Posts about birds

Amber Pieces Containing Remains from Dinosaurs and Birds Show Feather Evolution

Dinosaur feather evolution trapped in Canadian amber

a study of amber found near Grassy Lake in Alberta – dated from what is known as the Late Cretaceous period – has unearthed a full range of feather structures that demonstrate the progression. “We’re finding two ends of the evolutionary development that had been proposed for feathers trapped in the same amber deposit,” said Ryan McKellar of the University of Alberta, lead author of the report.

The team’s find confirms that the filaments progressed to tufts of filaments from a single origin, called barbs. In later development, some of these barbs can coalesce into a central branch called a rachis. As the structure develops further, further branches of filments form from the rachis.

“We’ve got feathers that look to be little filamentous hair-like feathers, we’ve got the same filaments bound together in clumps, and then we’ve got a series that are for all intents and purposes identical to modern feathers,” Mr McKellar told BBC News.

“We’re catching some that look to be dinosaur feathers and another set that are pretty much dead ringers for modern birds.”

a picture is emerging that many dinosaurs were not the dull-coloured, reptilian-skinned creatures that they were once thought to be. “If you were to transport yourself back 80 million years to western North America and walk around the forest… so many of the animals would have been feathered,” said Dr Norell.

“We’re getting more and more evidence… that these animals were also brightly coloured, just like birds are today.”

Very cool. Science really is great.

Related: Dino-Era Feathers Found Encased in Amber (2008)Dinosaur Remains Found with Intact Skin and TissueMarine Plankton From 100 Million Years Ago Found in AmberGiant Duck-Billed Dinosaur Discovered in Mexico

Wesley the Owl: Love Story of an Owl and His Girl

This story begins on Valentine’s Day in 1985 when biologist Stacey O’Brien meets a four-day-old baby barn owl in a fateful encounter that would turn into an astonishing 19-year saga. With nerve damage in one wing, the owlet’s ability to fly was forever compromised and he had no hope of surviving on his own in the wild. A young assistant in the owl laboratory at Caltech, O’Brien promised to care for the helpless owlet and give him a permanent home. O’Brien’s heartfelt memoir of life with this wild bird, Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl recounts their dramatic, and often humorous, life together.

For almost two decades, O’Brien studied Wesley and his strange habits intensively and providing a mice-only diet. With a heart-shaped face and outsized personality that belied his 18-inch stature, the gorgeous white-and-gold Wesley fascinated everyone he met, and touched many lives. Stacey and Wesley’s bond was especially deep; O’Brien discovered that owls are highly sentient beings with individual personalities, subtle emotions, and a playful nature that can also turn fiercely loyal and protective.

Cool fact: “While we hear in two dimensions, owls hear in three.” Owls can detect a mouse heartbeat under three feet of snow.
Related: Friday Fun: Cat and Owl PlayingBird Brain (smart crows)Using Barn Owls for Bilogical Pest Control in Israel
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Friday Fun: Cat and Owl Playing

This black cat and owl make very cute friends. They grew up together, follow their antics on the fum and gebra website. Other examples of interspecies fun: Cat and Crow FriendsBunny and KittensPolar Bears and HuskiesCats Connect with People, and Particularly Women, as Social Partners. Other times the interaction is surprising but not exactly friendly – The Cat and a Black Bear.

Backyard Wildlife: Hawk

photo of a hawk on my deck

Nice view out my window from my desk today. This wonderful hawk landed on my deck and I was lucky enough to have my camera right next to me. It is so nice to be able to have this view instead of a view like the IT Crowd staff have in their basement IT office.

If you let me know what type of hawk you think this is that would be great – including links to an identification page would be appreciated too. Last time people helped identify a Sharp-shinned Hawk enjoying a meal. Enjoying nature in your back yard is a wonderful thing.

Related: Backyard Wildlife: Great Spreadwing DamselflyBackyard Wildlife: FoxBackyard Wildlife: TurtleBackyard Wildlife: Birds

Home Engineering: Bird Feeder That Automatically Takes Photos When Birds Feed

automatic photo bird feeder

During a trip to the Smithsonian last week I found this great home engineering project. Kayty Himelstein and Amy Darr were frustrated: birds came to their bird feeder while they were away at school, so the girls never got to see them. They decided to build a bird feeder that automatically takes pictures of all the birds that came to the feeder. I believe, they used Lego Mindstorms as part of building it.

