Desert Tawny Owl: New Species of Bird Discovered

The Desert Tawny Owl (Strix hadorami). Image credit: © Rony Lybanah.

The Desert Tawny Owl (Strix hadorami). Image credit: © Rony Lybanah.

A group of ornithologists led by Dr Manuel Schweizer from the Natural History Museum of Bern in Switzerland has described a new cryptic species of owl that inhabits the desert areas of Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman and Yemen.

The newly-discovered species, named the Desert Tawny Owl, belongs to the earless owl genus, Strix.

It is a medium-sized owl, 30 to 33 centimeters long, and weighing 140 to 220 grams. It resembles the Hume’s Owl (Strix butleri) and the Tawny Owl (Strix aluco) in plumage pattern and proportions. Continue reading

Bad reputation of crows demystified

The 326 interactions between corvids and their prey, shows that they have a much smaller effect on other bird species than was previously thought. Credit: Jorge Piñeiro

The 326 interactions between corvids and their prey, shows that they have a much smaller effect on other bird species than was previously thought. Credit: Jorge Piñeiro

In literature, crows and ravens arebad omens and are associated with witches. Most people believe they steal, eat other birds’ eggs and reduce the populations of other birds. But a new study, which has brought together over 326 interactions between corvids and their prey, demonstrates that their notoriety is not entirely merited.

Corvids—the bird group that includes crows, ravens and magpies—are the subject of several population control schemes, in both game and conservation environments. These controls are based on the belief that destroying them is good for other birds. They are also considered to be effective predators capable of reducing the populations of their prey. Continue reading

Bird ‘paints’ its own eggs with bacteria to protect the embryo

A hoophoe Credit: JC BALLESTEROS

A hoophoe Credit: JC BALLESTEROS

Researchers from the University of Granada and the Higher Council of Scientific Research (CSIC) have found that hoophoes cover their eggs with a secretion produced by themselves, loaded with mutualistic bacteria, which is then retained by a specializad structure in the eggshell and which increases successful hatching. So far this sort of behaviour has only been detected in this species of birds, and it is a mechanism to protect their eggs from infections by pathogens.

Through an experiment published in the Journal of Animal Ecology, scientists from several research groups precluded several female hoophoes from impregnating their eggs with this substance, which they produce themselves inside the so-called uropygial gland. The research groups involved in this project were the following: Animal Behaviour and Ecology, Microorganism-Produced Antagonistic Substances, both from the UGR, and Evolutive Ecology and the Behaviour and Conservation groups from the Dry Areas Experimental Station (Almería, CSIC). Continue reading

Riddle of flying bird’s weight solved by scientists

The scientists trained birds to fly towards a perch inside the device

The scientists trained birds to fly towards a perch inside the device

Scientists at Stanford University in the US have developed a super-sensitive device that can measure the weight of a bird in flight.

The invention, created by Prof David Lentink’s research team, measures the force produced by every wing flap.

The device, described in the Royal Society journal Interface, will enable researchers to carry out tests of miniature drones, to assess more precisely their flight performance.

It has also answered a physics riddle.

This question, Prof Lentink explained, is whether a container or a truck carrying birds changes in weight when the birds inside were flying. Continue reading

Are human behaviors affecting bird communities in residential areas?

 These 'area sensitive' species tend to fare better in large, contiguous habitat blocks. In a recent study, they were found to demonstrate a similar negative response to exurban development in the Adirondacks and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, despite the different geographies of the two study regions. Credit: Larry Master

These ‘area sensitive’ species tend to fare better in large, contiguous habitat blocks. In a recent study, they were found to demonstrate a similar negative response to exurban development in the Adirondacks and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, despite the different geographies of the two study regions. Credit: Larry Master

A new study from the Wildlife Conservation Society shows that habitat alteration may be less important than other factors- such as human behavior- in driving the effects of “exurban” development on bird communities. These unexpected results are fueling more questions that may ultimately lead to informed landowners lessening their impacts on local wildlife.

Exurban development is generally rural residential development in attractive natural areas characterized by low density and large lot sizes. Through myriad impacts including the fragmentation of habitat, disruption of animal movement patterns, and predation or disturbance from domestic pets, this type of development can result in altered wildlife abundance, species composition and behavior in a surrounding ecosystem. Continue reading

Study says sneaky females outwit males

 Sneaky females outwit males when pilfering food from close relatives (Credit: Alamy)


Sneaky females outwit males when pilfering food from close relatives (Credit: Alamy)

If you can’t find your own food, why not simply steal meals that others have stored for later?

A sneaky tactic perhaps, but one crucial for survival for the common songbird, the great tit.

What’s more, female tits are better at pulling off such heists than males, new research has discovered.

Outsmarting the opposite sex in this way may enable female tits to compensate for the males’ domineering personalities.

Great tits belong in the Paridae family. Their relatives in the same family, such as marsh tits, habitually store food.

Great tits do not. Instead they watch where their relatives store it and then pilfer their food caches. Continue reading