Black and White Friday

We are often attracted to the colorful wildlife on this planet, but for today, Black Friday, let’s take a look at our charismatic black-and-white animals.

There are all sorts of black-and-white animals, domestic-bred and wild, mammals and insects and everything in between. As always, I will focus exclusively on the wild animals here.

Zebras are probably the most fascinating, for their psychedelic coats.

The human fascination for zebras goes back centuries, and so do the scientific theories for their striped patterns.

In studies of the evolution of wild animals, defense is usually the key consideration. One defense theory for zebras is that in a group of them the striped patterning makes it difficult for a predator to focus on just one individual, a sort of camouflage.

Take one look at a zebra group (below), and you see firsthand how your eyes have a hard time focusing on any one individual.

Aptly, a collective noun for zebras is “dazzle.”

There are many more zebra-stripe theories, read more here: Zebra Wikipedia under Stripes

In contrast, defense for skunks, another black-and-white, is notoriously their smell. That strong obnoxious liquid they spray is a mixture of sulfur-containing chemicals. Most predators rarely attack skunks due to the foul spray…except for one.

Great horned owls are the only predator to routinely attack skunks, due to the skunks’ poor sense of smell. They take down all six skunk species, even the heavier-bodied striped skunk species seen here.

Orca whales, badgers, pandas, and many more wild mammals have black-and-white coloring.

I recently saw a fellow walker with a Dalmatian dog, and that got me thinking about all the domestic-bred pied animals. The list keeps growing.

The black-and-white colobus monkeys, one of my favorite monkey species, are an Old World monkey. Sitting in a jeep one day on Mount Kenya, I heard a lot of rustling in the trees overhead. What a pleasant surprise to see these animated monkeys swinging from tree to tree, their fluffy white tails illuminated by the sun.

Our flightless birds the penguins–a familiar and loveable black-and-white presence on earth.

These Galapagos Penguins, below, are the only penguin species that live north of the equator. They typically live in caves and crevices for protection. Now listed as Endangered, this trio was under mangrove roots along the shoreline.

Of the flying birds, there are many black-and-whites.

Some are more familiar like woodpeckers, gulls, terns, and magpies.

This magpie photo reflects the color blue (on the rump), often not seen in a bird that is primarily black and white. Only if the sun is shining just right does an iridescent color appear. I’ve seen it at different times in magpies, the pied kingfisher, and bufflehead ducks, to name a few.

Here are two lesser-known black-and-white birds in the U.S.

These striking black-and-white birds reside on other continents.

Lastly, it is interesting to note that many mostly-white birds often have black wing tips. It is theorized that the white feathers without pigment are not as strong as feathers with pigment. Dark wings or wing tips are thought to provide extra protection for the feathers most vulnerable to abrasion during flight.

Migrating birds who fly long distances, like the American white pelican and snow geese below, may benefit from their black wing tips.

While it seems that few things in life are ever just black and white, today we found some wonderment in the wildlife that is.

Written by Jet Eliot.

All photos in the wild by Athena Alexander.


82 thoughts on “Black and White Friday

    • I love that you love all the animals, Timothy. Here’s a short skunk story. We once had a jackrabbit die under our house and it was really smelly and no carrion-eating predator could get to it under the house. So we shimmied under and pulled it out and placed it ceremoniously by the critter cam to see what animal would eat it. We figured vultures or ravens would tear it apart. Mystery was revealed: a skunk that was the same size as the jackrabbit, dragged it away. That struck us as so funny. Always a joy, my friend.

      • Interesting. Years ago when I rode a bike to work, one of the skunks we had around would be out at the corner of the house every morning when I left. It would run along beside me as a rode out to the road. He would turn off at the neighbor’s drive a 100 feet up the road. I don’t know if it was the same skunk, but when I got home at night, a skunk would run out of the tall grass and bump into my leg a few times and then suanter back in to the grass. It was like he was giving me head-butt greetings. They are funny little critters.

      • You are welcome, Jet. We all need to laugh. Skunks are playful if they don’t feel threatened. I had one confront me one night. It ran up to my shoe and stamped it’s feet it typical skunk fashion. I kept backing up trying to get a photo, but it kept running up and stamping its feet, like it was playing a game. It was too dark so I never got the camera to focus on the skunk.

  1. Love this black and white theme on Black Friday, so creative! I had never heard a β€œdazzle” of zebras, love that! And who knew Great Horned Owls have a poor sense of smell, I would have guessed the opposite! Always great information and beautiful photos – I am thankful for you both, Jet and Athena! β€οΈβ€οΈπŸ¦ƒπŸΏπŸŒžπŸŒˆπŸ‘πŸΌ

    • Oh so wonderful to have you stop by, BS. It is the skunks who have the poor sense of smell, according to Wikipedia, but that may’ve been confusing. Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed the B&W animals today, and I am so thankful for you, too. Glad to have brought a dazzle of zebras to you today.

