazing Parrot That Tells Alexa to Zip It

Kevin Wells

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Not everyone is a fan of Frank Sinatra. Some might think that’s blasphemy, but the night lounge crooner isn’t on the top list of everybody’s easy listening portfolio. Where it really gets interesting, however, is when the 1950s singer catches the attention of one particular parrot, Mr. Magoo. Now, everyone knows parrots have an interesting ability to make repeat sounds that are very similar to human language. That is in fact where the word “parrotting” comes from in terms copying the statements of someone else repeatedly. But simple copying isn’t necessarily anything to write home about. Animals copy things all the time. Where it becomes interesting, however, is where sound from an animal shows intelligence and considered response to stimuli. In the case of Mr. Magoo, that bird wasn’t very pleased with the stimuli that comes out of an Alexa when it plays Frank Sinatra songs.

The first time it was noticed, Mr. Magoo was likely assumed to be simply squawking as parrots normally do. However, the bird’s owner began to pay attention and realized a particular pattern. Every time a Sinatra song was played on the nearby Alexa, Mr. Magoo would make it very clear the song needed to stop. Not only did Mr. Magoo figure out the word stop gets the machine to change its play list, the bird deduced it was the most effective way to get Sinatra songs in particular to stop playing. Mr. Magoo’s owners are so amazed by this simple by amazing behavior, they videotaped it for everyone to see themselves online.

And true to his nature, Mr. Magoo let’s loose his sentiments about Frank Sinatra’s singing trying to get the nearby Alexa to either stop or do something else, preferably play different music. Whether Mr. Magoo likes any music at all isn’t really clear or scientifically proven, but he does consistently show a clear negative reaction to crooning tunes. And Alexa understands the command to change the lineup, which makes the entire experience that much more interesting.

Now if it was someone’s dog, there would likely be a lot of howling but hardly any kind of sound that one could attribute to language. If it was a cat, the animal would likely just disappear and leave the room. But like his parrot brethren, Mr. Magoo is the kind of bird that confronts a problem directly and let’s loose his feelings on the matter. Amazon probably never anticipated its digital voice interface would be working with a parrot, but that’s the reality with the consumer public. All sorts of things can happen that the marketing department couldn’t possibly anticipate. And when it involves a feisty parrot named Mr. Magoo, you can bet that the designers of Alexa didn’t have a vocal bird on their list of test voices to generate product instructions.

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Mysteries From Ancient Times That Still Defy Explanation

Kelly Taylor

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The devices we use every day would baffle people who lived just 100 years ago, as technology has advanced in leaps and bounds in the modern age. One of the most amazing inventions is the computer, and it has taken over our lives in every area, from our phones to our cars to our kitchen appliances. Anyone can look at a phone to find out almost anything now. Why, then, are there still mysteries from the past? As archaeologists uncover more artifacts and scientists apply modern techniques to their finds, there are more mysteries instead of fewer ones.

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The Champion Taco-Eating Pit Bull

Kelly Taylor

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My neighbor Jose had just adopted a special pit bull from the local rescue shelter. It had been the faithful companion for five years of Jose’s elderly friend who had passed away a few months earlier. Because pit bulls have a bad rap, nobody wanted the dog, so the shelter planned to put it to sleep. When my neighbor learned that his friend’s faithful companion was about to be killed, he immediately adopted the dog. I don’t know about cats having nine lives, but that dog definitely got a second life.

That dog went everywhere with Jose. The dog’s name was Lucky, but Jose made a point of calling him something like “Lu-key.” Jose even got that large pooch service-dog certified, which meant he could take that dog into the supermarkets and even into the county fair.

Last July, I was assigned to judge the taco eating contest. A few months later the county fair started. Somehow Jose managed to get Lucky into the fair on my judgment day. According to him, the ticket office at first refused to let Lucky the service dog go in, because of all the other animals there. So Jose was sent to the exhibitor’s entrance, where the fair’s president was. After the president argued with Jose a bit, he was left at the gate with Lucky while the fair officials argued about what to do. During that time, exhibitors with other dogs, cats, pigs, and birds of all kinds, came into the fair through that same gate. Lucky looked at those other animals but did not budge from Jose’s side. Not a sound came from him, though other animals sometimes made a racket. The president noticed that and then decided to let Jose and Lucky conditionally come in; Lucky was in no way to disturb the other animals, children, or people.

A local guy named Walt came to the taco eating contest as a participant, not letting his wife know. We had TV-like tables set up with fifteen Mama Juanita’s Taqueria soft-shelled chicken tacos on each one, the best tacos for hundreds of miles. The contestant who at them the fastest won the contest. It happened that Jose and Lucky were the closest to Walt’s table.

