Birds outsmart wasps to feed young

Photographs of Red-throated Caracaras. A. Red-throated Caracara perched on a branch near the Pararé Camp of the Nouragues Reserve in Central French Guiana, April 2011; note the bird's bare face and throat. B. Procedure of swabbing the skin of the bird's face with hexane-soaked cotton to remove skin surface chemicals. Feet and feathers were sampled in a similar fashion. Credit: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0084114.g001

Photographs of Red-throated Caracaras. A. Red-throated Caracara perched on a branch near the Pararé Camp of the Nouragues Reserve in Central French Guiana, April 2011; note the bird’s bare face and throat. B. Procedure of swabbing the skin of the bird’s face with hexane-soaked cotton to remove skin surface chemicals. Feet and feathers were sampled in a similar fashion. Credit: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0084114.g001

A species of bird found in Central and South America is able to supply its young with a steady diet of wasp larvae, evading stings from defending workers by using physical, not chemical tactics as previously thought, Simon Fraser University biologists have found. Continue reading

Audubon Society maps Pacific Coast marine birds

 FILE - This Dec. 17, 2013 photo shows hundreds of emperor geese taking off from the banks of Sargent Creek after being startled by a photographer in Kodiak, Alaska. Audubon Society has collated and interpreted information from databases and decades of government surveys to create an interactive map of important areas for more than 33 million seabirds and 150 species along North America’s Pacific Coast. Photo: James Brooks, AP

FILE – This Dec. 17, 2013 photo shows hundreds of emperor geese taking off from the banks of Sargent Creek after being startled by a photographer in Kodiak, Alaska. Audubon Society has collated and interpreted information from databases and decades of government surveys to create an interactive map of important areas for more than 33 million seabirds and 150 species along North America’s Pacific Coast. Photo: James Brooks, AP

JUNEAU, Alaska  — Audubon Society has collated and interpreted information from databases and decades of government surveys to create an interactive map of important areas for more than 33 million seabirds and 150 species along North America’s Pacific Coast. A great number of those areas are in Alaska. Continue reading

Buzzard protection focus of Savannah River Ecology Lab study

Birds that get their sustenance from eating dead animals are the focus of a local study aimed at keeping them alive.

Amanda Holland, a University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources graduate student, helps tag a vulture.

Amanda Holland, a University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources graduate student, helps tag a vulture.

Vultures, or scavenging birds that feed on carrion, have been on the decline in recent decades in many places across the globe. Jim Beasley, an assistant research scientist at the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, wants to make sure that buzzards stick around in Georgia and South Carolina.

“Vultures are one of the species people tend to turn a blind eye to. They don’t have a lot of relevance to people,” said Beasley, one of several scientists leading a study that’s looking for a method to protect vultures.
Continue reading

Hope in the battle to save the turtle dove

Turtle dove

Turtle dove

Farmers and wildlife enthusiasts have rallied behind one of the English countryside’s most threatened birds, the turtle dove, after a terrible year for the species.

The farmland bird, closely associated with the festive season by the words to seasonal song Twelve Days of Christmas, is one of the fastest declining species in the country and conservationists at the RSPB say this year has been its worst yet. Continue reading

Oxford, LSU, Tulane research questions aspect of Darwin theory

A phylogenetic tree illustrating evolutionary relationships and beak variation among 350 lineages of ovenbirds. Credit: Joseph A. Tobias and D. Seddon, images reproduced with the permission of Lynx Edicions

A phylogenetic tree illustrating evolutionary relationships and beak variation among 350 lineages of ovenbirds. Credit: Joseph A. Tobias and D. Seddon, images reproduced with the permission of Lynx Edicions

It’s considered the bedrock of the theory of evolution, but after more than 150 years, researchers at Oxford University in England, LSU and Tulane University have poked a hole in one aspect of Charles Darwin’s “Origin of Species.”

It was once thought that similar species living near each other evolved in order to avoid competition. Oxford researchers, with an assist from LSU, are now saying that’s not always the case. Continue reading

Birds offer insight into the evolution of extended families

birds

Humans often rear their children with help from family and friends. But why would such a strategy evolve? What could we possibly get out of rearing somebody else’s child? Now, scientists believe that they’ve unraveled this mystery — at least when it comes to birds. In some species, birds temporarily forgo having chicks so that they can help their family members raise their children. Here’s why this “cooperative breeding” strategy might have evolved. Continue reading