Tag archives for Birds
The birds-of-paradise of Australia and New Guinea are visually stunning and have amazing courtship dances. A new exhibit at the National Geographic Museum highlights all 39 species of these incredible birds with photography and video.
The exhibit is open now and will be at the National Geographic Museum through May 12, 2013.
Photograph by Tim Laman, National Geographic
Today we went to the First People’s Buffalo Jump. First thing when we got out of the bus we had to get back in because they wanted to drive us to another part of the park where the cliffs were. When we got to the cliff we hopped out of the bus and a park ranger told us a few safety things like “Watch out for rattlesnakes.” or “Don’t step in the prairie dog holes.” So about halfway through our walk the park ranger said, “Who’s the fastest male runner?” So I raised my hand and he said “Okay, what’s your name?” And I said “Jackson.” Then he said “Okay well you’re the young man chosen by the elders, you have to lead your group.” Then we had to assemble into three groups, a group in the back that wore wolf suits [not really], and two groups on either side that had to hide behind rock walls [again, not really]. And then there was me. I had to dress up in a buffalo calf suit [I know that the "not relays" are kind of getting predictable so let's say I pretended]. The idea behind this is since I’m dressed in a calf suit and I’m making noises like I’m hurt, the alpha female [the males are off partying], will come try to rescue me and when she goes all the other buffalo follow. So I have to gradually pick up speed and then the buffalo start running and they eventually run off the cliff. So that’s kind of the concept of the buffalo jump. Thanks for reading!
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Some tiny snails in Japan can survive a trip through a bird’s digestive tract. When graduate student Shinchiro Wada and his colleagues at Tohoku University fed the Tornatellides boeningi snails to captive white-eye birds and brown-eared bulbuls birds, they noticed that about 15% of the snails passed through the birds and were pooped out alive! How do the snails survive? Wada isn’t sure. The snails are very small, which may help keep their shells from cracking. Wada says that the snails have the ability to seal off their shells with a mucus film, which may help keep the birds’ digestive fluids out.
Photograph courtesy Shinichiro Wada
Zane: Today, The HOEC team returned to the Cayman Turtle farm. After a quick breakfast at the hotel, we boarded the buses and were off. After a short but scenic drive, we arrived at our destination. The entrance was bright and colorful. Before we entered, a few of us noticed a small green iguana in front of the door. After we had taken many pictures, the lizard darted away.
Inside the laboratory, we met up with Dr. Walter Mustin, Ph.D., one of the turtle researchers who works at the turtle farm. He gave us a presentation about the turtles, and showed us many interesting things, such as a small, five-day-old green sea turtle, and some leathery turtle eggs. He also explained a rather fascinating theory that he formulated to explain the health of the turtles when they hatched in relation to the amount of sand that was on top of them.
After this, we all moved back outside, where we witnessed a turtle feeding session in a large tank. We were ushered along by our tour guides, and eventually arrived at an aviary, which happened to be the largest open air aviary in the Caribbean. In small groups, we entered the structure through a system of doors that were designed to to keep the birds inside from escaping.
The great snipe is able to complete a flight from Sweden to sub-Saharan Africa in as little as two days (without any rest breaks)! Why? Scientists think it might be because these shorebirds are chubby. “They almost double their body weight before the flight,” said study leader Raymond Klaasen, a biologist at Lund University in Sweden. “And all this fat will be burned during the flight, and they will arrive lean and exhausted in Africa.” Other birds fly faster than the great snipe, but for shorter distances.
Although the snipe holds the current record for the fastest transcontinental migration, it may not hold the record for very long. There are probably faster birds out there. “Generally we know rather little about the performances of different species, as many have not yet been tracked,” said Klaasen.
Photograph by Klaus Nigge, National Geographic
Scientists are working on an eco-friendly substance that will help keep oil from sticking to birds during future oil spills. The substance, which is funded by the National Science Foundation and is currently being tested, will act like a laundry detergent; breaking the oil down and keeping it from sticking to birds’ feathers.