Well, no sooner had I blown the start whistle than Walt’s wife screamed out his name, “Walter Higgins! Get over here!” At that shout, he jumped up and bumped over his table filled with tacos, in front of Lucky. Walt then bolted away from that area as fast as a rooster with its tail feathers aflame. Well, Lucky apparently felt lucky, so he jumped the few feet needed to get at all those tacos on the ground in front of him and started gobbling them down. It wasn’t long before all the contest spectators were watching Lucky, some aiming their Instagram-linked iPhone cameras at him. It was only later we discovered that CNN also had a cameraman at that event. Not only did Lucky eat all the tacos, but he was also the first to finish them as well!

Since the top two human taco eating contest champions were state-level champs, it didn’t take the local folk much time to declare, over the protest of those two guys, Lucky the 2015 taco eating contest winner. CNN national news and its website showed scenes of Lucky gobbling up the last of the tacos. The fair’s Facebook page ended up with the greatest number of views in local history. The social media sensation Lucky would become the “picture boy” for the next state fair.

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Bizarre Starfish Found in Palm Beach

Kelly Taylor

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A person visiting Palm Beach, Florida witnessed a huge starfish gliding across the sand after low tide. While dislodging itself out of the sand, the creature slowly crawled across the sand, almost looking like it was floating on the surface. The video’s unloader says that he was amazed to watch the bizarre-looking creature embarked on his journey.



The National Geographic notes that starfish are invertebrate and that they are part of the family that consists of sand dollars and sea urchins. The majority of starfish live in tidal pools and coral reefs.

Most starfish have spiny skin and consist of five arms. However, some species can grow to have as many as 50 arms. The one in the video that is going viral has nine arms. Underneath the arms, you can see small little suckers that are used to allow the animal to slowly creep along the ocean floor — in this case along the sand. On the ends of its arms are eye-spots that are light-sensitive and are used for hunting food. They attack prey by attaching themselves and spreading its stomach out through its mouth, essentially vomiting onto its prey, with enzymes breaking down the prey so that the starfish can digest it. While we usually have a pleasant mental image of a beautiful starfish, what’s underneath it is surprisingly terrifying

About The Starfish Species


While it is difficult to determine the type of species in the viral video, it is most likely a Luidia senegalensis. These starfish are known for their unique nine arm formation. Once fully grown, they’ll have a diameter of about 16 inches, with some specimen growing even larger. They could be found in depths of up to 130 feet around the coast of Florida.


Why Are Starfish Found At The Beach?


Most starfish are found in deep waters or in small pools along the beach called tidal pools. During low tide, the ocean pulls back from the beach, revealing small sea animals.

Sometimes starfish are found in beaches because of age or because they are dying. Thankfully the starfish in the viral video looks very robust and healthy, slowly dislodging itself from the sand and crawling to a safe spot in the water or a nearby tidal pool.

What To Do If You Find A Starfish

Joey did the right thing — he kept his distance, and did not disturb the starfish or its environment. Never harvest live starfish for several reasons — unless you can explicitly identify the starfish, you might be handling one that is venomous to human beings. While starfish do not attack humans, they can intentionally or accidentally inflict painful stings with a release of venom when they are handled.

Unfortunately, there’s also the chance of fatally damaging the starfish. Starfish not only sensitive, but they can only breathe while in the water. Some might instantly die when lifted out of the water or touched by a human.

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The Day I Met a Baby Gray Whale

Kevin Wells

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In addition to being one of the most curious and intelligent creatures in Earth’s oceans, due to their great size and the fact that they travel vast distances, gray whales are also host to a wealth of scientific data about the health of our oceans. Gray whales have a long history of unique interactions with humans. Most of the time they appear indifferent to us. Sometimes they behave in a friendly way. But during a few points in history, in a small number of locations, legends of gray whales flipping small boats and dragging men beneath the waves have cropped up.

But gray whales can even be dangerous when they do not mean to be. Weighing in at nearly 40 tons, with massive flippers and a huge, powerful tail, gray whales have downed many small boats either accidentally or otherwise. But these fascinating creatures still have a powerful draw for us. They are mysterious, massive, and have eyes which reflect a strangely familiar intelligence.

So when Cheryl and David Kipling set out in hopes of meetings these creatures face to face, it was no small task overcoming their trepidation. Cheryl and David are biologists and run a lab where they study the remains of whales that have been killed prematurely by the actions of humans.

Cheryl explained, “I’ve autopsied the brains of half a dozen gray whales and the one thing that stands out is the size and sophistication of their limbic brain.”

We asked for more clarification on why having a big limbic brain is such a big deal.

