Birds: Miscellaneous Notes, Observations, Etc.

ramonmercado

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Birds born with song in their head: researchers

Chickens with bits of quail brain transplanted into their head sing a different tune, a Canadian researcher found while mapping neural circuits to identify which cause specific behaviors.

The findings could help scientists better understand human language acquisition and development, as well as lead to new treatments for brain disorders such as Parkinson's disease, said Evan Balaban, a behavioral neuroscientist at McGill University in Montreal.

"We made a chicken sound like a quail, proving that the way the birds vocalize is not affected by learning," Balaban said. "They are born with a song in their head."

Over the past 12 years, he and colleagues in the United States swapped brain cells from quail and chicken embryos to see the effects on the particular characteristics of each bird.

When they hatched, the chickens looked normal, except for a few dark quail feathers sprouting from their heads, but sang two introductory notes followed by the long trill of a quail song instead of a cock-a-doodle-doo.

Computers were used to analyze the acoustics but the different sounds were recognizable just by listening.

In the past, researchers believed birds learned their songs from their parents or their brethren. But, studies have shown they are born already hardwired with a tune in mind.

The same process is likely at work with human infants who are immediately attracted to speech, Balaban said.

Bird and human brains are roughly connected the same way.

"So far, there is no evidence that a child born in Nepal has a greater propensity for learning Nepalese than French or English. But, this may explain why they learn to talk instead of learning how to bark like a dog," he said.

In other experiments, chickens were made to respond to quail danger warnings by running toward a parent to seek protection, while others bobbed their heads the way quails do when they sing.

Through a process of elimination, Balaban and his team found a group of cells that make quail sing like a quail. In a chicken, the quail cells seemed to send out a chemical signal to tell its embryonic brain to build a particular cell network responsible for the quail song.

"We don't have a good understanding of how complicated circuits in the brain develop. Even simple behaviors require many parts of the brain talking to each other," Balaban said.

"I'm hoping to understand how nerve cells talk to each other and organize circuits to form patterns of behavior so that someday we can fix damaged circuits."

http://www.physorg.com/news9546.html
 

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Giant flying insects threaten to bring down civilisation. Now that could be a good film.

Reign of the giant insects ended with the evolution of birds, study finds
http://phys.org/news/2012-06-giant-inse ... birds.html
June 4th, 2012 in Biology / Evolution

Giant insects ruled the prehistoric skies during periods when Earth's atmosphere was rich in oxygen. Then came the birds. After the evolution of birds about 150 million years ago, insects got smaller despite rising oxygen levels, according to a new study by scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Insects reached their biggest sizes about 300 million years ago during the late Carboniferous and early Permian periods. This was the reign of the predatory griffinflies, giant dragonfly-like insects with wingspans of up to 28 inches (70 centimeters). The leading theory attributes their large size to high oxygen concentrations in the atmosphere (over 30 percent, compared to 21 percent today), which allowed giant insects to get enough oxygen through the tiny breathing tubes that insects use instead of lungs.

The new study takes a close look at the relationship between insect size and prehistoric oxygen levels. Matthew Clapham, an assistant professor of Earth and planetary sciences at UC Santa Cruz, and Jered Karr, a UCSC graduate student who began working on the project as an undergraduate, compiled a huge dataset of wing lengths from published records of fossil insects, then analyzed insect size in relation to oxygen levels over hundreds of millions of years of insect evolution. Their findings are published in the June 4 online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"Maximum insect size does track oxygen surprisingly well as it goes up and down for about 200 million years," Clapham said. "Then right around the end of the Jurassic and beginning of the Cretaceous period, about 150 million years ago, all of a sudden oxygen goes up but insect size goes down. And this coincides really strikingly with the evolution of birds."

With predatory birds on the wing, the need for maneuverability became a driving force in the evolution of flying insects, favoring smaller body size.

The findings are based on a fairly straightforward analysis, Clapham said, but getting the data was a laborious task. Karr compiled the dataset of more than 10,500 fossil insect wing lengths from an extensive review of publications on fossil insects. For atmospheric oxygen concentrations over time, the researchers relied on the widely used "Geocarbsulf" model developed by Yale geologist Robert Berner. They also repeated the analysis using a different model and got similar results.

The study provided weak support for an effect on insect size from pterosaurs, the flying reptiles that evolved in the late Triassic about 230 million years ago. There were larger insects in the Triassic than in the Jurassic, after pterosaurs appeared. But a 20-million-year gap in the insect fossil record makes it hard to tell when insect size changed, and a drop in oxygen levels around the same time further complicates the analysis.