Related: Lego Mindstorms Robots Solving: Sudoku and Rubik’s CubeAwesome Cat CamScience Fair Project on Bacterial Growth on Packaged Salads

Praying Mantis Attacks Hummingbird

The hummingbird did survive.

Related: Cat and Crow FriendsDarwin’s JellyfishesBird Using Bait to Fish

Crow Using a Sequence of Three Tools

This crow was the first animal observed using 3 tools in the correct sequence, without explicit training.

Related: Brainy CrowsCool Crow ResearchFriday Cat Fun: Cat and Crow Friends

Bewick’s Swan Divorce

photo of Sarindi and Sarind (by Colin Butters)

Experts stunned by swan ‘divorce’ at Slimbridge wetland

It is only the second time in more than 40 years that a “separation” has been recorded at the centre. Staff have described the new couplings as “bizarre”. It is not unheard of for the birds, which usually mate for life, to find a new mate but it tends to be because one of the pair has died, they said.

During the past four decades 4,000 pairs of Bewick’s swans have been studied at Slimbridge, with only one previous couple moving on to find new partners.

First suspicions of the rare event were raised when male swan Sarindi turned up in the annual migration from Arctic Russia without his partner of two years Saruni and with a new female – newly-named Sarind – in tow.

The pair’s arrival led conservationists to fear the worst for Saruni. But shortly afterwards Saruni arrived at the wetlands site – also with a new mate, Surune.

As for why they may have split, she said: “Failure to breed could be a possible reason, as they had been together for a couple of years but had never brought back a cygnet, but it is difficult to say for sure.”

Bewick’s swans are the smallest and rarest of the three species found in the UK and each individual can be identified by their unique bill pattern.

Related: Bewick’s swan diaryDarwin’s Beetles Surprising Sex Lives of AnimalsBackyard Wildlife: CrowsDuckling imprinted on this puppy in ChinaBird Species Plummeted After West Nile

Albatross Chicks Fed Plastic Ocean Pollution by Parents

photo of dead Albatross chick

See more photographs of remains of albatross chicks on the Midway Atoll, a tiny stretch of sand and coral near the middle of the North Pacific.

The nesting babies are fed bellies-full of plastic by their parents, who soar out over the vast polluted ocean collecting what looks to them like food to bring back to their young. On this diet of human trash, every year tens of thousands of albatross chicks die on Midway from starvation, toxicity, and choking.

To document this phenomenon as faithfully as possible, none of the plastic in any of these photographs was moved, placed, manipulated, arranged, or altered in any way. These images depict the untouched stomach contents of baby birds in one of the world’s most remote marine sanctuaries, more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent.

Related: Dead Zones in the OceanVast Garbage Float in the Pacific OceanSharpshinned HawkBiodegradable Plastic Bags and Bottles2,000 Species New to Science from One Island

Friday Fun: Bird Mimics Other Birds and More

The lyre bird, not only mimics the calls of other birds, buy also man made noises such as cameras, saws and chainsaws, in an attempt to impress potential mates. David Attenborough narrates the above clip.

Related: Friday Fun: Bird Using Bait to FishLeafhopper Feeding a GeckoBackyard Wildlife: RaptorBdelloid Rotifers Abandoned Sex 100 Million Years Ago

Friday Fun: Dancing Parrot

Birds show off their dance moves

Footage revealed that some parrots have a near-perfect sense of rhythm; swaying their bodies, bobbing their heads and tapping their feet in time to a beat. Previously, it was thought that only humans had the ability to groove. The researchers believe the findings could help shed light on how our relationship with music and the capacity to dance came about.

Dr Patel told the BBC: “We analysed these videos frame by frame, and we found he did synchronise – he did slow down and speed up in time with the music. “It was really surprising that he had this flexibility.”

Related: Friday Fun: Bird Using Bait to FishCrows, Brainy BirdsFriday Cat Fun #10: Cat and Crow Friends
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