Animal letters

How appropriate that I find my first animal letter on a bird — and that it is a Y for Yuletime!

Northern Flicker showing a red Y

How have I not noticed this before? Is this a seasonal red Y, or do Northern Flickers show this red Y on the back of their head all year?

Obviously, I have been looking at birds too often when they are doing this.

Northern Flicker

Too interested in the eyes and the beak, I apparently refrain from taking photos of birds with their backs to me.

Finding alphabet letters (and Arabic numerals) on animals is nothing new.  One scientist (Kjell Sandved) devoted his entire professional career to photographing the natural beauty of lepidoptera, and along the way, finding all 26 letters and 9 numerals on butterfly wings.  It only took him 24 years to do it.

Kjell Sandved butterfly alphabet

Kjell Bloch Sandved’s famous “butterfly alphabet”. Read more about this here.

Stepping back from the artistic appreciation of these butterfly wing decorations, we realize these aren’t for our benefit, but are part of a color scheme meant to either camouflage, frighten, or startle the butterfly’s potential predators.  And in fact, some of them are such a miniscule part of the overall pattern, they are only seen through a microscope.

Still, it’s an impressive achievement, one I could aspire to, if I were about 24 years younger.  I did find one other animal letter while going through photos of the animals we saw on our recent African safari.

Waterbuck doe showing a 0 or an O on its rear

Actually, I’ll claim a two-fer on this Waterbuck doe. She has a very obvious letter O or a 0 (zero) on her rear end.

I’m sure it would be easy to find more examples of letters and numbers among the color patterns of various vertebrates (especially fish).  Anyone else got some examples to contribute?

6 thoughts on “Animal letters

  1. I’ve seen letters on insects – we have a ‘silver Y’ moth whihc is commen here but I’ve never looked for characters on vertebrates before, but if I find any I’ll let you know.

    BTW could you also claim a 3-fer with you waterbuck if the tail makes it intot a ‘Q’?

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