Another transition in insect size occurred more recently at the end of the Cretaceous period, between 90 and 65 million years ago. Again, a shortage of fossils makes it hard to track the decrease in insect sizes during this period, and several factors could be responsible. These include the continued specialization of birds, the evolution of bats, and a mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous.

"I suspect it's from the continuing specialization of birds," Clapham said. "The early birds were not very good at flying. But by the end of the Cretaceous, birds did look quite a lot like modern birds."

Clapham emphasized that the study focused on changes in the maximum size of insects over time. Average insect size would be much more difficult to determine due to biases in the fossil record, since larger insects are more likely to be preserved and discovered.

"There have always been small insects," he said. "Even in the Permian when you had these giant insects, there were lots with wings a couple of millimeters long. It's always a combination of ecological and environmental factors that determines body size, and there are plenty of ecological reasons why insects are small."

More information: “Environmental and biotic controls on the evolutionary history of insect body size,” by Matthew E. Clapham and Jered A. Karr, PNAS, 2012.

Provided by University of California - Santa Cruz
 
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ramonmercado

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Adventurous eaters sometimes bite off more than they can chew. This European bee-eater was spotted last week attempting to chow down on a bat, possibly a Kuhl's pipistrelle.

Photographer Shuki Cheled caught the act on camera while birdwatching on the Judean plains, near the town of Nahala in Israel. First the bird killed the bat by beating it against tree branches, as it usually does to wasps and bees. The bee-eater then attempted to swallow its victim, repeatedly flipping the bat in an effort to find an easier-to-swallow angle. ...

http://www.newscientist.com/article...mpts-to-swallow-a-bat-whole.html#.VZsPdfmrTIU
 

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Bird Poop Likely Caused N.Y. Nuclear Reactor Outage

ALBANY, New York — Bird droppings were the likely cause of a December shutdown at a nuclear power plant outside New York City, according to the operator.

An Indian Point reactor safely shut down for three days starting Dec. 14 following an electrical disturbance on outdoor high voltage transmission lines, Entergy Corp. said. An outside expert is analyzing whether what's technically called bird "streaming" was the culprit.

In a report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission last month, the New Orleans-based company said the automatic reactor shutdown was apparently from bird feces that caused an electric arc between wires on a feeder line at a transmission tower.

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news...w&hootPostID=b5358d97901e36c839c36f6e0f1124a4
 

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Beware of the owl, bet he went Woo! as he attacked.

A Cobb County woman is afraid to let her dogs outside after one was attacked by an owl, she told Channel 2 Action News.

Deborah Johnson said she had let her two dachshunds out Saturday about 10 p.m. when the bird swooped in at Gabe, the larger of the two dogs.

“For a few seconds there, I did not know what was going on,” said Johnson, who lives off Post Oak Tritt Road.

http://www.ajc.com/news/local/cobb-...-her-dog-and-then-her/s0jlbY0kUxxqysayDnwMNJ/
 

RaM

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Look in the road slightly to the right, that is a hawk Kestrel I think
it has just killed a pigeon but cant carry it off so sets to plucking it
in the middle of the road only a few hundred yards from the center
of Fleetwood, it had no intention of moving we were only yards away

 
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GNC

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This puts the gang of starlings who arrived in my back garden to feast on the birdy treats the other day into perspective.
 

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I wondered what had been eating my olives the last couple of years. I had thought they would be too bitter but only the seeds have been left.
 

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Even the vultures avoid Portugal.

New research shows a trend of vultures avoiding Portugal in favour of Spain, it's reported.

Researchers from Portugal and Spain tagged 71 carrion birds for three years, and noticed that only 13 of them ventured into Portugal over that period, the Correio da Manha newspaper reports.

Scientists say vultures are avoiding Portugal in the hunt for food, and it's largely to do with mad cow disease.

Eneko Arrondo of the research team at Spain's Donana Biological Station says Portugal's strict laws on preventing the spread of mad cow disease require farmers to clear animal carcasses from their fields immediately, and hand them over for incineration or burial. This means scavengers don't have the chance to feed on them.

Spain took advantage of a change in European Union regulations in 2011 to allow regional councils to decide whether to leave carcasses out in the open - especially as the country is home to 90% of Europe's carrion birds.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-43244856
 

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For a moment I thought that headline said "Penguin super-colony spotted in space". No more de-caff for me :)

Penguin super-colony spotted from space
By Jonathan Amos and Victoria GillScience correspondents, BBC News
  • 1 hour ago
Image copyrightM.POLITO/LSU
Image captionThe Danger Islands form a compact archipelago on the tip of the Peninsula
Scientists have stumbled across a huge group of previously unknown Adélie penguins on the most northerly point of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Numbering more than 1.5 million birds, they were first noticed when great patches of their poo, or guano, showed up in pictures taken from space.