New Zealand’s birds have a problem–they’re too smelly for their own good. The birds produce a special wax that helps to keep their feathers healthy. The wax also tends to give off an odor. In the past, this wasn’t a problem because New Zealand doesn’t have any native mammal predators. But now that humans have introduced predators such as dogs, stoats, and cats to the country more than 40 bird species have gone extinct.
Biologist Jim Briskie of Canterbury University in Christchurch, New Zealand, suggests that deodorant might be the answer. “If we prove that this is a problem, we might be able to envision some kind of odor-eater or deodorant we could put into the nest to absorb some of those odors and protect them more effectively,” Briskie said. But deodorant may not be the best solution. The birds’ smells might be a way that the birds communicate with their mates or offspring.
Can you think of any ideas on how this problem might be solved?
Read more about bird B.O. on National Geographic News.
Get the facts on Australia, a country home to many unusual animals.
Photograph by Frans Lanting, National Geographic
Up to a billion migrating birds stop over in the Gulf of Mexico region on their annual journey southward. Although BP has capped the Deepwater Horizon leak, scientists say the birds may face ill effects from the Gulf oil spill for years to come.
The oil that began leaking with the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20th continues to spill into the gulf. This oil spill is now the worst in U.S. history.
The spill is taking a heavy toll on wildlife. More than 800 dead animals, including birds, fish, and dolphins, have been found in areas affected by the spill. The number of affected animals seems to have been increasing in the last few days.
Oil is hard to clean up. Try rubbing some olive oil and canola oil on your hair to see how hard it is to clean off. Now imagine trying to clean crude oil off your whole body using your mouth. Oil-coated birds are unable to keep the oil off their feathers, but while there is oil on their feathers they are unable to fly. Rehabilitators are trying to clean some of the birds by rubbing them with vegetable oil, which breaks down the heavier oil, and then washing them with detergents. Because the oil from the spill is toxic, not all cleaned birds will survive.
Scientists are not yet sure how the deaths of so many creatures will affect the Gulf ecosystem.
Photograph by Win McNamee, Getty Images
Is that sound a violin? Nope! You are hearing the vibrating feathers of the male club-winged manakin. This tiny songbird lives in the cloud forests of the Andes in South America. It vibrates one type of wing feather against another at twice the speed of a hummingbird’s wings to “sing” to potential mates. The sound this vibration makes sounds like a violin.
Learn more about the club-winged manakin on National Geographic News.
While we were at the Posada Amazonas lodge in the Amazon, we saw many cool creatures, from monkeys to birds to capybaras. My favorite animals to see (although it was pretty hard to choose a favorite) were the many species of insects and arachnids found on every tree, always amazing. I saw a scorpion (thank you for pointing that one out, Elliot), many spiders, some moth larvae, some centipedes, and many, many snails. Snails were in trees, on leaves, on flowers, everywhere! The mosquitoes, on the other hand, were, should I say, annoying, but because of the rain, we didn’t see too many for a few days. Speaking of creepy-crawlies, we were offered to try termites, a food source for those who have run out of supplies. I…tried some. It tasted a little weird, but if you didn’t think about it, you could eat them without difficulty.
Don’t get me wrong, the birds and mammals were spectacular as well! We saw some grey titi monkeys and we saw and HEARD some howler monkeys. The titi monkeys were adorable; I wanted to hold one! We also saw some gorgeous scarlet macaws. They were like the birds you see in movies, only better! We saw them fly by; flashes of yellow, blue, and red darted across the sky as we took the boat back to dry land. They were flying to the clay licks, where they eat the red-brown earth to help with digestion. I don’t know how that helps, but I’ll do my best to find out. The guides were amazing! They could just say, without another thought, “That’s definitely a green violetear, a type of hummingbird.” Just like that! Wow! The insects were still one of the chart toppers.