  2. Oh what a relief it is! Here I was thinking that you and Athena had fallen prey to that weird tendency to convert photos to black and white. Instead I had the pleasure of seeing that dazzle (zazzle?) of zebras… Loved the shot of your skunk, too! We’ve been catching one in our backyard lately (perhaps now that Sissy is gone? I always worried about her tangling up with one… but we had no sight or whiff of one all these years until now.) Does yours have that “V” shape white stripe with the sharp tip up by the ears?

    I must add how much I enjoy Athena’s photography. My favorite in this series is the Australian magpie-lark (a hyphenated bird no less!)

    Oh and them magnificent snow geese… I still get shivers just remembering the scene at the Klamath Refuge where the (seemingly) millions of the took off in a blizzard of wings and that marvelous cacophony. Not the mention the Cranes dancing in the background. I think we have been the lucky ones to get to see such miracles. πŸ’•Hope your Thanksgiving was all you might have wished for… and healthy! πŸ₯°

    • That Australian magpie-lark was such a beauty, Gunta. And the song they sing is a mesmerizing warble of loud and liquid calls — really breathtaking. And you’re right, the memories and experiences you and I have both had in nature, we have been lucky to see so many. The skunk species that comes to our yard is the striped skunk, and yes, they do have the “V” shape white stripe on their back. We smell them almost every day and they show up on our critter cam all the time. Always an adventure living out in the wilderness, as you and I both know. Many thanks, my friend, lovely to “see” you.

  3. I remember one of the zoo keepers at the San Diego Wild Animal park telling me that zebras and other black and white animals were bad tempered! I guess they had a couple of nasty zebras they had to quarantine!

    • I think if I was a zebra in a zoo I would be bad-tempered too. Because the Serengeti, oh boy oh boy, that is a much better place for a zebra to live. They seemed even-tempered, but I did see a couple of them rear up and kick, now that I think of it. Maybe they are bad-tempered? What a wonderful thought to ponder…thanks Jan. Glad to have you visit today.

  4. What a delightful collection Jet. ⚫️βšͺ️⚫️βšͺ️ I love zebras and their antics. My Mum in Scotland says a single magpie is supposed to be bad luck – unless you say β€œgood morning mr magpie. Send my regards to your wife and family” !! I find myself saying the same 😊

    • How wonderful that you remember me saying that about zebras, David. I’ve seen two of them. The Plains Zebra, Equus quagga, is the one most commonly seen. The Grevy’s are more rare, we have seen them in East Africa. Thanks so much for your attentive visit and comment, David, much enjoyed.

    • We were delighted to watch that pied kingfisher hovering in the sky, Bill, I am glad you liked it. That was one of those bird species that, at a different time and place, looked almost purple in the light. I’m glad you enjoyed the zebra psychedelics, too. Thank you so much, Bill. And aloha!

  5. Pingback: Black and White Friday β€” Jet Eliot – Art, animals, and the earth

  6. What an enjoyable post, Jet, full of beautiful black and white animals and birds. I love the name “Bufflehead.” I know some people who might fall under that name. πŸ™‚ Zebras are hard to beat. I inadvertently ended up with a black and white bird for Black Friday too. Have a great weekend.


  7. So awesome πŸ‘ŒπŸŒ·πŸ™thank you so much for sharing this beautiful and inspiring photos πŸ™
    Can see stunning photos of earth greenery, animals , birds and butterflies so lovely πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ˜

  8. Beautiful arrangement of black and white birds! Great, Jet! Especially the kingfisher and the Australian magpie!
    In Europe you find the in German named “Austernfischer” (Haematopus ostralegus). In NZ I have seen the black species (Haematopus unicolor). It is very pretty with its red bill.

    • I really enjoyed your contribution of the black-and-white birds in Europe and NZ, Simone. We have oystercatchers here in the U.S. too, wonderful black-and-white birds. My warmest thanks.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the Black and White Friday topic, LuAnne. We’ve been so inundated with Black Friday ads lately, on every digital device in all the margins. At some point it got me thinking about the black wildlife and then the black-and-white wildlife. Many thanks for your visit, much appreciated.

    • You always say the kindest things, Frank, and I really appreciate it. I find the research rewarding–I learn so much–and what a lovely repertoire of Athena’s photos that I have at my fingertips. Cheers, my friend, and many thanks.

