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?Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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."Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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 BirdsOnTwitter.com. (via Colossal) Are you following The Mary Sue on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, & Google +?Read More
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.Read More