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Monday Cute: Bird Sings Totoro Theme to Piano Accompanyment

it's time to play the music

Do you think Poko the Cockatiel would like to be a guest soloist with my a capella group?

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How the Chicken Lost Its Penis

A Current Biology study published this week explains how evolution left most bird species penis-free.

Researchers have long wondered why evolution robbed many bird species -- like the chicken -- of a piece of anatomy considered pretty key in most of the breeding we're familiar with -- the penis. A new study of a wide range of birds has revealed a key gene that stymies penis growth in males and suggests a few reasons that nixing the penis could be evolutionarily advantageous for the animals, though it does make calling a male rooster a cock among the crueler jokes in the history of time.

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Extinct Solitaire Birds Wings No Good for Flying, Great at Punching

Solitaire birds battled one another with knobs of bone that could grow as large as a ping-pong ball.

Julian Hume and Lorna Steel of the Natural History Museum did some digging and found that these famously aggro animals -- about whom little is known -- and found that the giant, flightless pigeons did have a use for their wings after all -- as potentially deadly weapons sporting bone growths as large as ping-pong balls. Covered in a layer of thick skin, these bones would have acted as boxing gloves of sorts for the birds during battles over mates.

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Carl Zimmer Explains Where Feathers Come From in Latest TED-Ed Animation [Video]

Folks, can we talk about these TED-Ed videos? Because they are becoming some of my favorite things. In this magnificently animated piece, science writer Carl Zimmer waxes poetic on the aesthetic and engineering feats that make feathers so incredible before delivering a point by point walkthrough of what we know about how feathers evolved -- and what we don't. This lesson in how modern birds developed from ancient dinosaurs more or less the perfect thing to distract you from work today, and come on -- it's not like you're here because you desperately want to get things done.

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These Little Birds Squawk to Attract Predators, Blackmail Their Parents for Food

As was pointed out in The Walking Dead, a zombie apocalypse a hungry, crying baby is likely going to attract the undead and put everyone in serious danger. Similarly -- though in less apocalyptic circumstance -- the loud squawks of a hungry young pied babbler can blackmail the baby bird's parents into feeding it pronto, before predators also hear their cries. This will be a scenario familiar to anyone who has been exposed to the phenomenon of 'Italian guilt' in their lifetime: "Hey, if you don't come feed me quick, I guess maybe you want predators to eat me. No, it's fine. I guess you can always have more babies."

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Getting This Close-Up of a Cassowary May Be Photography’s Most Dangerous Game

In the wilds of Australia and New Guinea, there is a dinosaur-like bird that probably wants to hurt you.  It's probably thinking about it right now, in fact.  To be fair, it's only because it assumes you want to tangle with it -- which you totally don't. But in the name of conservation, some are willing to. Photographer Christian Ziegler risked life and limb to photograph the Southern cassowary in Black Mountain Road, Australia. It's even won him the top award in the 2013 World Press Photo of the Year.

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Thieves Steal Emu From Australian Wildlife Park, Leave Staff More Confused Than Angry

Staff at Australia's Featherdale Wildlife Park are scratching their heads over the recent theft of one of their emus. How the bird burglars carried a bird the size of a small ostrich over an electrified barbed wire fence in the dead of night while avoiding a guard and security camera is one good question, but there's an even better one -- why would anyone steal an emu in the first place?

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Killer Kitties: United Kingdom House Cats Threaten Local Bird Populations

In a recent survey from across the pond that may dampen the Internet's unwavering devotion for funny felines, scientists have concluded that domestic cats in the United Kingdom are posing a serious threat to local bird populations, which has steadily declined over the years. Conservationists have since been trying to convince obstinate cat owners to be more mindful of their pet's hunting behavior and look into options that would prevent any more birds winding up dead on their doorsteps. If action to protect native bird species isn't taken soon, the U.K. is going to be known as the crazy cat lady of the world.

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Birds Respond Emotionally to Music Just as Humans Do

Scientists have long debated the topic of whether or not the melodious chirping that constitutes birdsong qualifies as music. But the results of a study conducted by then Emory University undergraduate Sarah Earp and neuroscientist Donna Maney have shown that birds, namely the monitored behavior of the white-throated sparrows used in the analysis, exhibit similar neural activity that humans do when listening to music that is either acoustically pleasurable or a discordant mess that pains the ear drums -- such as listening to Björk. Not only does this mean we share a mutual admiration for the musical arts with our feathered friends, but also that scientific discoveries are gradually turning our world into a wonderful fantasy land seen only in animated Disney movies.

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Cigarette Butts Help Bird Nests Repel Parasites

No one likes seeing cigarette butts strewn about city streets. No one, that is, except maybe urban birds. New research shows bird nests that incorporated cigarette butts may be repelling unwanted parasites. It turns out the deadly chemicals contained in cigarettes may provide a useful service for birds. Based on known bird behaviors, it's also possible that birds are seeking out cigarette butts to put in their nests to repel pests.