  9. What a fun post. I hoped you’d include the skunk, and there it was. As you mentioned, there are multitudes of black and white birds. It’s interesting that our Loggerhead Shrike also is black and white — and right now I’m watching the chickadees at the feeder. I’m wondering: have you ever seen a black and white California king snake?

    • Always a joy to hear from you, Linda. I recently saw several loggerhead shrikes while in GA, and they are a handsome bird, with black and white but quite a bit of gray too. To answer your question, no I have never seen a black-and-white CA King Snake. I have only seen them orange and black. We have the Calif. Mountain Kingsnake where I live, and I’ve read the colors can vary, some call it red (with black and white), but what we see where I live is orange (with black and white). They can get super long. We were once eating a quesadilla on the back deck when a pair of dueling males were fighting so furiously that they went off the side of the cliff and dropped to the ground right in front of us! Great fun to share the wildlife exchanges, Linda, thank you.

  10. What a wonderful idea for a post, Jet! As I read, I imagined if you had a map and marked each place where the creature came from, you would instantly show “a trip around the world”. Thanks for sharing.

    • I’m really glad you enjoyed the B&W post, Julie. We are fortunate on this planet to have such a wide array of black and white animals to appreciate. Great fun sharing them with you. Thanks so much.

  11. I loved this collection of black and white creatures, Jet! I can see how the striped patterning on zebras would make hunting a challenge for their predators. When I was a child I had a dearly loved black and white “cow” cat. Your post brought back some sweet memories of her.

    • I so enjoyed hearing about your B&W “cow” cat, Barbara. Now that’s a B&W animal I had never thought of. Always a true pleasure to have you stop by, Barbara, thank you.

  12. This black and white post certainly dazzled! They are all winners, but I had to keep going back to the dazzle of zebras – the more I looked, the more unlikely they seem, and all the more wonderful for it… Thanks, Jet, and we hope you both had a good long weekend!

    • I, too, find the zebras absolutely baffling, pc. I stared at them on safari, and I stare at them in photos. It’s a very curious thing, those stripes and patterns. The juveniles are brown and white, they come into their black color as they live longer. I’m happy you enjoyed the B&W post. We had a quiet and happy Thanksgiving and a very pleasant long weekend, thanks. I hope yours, too, was a joy. Thank you, pc, always a delight to “see” you.

  13. What a great idea Jet. Black and white animals/birds – never thought of bunching them into a group, and makes them that much more fascinating. We have a lot of black and white woodpeckers here, and some huge flickers as well. Many of them, though, have a tiny speck of red on their beautiful feathers. They fascinate me because they’ve come to trust us, and peck on our window if the suet feeder is empty. πŸ™‚

    • I so enjoyed hearing about your resident woodpeckers, Pam. How lucky they are to have you for friends. Really great to see you. I’ve missed you in your WordPress move. Thanks so much for stopping by.

      • Huge flicker on the suet feeder right now! And in the summer when the babies are big enough, they sit on the feeder and the parent takes some suet in her mouth and deposits in her little one’s mouth. And the family lets us watch!
        I haven’t left WP. I switched to blogging once every two weeks. The block/classic editor WP problems get a bit perplexing and frustrating. ;-0

    • Great fun, Dawn Renee, sharing the wonderment and beauty of the wild black-and-whites with you. Thanks very much for stopping by. There are, BTW, black and white reptiles. The king snake comes to mind, but I do not have a photo of one. I have only seen Calif. king snakes that are the mountain species with red-orange, black and white. Cheers.

  14. They look particularly striking when collected together like this Jet. Reading about the zebras I was reminded of black and white ‘dazzle’ camouflage used in the first World War – probably where it got it’s name and origin!

    • That’s a very interesting point about the WWI dazzle camouflage, Andrea. I would imagine that is where it got it’s name. Thanks very much for your insight and visit today.

  15. This was a beautiful and delightful post, Jet! There are so many wonderful black and white birds in this post it’s hard to pick a favorite! I had forgotten that a group of Zebras is called a Dazzle. I love that name and you’re right they do dazzle!

    • It was fun gathering up our B&W bird photos, Deborah. While doing this, I noticed there are many birds that have a colored bill or colored legs or additional gray tones. I’m happy you enjoyed the post, I appreciate your visit and comment.

  16. Fascinating! And very clever to feature these diverse beauties on Black Friday! Glad to see that Zebra Longwing at the end, too, from our DQ adventure!

    • It was that Zebra Longwing butterfly cloud that we saw while enjoying our fast-dripping ice cream cones at DQ that gave me the idea for this post, Nan. A zebra butterfly, what a novel creature. It was great to receive your words here today, Nan, thank you so much.

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