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Animals

The Uncommon Life

She’s Something Fierce: Our Favorite Moms of the Animal Kingdom

May 9, 2018

Bird Art Portrait | UncommonGoods

Mother’s Day is rapidly approaching, and here at UncommonGoods, we’d like to give a toast to all moms—not just the moms we know. In fact, we’re not even confining our celebration to the human moms out there this year. We’ve taken a deep dive into the internet underground in search of the animal kingdom’s most dedicated mamas, and today, we’re raising a glass to their efforts to bring up their young in some of nature’s toughest conditions. Read on for our favorites—plus, fuzzy babies below!

 

The Weddell Seal

A Weddell seal mom and baby share a smooch | Image by William A Link, USGS

Weddell seals are remarkable animals. Natives of Antarctica, they spend much of their time swimming around beneath sheets of ice, sometimes diving as far as 2,000 feet below the surface and staying there for up to 45 minutes at a time.

Weddell seal moms are even more remarkable. Each year, they raise a pup of their own following an 11-month pregnancy (yikes), and they do it all by themselves. When their pups are only two weeks old, these roly-poly mamas teach them to swim for the first time, providing invaluable instruction on how best to navigate the frigid Antarctic waters they inhabit. Other important lessons: how to keep air holes in the ice from freezing over; how to punch new holes into ice sheets using only their teeth. (Hey, seals don’t have hands.)

Eventually, of course, these pups need to fend for themselves… no matter how much they fuss. But at least that fussing makes for cute videos, right?

 

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The Uncommon Life

Protecting the Rare Kirtland’s Warbler with American Forests

February 18, 2018

*Editor’s note: Spring is almost here, and we’re celebrating by sharing a story from our longest-standing nonprofit partner, American Forests. Thanks to our Better to Give program, we’ve donated over $400,000 to American Forests, the nation’s oldest conservation organization, since 2010. Read on for a report on their efforts to conserve the habitat of the Kirtland’s warbler, courtesy of the organization’s Manager of Forest Conservation, Justin Hynicka.

A Kirtland’s warbler in Stubb’s Park, Centerville, Ohio; photo by Andrew Cannizzaro

A bright future for Kirtland’s warbler in the Northern Great Lakes

By Justin Hynicka, American Forests Manager of Forest Conservation

I have a love-hate relationship with red-eye flights. On one hand, they maximize daylight on day one to explore my destination, which I love. On the other hand, it usually takes a day or two to shake off the cobwebs from poor sleep, which I don’t love. As if one night isn’t hard enough, just imagine taking a red-eye flight for two weeks straight. Oh, and you are also the pilot.

This is the journey the Kirtland’s warbler (KW; Setophaga kirtlandii) makes twice a year, traveling 1,700 miles in 16 days from the Bahamas to Michigan in spring, and back again in fall. [1] Even though KWs pass though many eastern states, they are rarely seen outside of their wintering and breeding areas due to a low-but-rising population and because they migrate at night. After such a journey, it’s hard to blame them for being one of only a few warblers to nest on the ground.

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Maker Stories

Uncommon Impact: Help Elephants & Sip Coffee with this Handmade Mug

February 16, 2018

When you think “activism,” you may not think “handmade pottery.” Thanks to the work of longtime maker JoAnn Stratakos, we’d encourage you to broaden your horizons. Best known around these parts as the creator of Elwood, our de facto mascot, JoAnn’s latest creation—the Protect the Elephants Mug—harnesses cuteness for a cause. For every mug sold, we’re donating $5 to the PAMS Foundation, an organization dedicated to conservation efforts, including the protection of elephants, in faraway Tanzania.

From left to right: Ryan, JoAnn’s Production Supervisor, throws a Protect the Elephants Mug on the wheel; mugs get their handles; and glazed mugs wait to be fired in JoAnn’s Effort, Pennsylvania, studio

Why PAMS? We asked JoAnn that very question. “The MudCrew and I came about the PAMS Foundation through a social media post about Wayne Lotter,” she told us. But if “the MudCrew” is JoAnn’s nickname for her staff, then who’s Wayne? The former director and co-founder of PAMS, that’s who. Killed in the line of duty last year in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Wayne founded PAMS in 2009 alongside fellow conservationists Ally Namangaya and Krissie Clark. It’s believed that Wayne—who received death threats throughout his career—was murdered for his anti-poaching work.

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Do Animals Have a Knack for Numbers?

December 5, 2016

Frankie the Frog Watering Can - UncommonGoods

While you shouldn’t count on your cat to help you pass calculus, science shows us that many species are more adept mathematically than we might have thought – particularly in the ability to count. Perhaps the most commonly known animal counters are crows (Adam Duritz may have been onto something, aside from this karaoke favorite), but it turns out that salamanders, honeybees, lions, frogs, chimps, newborn chicks, and others can also count to varying degrees. Frogs searching for mates count the pulses in the croaks they hear to make sure they’re checking out the right species, lions only attack if their pride outnumbers the other, and chimps have shown they’ll both count and add in return for chocolate. Dogs, on the other hand, can’t count beyond 1 (bless their hearts), while wolves are able to discriminate between larger numbers, suggesting the dumb-down is due to our own history of dog domestication. Should these smarts really surprise us, though? Studies have shown that with other animals (especially primates) exhibiting signs of emotions, morality, and altruism, we haughty humans shouldn’t think we’re so special.

