Study shows songbird prefers singing in harmonic series similar to humans

 Hermit Trush. Credit: Daniel Berganza/Wikimedia

Hermit Trush. Credit: Daniel Berganza/Wikimedia

A team of researchers with members from Germany, the U.S. and Austria has found that male hermit thrush appear to sing following a harmonic series similar to the way humans produce music. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team describes how they studied bird songs recorded by various people over the past half century and then compared the way the birds sang to the way people create music. Continue reading

Balancing birds and biofuels: Grasslands support more species than cornfields

A Henslow’s sparrow, a bird the Wisconsin DNR includes among its Species of Greatest Conservation Need, perches atop a plant. A new study shows that grasslands support more than three times as many bird species as cornfields.

A Henslow’s sparrow, a bird the Wisconsin DNR includes among its Species of Greatest Conservation Need, perches atop a plant. A new study shows that grasslands support more than three times as many bird species as cornfields.

In Wisconsin, bioenergy is for the birds. Really. In a study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) scientists examined whether corn and perennial grassland fields in southern Wisconsin could provide both biomass for bioenergy production and bountiful bird habitat.

The research team found that where there are grasslands, there are birds. Grass-and-wildflower-dominated fields supported more than three times as many bird species as cornfields, including 10 imperiled species found only in the grasslands. These grassland fields can also produce ample biomass for renewable fuels. Continue reading

Escape from an evolutionary cul-de-sac

 Credit: R. Nussbaumer

Credit: R. Nussbaumer

Passion flowers with long nectar tubes depend entirely on the sword-billed hummingbird for pollination. However, as a new study by LMU researchers shows, the evolution of even such extreme specialization is by no means irreversible.

The blossoms produced by the many species of passion flowers belong to the most visually striking and attractive flowers known in the plant kingdom. Among the characteristic features of the flowers of the Tacsonia subgroup of the genus Passiflora are their extremely elongated nectar tubes. As a result, pollination in this group is wholly dependent on a single species of bird – the sword-billed hummingbird Ensifera ensifera. With its approximately 11-cm bill, which harbors a correspondingly long tongue, Ensifera is the only species of hummingbird that is capable of reaching and sampling the nectar at the bottom of the passion flowers’ 6- to 14-cm long nectar tubes. As it does so, the bird’s head inevitably comes into contact with the pollen grains, transports these to the next passion flower and pollinates it. Because passion flowers are incapable of self-pollination, this is the only means of pollination available to them. Continue reading

Migrating birds sprint in spring, but take things easy in autumn

 Radar station in Falsterbo, Sweden, for tracking migrating birds. Credit: Cecilia Nilsson

Radar station in Falsterbo, Sweden, for tracking migrating birds. Credit: Cecilia Nilsson

Passerine birds, also known as perching birds, that migrate by night tend to fly faster in spring than they do in autumn to reach their destinations. This seasonal difference in flight speed is especially noticeable among birds that only make short migratory flights, says researcher Cecilia Nilsson of Lund University in Sweden, in Springer’s journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

Nilsson, in a group led by professor Thomas Alerstam, used a tracking radar to measure over three years the speed by which birds flew over Falsterbo Peninsula, a bird migratory hot spot in south-western Sweden. The seasonal differences they found correspond with those recorded for other nocturnal passerine migrants at other sites in southern and northern Sweden. Continue reading

Nighttime Lights Reset Birds Internal Clocks

Researchers at the University of Memphis have documented hormonal changes in western scrub-jays that could interfere with reproduction.

Researchers at the University of Memphis have documented hormonal changes in western scrub-jays that could interfere with reproduction.

Streetlights and the light from shopping centers, stadiums, and houses turn night into day, a “loss of night” that is shifting the internal clocks of birds worldwide. Now, scientists are trying to understand how artificial lights are affecting birds’ songs, mating, and reproduction.

High on bluffs overlooking the Pacific, Dominik Mosur was strolling along at 2 a.m. searching for owls. Darkness enveloped the Presidio, a historic military encampment turned national park, as Mosur made his way through cypress-scented fog. Continue reading

Crimson rosella uses beak to sniff fellow birds and potential mates, Deakin research finds

 Scientists previously thought birds had no sense of smell, until crimson rosellas proved them wrong.

Scientists previously thought birds had no sense of smell, until crimson rosellas proved them wrong.

Researchers at Deakin University have found an iconic Australian bird uses it beak to sniff out its own species, and even potential lovebirds.

Deakin’s Centre for Integrative Ecology found that crimson rosella parrots can recognise each other by a distinct smell left over from their feathers. The finding proves that the colourful creatures are more reliant on their sense of smell than previously thought. Continue reading