Cat versus bird: The grand final edition

We all know cats and birds don't get along. So expect a ferocious battle when the Geelong Cats take on the Collingwood Magpies in the 2011 AFL Grand Final this weekend.

In honour of these two tough teams, we take a look at some of the world's most formidable cats and birds.

Ocelot
This feisty wildcat is found over South and Central America and Mexico. Despite looking like a cuddly house cat, ocelots are actually fiercely territorial and have been known to fight to the death. They have excellent hearing and eyesight, and although they hunt in the dark an ocelot will chase its prey with great speed and agility.

Their coats can range from cream to reddish-brown and marked with black rosettes. Often, the rosettes can blend together to form curved stripes or bands, and they have single white spots on the back of their ears. Two black stripes line both sides of their face and their long tail is banded by black.

Serval
Out of all the cats, servals have the largest ears and longest legs in relation to the size of their body. A serval's hind legs are longer than the front ones and their number one weapon when hunting prey is their excellent hearing.

Servals are found in the jungles and the plains of Morocco, Algeria and South Africa, and won't hesitate to growl, snarl and spit when angry. Their prey is mostly hares, ground squirrels, hyraxes and mole rats, but they will also hunt frogs, snakes, lizards, insects, fish, and birds. Once the serval has a position fixed on its prey, it will leap off the ground with all four feet in the air and pounce. A serval's pounce success rate is 50%, while most other cats’ success rate is only 10%.

Clouded leopard
As one of the most reclusive of all the cats, the clouded leopard can be very tricky to spot. They are found in South East Asia from Nepal eastward to Taiwan, including southern China.

One of the most interesting facts about the clouded leopard is that they are double-jointed, and therefore excellent climbers. The clouded leopard has an agility seen in only a few of the small cats and none of the big cats. They can even dangle by their hind legs without a problem, moving horizontally along tree limbs while hanging upside down. Their tail can be as long as its body, further aiding in balance. The clouded leopard also has the largest canines in proportion to its size/mouth than any living member of the cat family. In some instances the top canines have measured over two inches.

Cassowary
The Guinness Book of Records has named the cassowary as the world’s most dangerous bird. That should be enough of a deterrent for anyone wanting to get up close and personal with them! Capable of dealing fatal blows, the cassowary is a very unpredictable, aggressive creature, especially if wounded or cornered.

Found in the rainforests of Australia and Papua New Guinea, they are a flightless bird that can grow to over six feet tall. They are actually pretty shy animals if undisturbed, but if you get too close prepare for a potential bone-breaking kick or a slash from its dagger-like claws. During WWII, soldiers stationed in New Guinea were warned to stay away from these birds, but some of them still became victims.

Ostrich
Contrary to popular belief, ostriches don't actually bury their heads in the sand. In fact, these ferocious birds can deliver a pretty hefty kick to their opponent. However sometimes if they are trying to hide they will flop down on the ground, a move which has been mistaken for burying their head in the ground.

As the largest living bird in the world, they are also the only bird with two instead of three toes per foot. When faced with danger, an ostrich can run at speeds of up to 65 kilometres per hour. The most powerful male and female keep all of the eggs from the whole herd of maybe 10 or 12 birds in one nest and take turns guarding them. Ostriches also have the largest eyes (2 inches or 5 cm across) of any land animal!

Rhea
The rhea is native to South America, and is another flightless bird. They confuse their enemies by running a zigzag, erratic course using their wings similar to a rudder to maintain balance during tight turns. They have three strong toes with hard nails which form effective weapons. Rheas also have a strong immune system which helps them recover from injuries with little intervention.

It would appear they have some resistance to insects such as scorpions which may be poisonous to other species. Pebbles are swallowed to help grind food in the gizzard, and rheas are attracted to shiny objects so they may swallow sparkly items which catch their eye.

Who do you think will win the 2011 AFL Grand Final this weekend - the Cats or the Magpies? Leave your comment in the section below. Then head to Twitter and Facebook to let the Gecko's community know who you support!

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