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Real Birds Tweet With Their Own Twitter Account, Are More Interesting Than You [VIDEO]

Don't Try This At Home

When we first got my cat Dewey, he had a tendency to walk on my keyboard. I was surprised one day to find replies to my twitter stream asking if I was OK. Turns out, Dewey had sent a tweet on my behalf of complete gibberish thanks to me leaving Tweetdeck open. And it wouldn't be the last time. But conceptual artist  Voldemars Dudums decided to let some animals tweet on purpose, namely birds. Which couldn't be more perfect considering Twitter's mascot. How did he do it? He set up a Twitter account for them, @hungry_birds, and rigged a keyboard with snacks of pork fat. They now have over 5,000 followers. Watch them in action but make sure to pay attention to what Dudums says near the end of the video about the rest of us Twitter users. You can learn more at (via Colossal) Are you following The Mary Sue on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, & Google +?

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Researchers Study Owls For Clues to Reducing Aircraft Noise, Making Planes More Interesting to Hipsters

Remember when Harry Potter fans all wanted pet owls, but then realized that they are vicious winged harbingers of death? Turns out they're also silent harbingers of death, and new research is examining how owls stay so quiet in flight. The goal of the study is to make modern aircraft more silent and owl-like. We suggest building an aircraft made from feathers and that runs on mice.

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Quarantined: Finches Avoid Sick Members Of Their Flock

We've all found ourselves ducking friends, loved ones, significant others and co-workers when they develop a sniffle or two. We're not the only species to show that rather mercenary brand of common sense, though. A recent study shows that the common house finch, usually an intensely social avian, can tell when other finches are ailing and will avoid sick members of their own species to prevent the spread of disease.

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Captive Cockatoo Is First Parrot To Spontaneously Invent Its Own Cocka-Tools

This is Figaro, a Goffin's cockatoo, using a tool he made himself to reach a delicious cashew placed just out of his reach. While more and more birds -- like crows -- are understood to use simple tools, Goffin's cockatoos have never been seen using tools in the wild before, meaning t is the first example of Figaro's species ever using tools -- much less crafting tools themselves without prompting.

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Young Birds Get Dangerously Drunk On Fermented Berries

It turns out that, just like human teenagers, young birds can also get tipsy off of alcohol, make some poor decisions, and end up clumsy, stumbling wrecks. That's the finding of a study of young blackbirds who got tanked off of fermented rowan berries near a primary school in England last year.

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Wounded Eagle Gets Fancy New 3D Printed Beak

"What do you get the bald eagle who has everything?" Probably a rotting fish or something. They love that kind of thing. It's pretty obvious that you get a bald eagle with a mangled beak that prevents it from eating and cleaning itself a new beak, though. That's certainly no small task, but it's one the folks at raptor sanctuary Birds of Prey Northwest have officially risen to, using a 3D printer to craft a brand new beak for Beauty, a disabled bald eagle who has been in the sanctuary's care since she was shot in the face by a poacher in 2005.

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Vladimir Putin Pilots Motorized Hang Glider to Lead Endangered Siberian Cranes on Migration

You read that headline right: Vladimir Putin is basically the little girl from Fly Away Home, except for how Anna Paquin has never had her political enemies locked away in a Russian prison for two years for playing guitar in a church. As far as we know. What we can be sure of is that Putin, the former head of the KGB, former Prime Minister and current President of Russia, took the helm of a powered hang glider and proved that his abilities as a leader are so great, even wildlife must follow his directives as he took point in the first stages of a migration of young Siberian cranes, who are due to leave on their annual trip to winter nesting grounds in Iran and India soon.

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Earthbound Dinosaur Hunted Like Modern Leopards, Dined On Early Birds

Paleontologists at the University of Alberta have found evidence that a feathered, but flightless raptor-like dinosaur preyed on ancient birds. Three fossils of Confuciusornis sanctus, a primitive bird-like creature, were found in the fossilized abdomens of a pair of Sinocalliopteryx gigas -- a relative of T-Rex that was about the size of a large wolf. It's the first time a predatory dinosaur has been found dining on avian fare, and a reminder that while battles between titans like allosaurus and stegosaurus may dominate our imaginations, the majority of dinosaur-on-dinosaur violence probably looked familiar to anyone who has watched a modern predator stalk prey in a nature documentary. Except it would be with dinosaurs, and thus a billion times cooler.

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Over 2,000 Dead Birds Wash Ashore on Chilean Beaches

Several news outlets are reporting that some 2,300 dead sea birds have been found along four miles of beach in Chile. The mass avian die-off has left corpses from Cartagena to Playa de Santo Domingo, and is a no doubt unnerving sight. We really need to stop these mass animal die-offs, they're creeping me out.

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Paper Airplane Thrown from Building Attacked by Birds [Video]

The creator of this remarkable video says that he or she threw a paper airplane out of an 18th floor window. You might be expecting a leisurely flight to the ground, or perhaps cruising for an incredible distance before touching down. You probably wouldn't be expecting a pair of vindictive birds, or for the person filming all this to remain eerily quiet. 

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