The animals are crammed on to a rocky archipelago called the Danger Islands.

etc
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-43250744
 

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Misgendered owl lays eggs.

Barn Owl Centre in Gloucester posted a picture of their feathered friend on Twitter who has a “shocked face” after laying the egg.

They said eagle owl Kaln “who always likes to bonk things when broody, now lays an egg at 23 years old”.

The original post said: “Kaln, male, arrived at 17days old, now aged 23yrs.

“Body weight from 4.15lbs (1.88kg) to 6lbs (2.72kgs).

“He's just given us the biggest shock of our lives.


“‘HE'S' JUST LAID AN EGG!!!!”

https://www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk/news/gloucester-news/shock-after-male-owl-lays-3012861
 

James_H

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There's a bird in Hong Kong that makes a loud whooping sound, increasing in pitch and tempo until it reaches a fever pitch, then stopping. I recently heard an urban legend, presented as fact, that this bird sings until it coughs up its insides and bleeds to death. Or maybe it's true?
 

EnolaGaia

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Vultures can really ruin your neighborhood.
Florida vacation home invaded by vomiting vultures

A New York couple’s luxurious vacation house in Florida has been taken over by dozens of black vultures that are vomiting and defecating everywhere.

The Palm Beach Post reports the Casimano family can’t even visit the $702,000 home they purchased earlier this year in the Ibis Golf and Country Club.

Siobhan Casimano described the smell as “like a thousand rotting corpses.” The vultures have destroyed screen enclosures and have overtaken the pool and barbecue. The few times the family has visited, they’ve had to park their car in the garage to avoid the birds pecking at them with their beaks.

A neighbor, Cheryl Katz, tells the Post she’s got it even worse because she lives next door to a person who is feeding the vultures and other wildlife. In May, she said vultures tore through her pool enclosure and couldn’t figure out how to get out.

“Imagine 20 vultures trapped, biting each other — and they can bite through bones,” she said. “They would bang against my windows running away from a bird that was attacking them. Blood was everywhere. It was a vile, vicious, traumatic event. And it was Memorial Day, so no company I called would come out to help me.” ...

The homeowners blame Katz’s neighbor, a woman who they claim is excessively feeding wildlife. Katz said she has seen the neighbor give bags of dog food and even a roasted chicken to the vultures.

Neighborhood association president Gordon Holness said association members have warned the woman but are limited in what they can do because the vultures are migratory birds protected by federal law. ...

People have suggested scaring the vultures off with fireworks or balloons, Katz said. The newspaper quoted an expert as saying that killing a vulture, having it stuffed and hanging it in a prominent place would work because vultures avoid their own dead. But Katz said she found out from the U.S. Wildlife Service that it is hard to get a federal permit to kill the protected bird.

Katz said she even tried putting out four fake owls that have moving heads and blinking lights.

“The vultures chewed the owls apart,” she said. “They ripped the heads off.”
SOURCE: https://www.apnews.com/e2f95801db8a4dd39b1b140a4afcfd82
 
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GerdaWordyer

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I enjoy vulture visits (or buzzard business) at our home, but they visit in twos or soar (glorious) in fours. I can't imagine attracting and feeding and enclosing them.
 

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Who shot Mr Cocky?

A cockatoo is being nursed back to health in Australia after being shot five times with air guns.

Mr Cocky, a sulphur-crested cockatoo, was found by a member of the public in the city of Sydney last month and taken to the local Avian Reptile and Exotic Pet Hospital. The hospital says one pellet lodged millimetres from its left eye. Some of the projectiles have been removed and Mr Cocky is receiving physiotherapy to help fly again.

"I mean, he's like winning the national lottery, this one, he's definitely very lucky being alive," veterinarian Lorenzo Crosta told local broadcaster ABC News.

The cockatoo was brought in by a member of the public who had reportedly found it in their backyard. X-ray scans revealed three other pellets in its chest and one in its shoulder. It was shot with two different air rifles, the hospital says.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-49983981
 

uair01

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Posted by the writer Jeff Vandermeer on Facebook:

TWO WEEKS on the road...and the only damn thing on the trail cam I set up is...this one image. So weird. Seriously. What the hell.


79379911_10157087453104195_6359235969819869184_o.jpg
 

Frideswide

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Photo upside down. Scaly-winged bat hanging from branch.
 

RaM

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Picture from Quatermass and the pit
 

uair01

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Today I saw an almost fully white jackdaw. Only the tips of the feathers were black, so it looked like a Dalmatian.
The bird was gone before I could take a picture.
 

Tribble

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Today I saw an almost fully white jackdaw. Only the tips of the feathers were black, so it looked like a Dalmatian.
The bird was gone before I could take a picture.
Cool! So, leucistic more than albino?
 
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