She replied, “The limbic brain, in mammals, is the part of the brain that renders emotions. It’s sandwiched between the fore-brain- which is big in humans, and the hindbrain- which controls all of our cravings and reflex instincts. The limbic brain motivates us with feelings. When you look at a puppy and say ‘ahh’ at his big brown eyes, or when you miss a loved one and want to see them, that’s the limbic brain. Judging by the size of their’s, these animals are deeply emotional. They are primarily emotional, in fact- whereas people might be said to be primarily intellect oriented. That’s why it’s such a crime to keep orcas in captivity, separate them from their pods- their families. They suffer intensely.”

Equipped with this new and strange knowledge, going out with Dave and Cheryl to meet the whales felt all the more momentous. Getting out on the water to the right spot where the whale sightings were happening took most of the day. But the weather was beautiful, the water was calm, and we would have been happy even if no whales had shown up. But they did.

The couple spotted a mother and calf breaching the surface some distance off. They were headed in our direction. For several minutes, wonder, anticipation, and- we’ll admit, a little bit of dread were palpable. All I could think about is what I would do if one of these animals accidentally flipped our boat.

But eventually, the mother and calf reached us. They were careening off to the south. But then the baby spotted us and approached our boat. It came right up to the boat and held its long snout out of the water right next to the boat. It just sort of “stood” there. Cheryl and David reached out and stroked the animal’s nose while the mother looked on.

The baby whale turned and looked us over with its oddly small eye, calmly, almost serenely as Cheryl and David stroked her. Then the whales passed as quietly as they came. I’ll never forget the lucidity and the depth of feeling in the eye of that baby whale.

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Amazing

Looking Back at an Eventful Summer for Snowflake the Albino Alligator

Kevin Wells

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The past few months have been quite eventful for one particular albino alligator.

In case you missed it, an albino alligator named Snowflake generated more than a few headlines in recent months.

Back in May, Snowflake was welcomed as a kind of guest of honor after arriving at the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois. It’s easy to see why Snowflake caused a stir when she first made her way to the Brookfield Zoo.

Due to her albinism, Snowflake can stand out easily even amongst a crowded congregation of alligators. She possesses noticeably white skin that can be likened very much to the look of ivory and her eyes also have a pinkish hue. Those characteristics are typical of an albino alligator.

It is worth noting that Snowflake is also significantly shorter than many of the other alligators that you may be able to see in zoos or swamps. Per ABC 7 Chicago, Snowflake measures about 7 feet long. An average adult female American alligator measures about 8.2 feet tall, according to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute.

While Snowflake was enjoying the attention from visitors at the Brookfield Zoo, an important and exciting discovery was made back at her home.

Snowflake Is Going to be a Mother

In June, Wild Florida announced that the caretakers of Snowflake and another albino alligator named Blizzard found eggs at the pair’s shelter. A total of 19 eggs were found at Snowflake and Blizzard’s exhibit, WFTV 9 reported.

Upon spotting the eggs, the caretakers acted fast to collect and move them to a more secure location.

Wild Florida co-founder and co-owner Dan Munns explained that moving the eggs out of the shelter was a necessary step due to some of the difficulties that the pair of albino alligators may encounter as parents. Munns explained that while alligators typically make for great mothers, Snowflake may not be as capable as some of her counterparts because of the blindness brought about by her albinism.

By securing the eggs themselves, the caretakers can shield them from any predators that may come snooping around. The eggs are being kept in an incubator in order so that they can be cared for in a more controlled environment. The caretakers mentioned that keeping the eggs in an environment where the temperature can remain at a stable level is essential to successful hatching.

Additional Facts about Albino Alligators

The fact that the eggs came from parents exhibiting albinism could very well turn out to be good news for the albino alligator population. Typically, albino alligators are born as a result of two normal alligators who carry the recessive gene for albinism mating, according to Safari Ltd. Since both Snowflake and Blizzard are albino alligators, the chances for them producing offspring that feature the same physical traits could be higher.

The albino alligator population could certainly use a boost. At present, biologists estimate that only around 100 albino alligators could be alive across the entire world.

Albino alligators are rare not just because they are the offspring of parents carrying some uncommon genes. It is also difficult for albino alligators to survive precisely because of their unique appearance.

Unlike the alligators that feature a more common skin color, albino alligators find it incredibly difficult to disguise themselves. That makes them easy prey for predators especially when they are younger.

Because of those struggles they could potentially face in the wild, you will often find zoos and farms caring for albino alligators to ensure that they can live out long and happy lives. While it’s still unclear what kind of offspring Snowflake and Blizzard will produce, there is certainly a fair amount of optimism that they will bring more albino alligators into the world.

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