"City streets have got noisier in the last thirty years – and birds have 'raised their game' to compensate. A new study has shown sparrows sing louder, just as people do when talking, in order to be heard over city traffic noise. The study has also found San Francisco streets, where the study took place, have grown noisier since the seventies, with the birds adjusting their singing to fit in with modern day commotion."
"This study revealed that Bengalese finches can learn grammar and, furthermore, that their grammatical abilities involve a specific part of the brain region distinct from other brain regions involved in singing. This is similar to what neuroscientists understand about human language processing. If the tweets of birds can be roughly likened to strings of human words, and if birdbrains process songs in a way similar to how human brains process language, future research may tackle whether these animals possess other cognitive abilities once thought to be singularly characteristic of human intelligence." —Of course, as soon I come all out my face talking about how birds are stupid and [...]
"Chirping sparrows are actually trading insults like gangster rappers, a new study has shown. What sounds like harmonious song is really the noise of males trying to appear macho, say researchers. And, just like humans, most of the boasting and trading of insults is done to impress the girls." It goes on, but you get the point.
Utter avian craziness is happening in Britain's southeastern county of Kent. Not only is a "cheeky seagull" continually robbing a newsstand of the delicious potato chips within, but a parrot in a local pub is being verbally abusive to the customers: "People come in here and he will just blurt out **** off, ****** or *****! I considered covering the cage but that doesn't stop him. He doesn't like going upstairs he likes living in the bar. The more people in the pub the louder he gets…. If a punter tells Derby to shut up he just tells them to **** off." There are no reports of birds [...]
A study of 550 birds of 48 different species living in the exclusion zone around the site of the Chernobyl nuclear accident in Russia showed a five percent decrease in brain size directly attributable to lingering radiation. Measures taken after the reactor exploded of 1986 found traces of radioactive material in pretty much every country north of the equator. So count on future generations of humans to walk into screen doors even more frequently than we all do now. (Sidebar: the person who took the video is mean.)
San Diego Zoo Condor Cam over Osprey Cam? You've got to be kidding me!
"I don’t know of any architects out there who want to kill birds." —Oh, they do, with their great glass facades and alluring skyscrapers. They just won't admit it in public, because of America's strident bird sympathizers in our long war against our avian enemies. For now, New York City remains a bird death mill in which we slaughter 90,000 evil birds each year. It's a good beginning. But we won't truly be safe until we kill ALL the birds. Just remember: for every bird we nab with our attractive see-through buildings, two more birds circle our airports, desperate to crawl inside our jet engines.
"A plant has killed and 'eaten' a blue tit at a garden nursery in Somerset. Nurseryman Nigel Hewitt-Cooper, from West Pennard, was inspecting his tropical garden when he discovered one of his pitcher plants had trapped the bird. He said he was 'absolutely staggered' to find it had caught the creature. It is believed to be only the second time such a carnivorous plant has been documented eating a bird anywhere in the world."
The war on birds has been, let's face it, going poorly for some time now. Our bird gas chambers are not quite doing the trick. But! One man dares to fight on: Lee Humberg. Humberg’s ideas about managing urban wildlife are thoughtful and nuanced, but they might have a hard time getting through. In the summer of 2009, his team removed 1,235 geese. Last year, the radius of goose-capture sites was increased from five miles to seven, and the culling total grew to 1,676. He won’t predict how many geese will be removed this year, but whatever the final tally, the culling will likely take place [...]
Well, the Rapture didn't happen, but this did: "'Evil' drunk birds are falling from the sky in Darwin." Yes.
Photo by RaeA, from Flickr.
It's been some time since we've brought you news on our endless war against the birds, but today is huge. When last we checked in, the plan was to basically kill all of the birds around airports, but that hasn't worked! Mostly probably because birds aren't fairly mobile. New news! Birds are more likely to attack than ever: "The number of severe bird strikes suffered by airline flights above 500 feet reached a new high of 150 in 2009, the federal data show. That represents a 40% increase in the rate of bird strikes compared with the average from 2000 through 2008. The trend continued last year, [...]
The Orange County Zoo is holding a contest to name a wild bald eagle that has been perching outside the cage of Olivia, a resident female bald eagle. Zookeepers don't know the gender of the visitor, but the visits have been daily, and the two birds have been screeching back and forth to each other. So, with Valentine's Day coming up and all, they'd like to think he's come a courtin'.
They're just sitting there… WAITING. I don't like it one bit.
"If females can hear all song types equally well, they will go for the sexy ones, but if they cannot hear the sexy ones well anymore, then they might just go for the songs they can still hear. It could very well be that noise pollution is interfering with reproductive decisions by females." —Wouter Halfwerk, a behavioral ecologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands, on his study that indicates male birds are increasing the pitch of their singing to distinguish their songs from man-made sounds. Which is maybe what Bon Iver did when he went out to that cabin after he broke up with his saxophonist girlfriend? [...]
It's not just me, this is creepy, right? "Crows remember the faces of 'dangerous humans,' with the memories likely lasting for a bird's lifetime. Crows may scold people who threaten them, bringing in relatives and even strangers to mob the person. The crows within mobs then indirectly learn about the person, so they too associate that individual's face with danger and react accordingly."
Photo by Ingrid Taylar
Welcome to June. The month when it's already too hot.
I hope you had a nice Memorial Day weekend. I did, pretty much. Although it was too hot. And it was too hot yesterday, too. I know it's awfully trite to complain about the heat in New York, and how spring is too short in the city. But I'll do it anyway. It's too hot and spring is too short in New York City. Spring meaning not the quarter of the calendar, of course, but the fleeting blip of time each year when you can be outside without a coat, but also without a coating of sweat. When you can [...]
"Scientists surveyed 82 species of passerine birds, including sparrows, pigeons and anything that perches, in and around 12 cities in central Europe. They classified the birds as those that breed in the heart of the city or those that avoid the hustle and bustle. And then they compared the bird brains. The results? Birds that prosper on the city streets have larger brains than their pastoral relations. So it seems that novel environments, including urban landscapes, may select for street smarts—at least for birds that flock toward the city lights." —Huh. Well. This could reinforce some unfortunate stereotypes, I guess. It seems, according to Science, that birds who [...]
“Cats are natural predators of not just birds but also mammals. Killing is what they are meant to do, and it’s not their fault." —Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute research scientist Peter Marra, on data that indicates that certain species of birds are being wiped out by house cats in suburban areas.