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Allillanchu! As you know that is Quechua for hello. There are many amazing things in the rain forest but my fave is the parrot clay lick. A clay lick is a giant slab of clay on a cliff. In the morning, the birds make their screeches, caws, and squawks and then they descend from the sky to the clay lick. There they eat damp clay that helps them with digestion. It slides down their throats and helps them chew their food in the gizzard. Also the minerals found in the clay enhance the bird’s health and well-being after digestion.
Staying in the jungle for three days was like going to the best summer camp in the world. One side of our room was open to the trees, and it had a hammock in it! My favorite thing at the lodge in Puerto Maldonado, however, was the canopy tower. Standing 120 feet tall, it towered above the trees.
On the last few days of our expedition, we had an awesome time in the Amazon Basin. We explored the Tambopata Natural Reserve. Although the weather was not great while we were there, we saw some amazing things. We woke up at 7 a.m. to look for the resident family of giant otters. We took a fifteen-minute boat ride up the river and then went on a half-hour hike through the rain forest. When we finally arrived it was raining, but that didn’t take away from the great scenery of the lake.
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Hi, it’s Elliot again. I’m on the way home but I wanted to write one last blog about the trip.
One highlight for me was that we saw all of the five different species
of Amazonian macaws. Another was a mouse possum that I spotted in the
dark with the help of my flashlight. It was eating a spider almost as
big as it was (check out the photo I took).
In the final days of the expedition we started our journey to the rain forest. From Cusco we took a plane to a small airport where we boarded a bus to our lodge. Instead of traveling on roads to get to our lodge we took a motorboat up a tributary of the Amazon River. We saw a caiman and two capybaras on the way there. After about an hour-long boat ride we reached the edge of the river near the lodge. From there we had to hike for about ten minutes through the forest. The calls of many exotic birds surrounded us. I could only wonder what they could be.
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Sony Dong was arrested in March for trying to smuggle songbirds into the United States. He got caught when a Los Angeles International Airport inspector noticed feathers peeking out from the bottom of his pants and bird poop on his shiny black shoes. More than a dozen birds were strapped to his legs with buttoned cloth wrappings.
Exotic songbirds from Asia can earn high prices in the United States. The rescued birds might end up in a zoo.
Photograph by AP/Department of Justice
Read more about the bird smuggling case on National Geographic News.
Do you like to dance? Snowball the cockatoo does! Aniruddh Patel at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego and colleagues studied Snowball, who seems to love “dancing” to Queen and the Backstreet Boys. He was really keeping time to the beat, too–the scientists would change the music’s tempo, or “BPM” (beats per minute), and Snowball would adjust how fast he was dancing!
Watch a video of Snowball in action.
Get the scoop on Snowball’s dancing on National Geographic News.
Watch more wacky parrot behavior on National Geographic Kids.
Songbirds fly faster than scientists thought they did
–two to three times faster, in fact! A researcher from York University in Toronto outfitted wood thrushes and purple martins with miniature geolocators and tracked them as they migrated. The geolocators work by detecting light, which allows scientists to estimate the latitude and longitude where the data was recorded.
Scientists found that the birds fly two to six times faster during their spring return journey than in fall. One purple martin flew from Brazil to back to its breeding colony in the United States in only 13 days!
Find out more about the songbird study on National Geographic News.
Learn about tiny bee backpacks in this News Bite.
Large photograph courtesy Timothy J. Morton
Inset photograph courtesy Bridget J. Stutchbury
Video courtesy Tourism Australia
Hi, I’m Benjamin. As soon as we all got up this morning, we boarded a bus to go to breakfast. We went to the Rainforest Habitat wildlife park, where we got to hold some pretty cool rain forest animals, like the carpet python, tree frog, parakeet, and crocodile. We learned a little bit about each of the animals too. For example we learned that the python could grow to be several feet long. The one I held was about four feet long.
Afterward we ate breakfast with the birds. The birds were flying around, swiping our food and drinking our juice, and sitting on our heads and shoulders. One even peed on my shoulder! It was all great–even the pee.