In my previous post, I mentioned that my love and I had gone out to the river for a sticky beak. It soon became apparent that not everyone understood this strange Aussie/Kiwi colloquialism, with a number of readers requiring a translation. In response, I thought I should provide a general explanation for those too polite to ask for a translation. Which is completely fitting as the explanation links in so perfectly with today’s post (unintended) about one of our most weird and wonderful mammals, the short-beaked echidna — a real sticky beak.
A sticky beak refers to an inquisitive or prying person. So in the context of going out for a sticky beak, this means going out to see what we could see, although I suspect some of my readers may have speculated on a rather more risqué translation. But no such luck. Let me make it clear that we are a very inquisitive pair, strictly no prying (except in relation to our children).
I tried to find the origin of this idiom, but the best I could come up with is that it is derived from sticking your beak (beak being a colloquialism for nose) into other people’s business. Then it occurred to me that the idiom also applied equally to our wonderful short-beaked echidna. And who should we have seen on our outing, but a short-beaked echidna. So quite literally, we went out for a sticky beak.
As you know, mammals give birth to live young and suckle their babies. That is, except for the monotremes, the platypus and the echidna. The latter lay eggs and suckle their young. During its breeding season, the female echidna makes a simple pouch into which she lays a single egg. The egg hatches after 10 days. The echidna does not have teats; instead the tiny baby, called a puggle, suckles from specialised pores in the skin of the pouch. Doesn’t that just blow your mind!
Another name for the echidna is the spiny ant-eater. Because they are covered in spiky quills. And their favourite food is termites and ants. The echidna uses its strong beak to explore for food, and once found, quickly hoovers it up with its very sticky tongue. Echnidas also have very strong claws that make swift work of both digging up food and making borrows. Get too close to it, and it will soon dig a burrow to escape attention. It is a solitary, shy animal that is widespread across Australia. The only other country in which it lives, is New Guinea. New Guinea is fortunate to have both the long-nosed and short-beaked echidnas.
I suppose it makes sense that we saw our echidna snuffling by the roadside near the river. The ground was soft, the temperature was warm and the insects had come out to play. It wasn’t afraid of me or shy. Too busy. Want to see this sticky beak?
Cute as, don’t you think? Maybe not quite as cute as a hedgehog. But not a rodent either. Did you know porcupines and hedgehogs are rodents! I wonder if they breed like rodents? Anyway, they are all gorgeous.
Response to the Ragtag Daily Prompt — Spiky. Click on the link to join in.