Frankie the Frog Watering Can | $42

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Who Is The Animal Kingdom’s Best Dance Crew?

April 25, 2016

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Snowball the cockatoo was left at an Indiana animal rescue center with a note from his owner. “Snowball likes to dance to this,” it said, referring to what was also left: a Backstreet Boys CD.

In 2007, Neurobiologist Aniruddh Patel stumbled upon a YouTube video of the bird, who appeared to be getting down to the boy band’s “Everybody.” If this bird were actually grooving to the beat, he wondered, it might have circuits in the brain for processing rhythm similar to ours.

So Patel paid a visit to Snowball and created an experiment to determine whether he was truly dancing—characterized by synchronized movements—or just looked like he was. Patel remixed the song at 11 different tempos, then recorded what Snowball did when his jam came on. For nine out of the 11 variations, he bobbed enthusiastically in sync (no pun intended)—well enough to consider him the first-ever nonhuman “dancer.”

Inspired by Snowball’s fancy footwork, Adena Schachner, then a psychology grad student at Harvard, went back to YouTube and narrowed thousands of clips of animals purportedly dancing to just 39 who seemed to genuinely synchronize. Twenty-nine were parrots, like Snowball, and the rest were Asian elephants, deeming a recreation of Dirty Dancing’s “the lift” highly unlikely.

Boogie Monster Dance Kit | $40

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: How Romantic is the Animal Kingdom?

February 14, 2016

The Happy Elephant | UncommonGoods

So romantic. Welcome to the Valentine’s Day edition of Uncommon Knowledge—a place where we can talk about all the romantic things animals do for each other. For one, sea otters hold hands when they sleep. They do this mostly so they don’t drift away from their pals while they snooze on their backs in the water, but the result is true intimacy.

Another romantic gesture? Penguins will propose to new mates with a pebble. Many penguins assemble their nests out of pebbles, so really, it’s a way of offering their beloved a promise to build a home with them. Maybe we can follow suit and start replacing engagement rings with a nice adjustable rate mortgage?

Brolgas cranes, like most cranes, are monogamous and will mate with the same partner every year, typically at the same nesting spot. However, the brolgas know a thing or two about keeping the romance alive—no matter how many years they’ve been together, the brolgas will still court their mate with an intricate mating dance. Ooh la la!

Okay, let’s do some rapid-fire romance: Ready for a puppy fact? Male puppies will intentionally let female puppies win when they play-fight so they can get to know them better. Like seahorses? They’re monogamous and will hold each other’s tails when traveling.

Ain’t love grand?

 

The Happy Elephant | $68.00 – 150.00

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Do Reindeer Really Fly?

December 16, 2015

In Full Bloom Trophy Head | UncommonGoodsSanta’s sleigh-pulling deer have long been the topic of scientific speculation. The advantages of being airborne when trying to cover the globe with holiday cheer in just one night are self evident, but the question remains: how does this terrestrial team take flight? Over the years, many theories have been put forth, from the hoof-lifting benefits of fruitcake, to the propulsive properties of magic corn. But Oregon Zoo Director Tony Vecchio offers two words that get to the heart of the matter: extended leaping.* He admits the extreme difficulty inherent to flying reindeer research, and adds that reindeer relatives like elk can only hope to leap about eight feet in the air (never mind having a sleigh filled with billions of toys attached). Contacted for comment, S. Claus was reticent, but a wink of his eye and a twist of his head soon gave us to know we had nothing to dread.

*Note that Mr. Vecchio’s findings are from 2006, and may not represent the latest in soaring Cervidae research.

In Full Bloom Trophy Head | $55

The Uncommon Life

Uncommon Personalities: Meet Megan Stickel

August 8, 2015

MeganStickel
Megan Stickel, UncommonGoods Associate Buyer, Children & Desktop

My hometown…
Phillipsburg, NJ – known for having one of the oldest football rivalries in the country with neighboring Easton, PA. I never went to a single game but apparently it’s a big deal.

An uncommon fact about me…
I enjoy doing chores. Mowing the lawn has always been a favorite and I find weed whacking to be especially satisfying and fun.

My guilty pleasure is…
Having too many cats.

I’m passionate about…
Tacos.

The most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen is…
It’s a toss-up between the Great Ocean Road in Australia and Bjork at ACL (Austin City Limits) in 2007.

My favorite place to eat in New York City is…
Too many places! I really love this Korean place called Hangawi where you have to take your shoes off. Other favorites are Candle Café, Champs Diner, and Angelica Kitchen.

When I’m not working, I’m probably…
Obsessively cleaning my apartment. Once I finish with that, I usually like to hang out on this random stoop with my friends – sounds lame but it’s actually perfect because none of us live there, so people just come and go as they please. No commitment!

My relationship with Mother Nature is…
I love the outdoors. I grew up in a very rural area and spent a lot of time hiking in the woods, playing in streams, and riding bikes up very steep hills. I love animals and have very strong feelings on how humans use them. I think that a lot of people are beginning to open their eyes to the truths of this as well as how we treat the environment – and that’s a great thing.

If I won the lottery, I’d…
Open a massive animal sanctuary! Also, buy a bunch soft-serve ice cream machines and open a fully vegan/non-dairy mini version of something like 16 Handles.

My style is…
Mmmm, I don’t know. I’m pretty simple and just want to be comfortable and boring. Whenever I buy something that’s not basic, I end up having no clue how to wear it and it just sits in my closet. I wish I could pull more things off!

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