Amazonian bird chicks mimic poisonous caterpillar to avoid detection

 Laniocera hypopyrra. Credit: Santiago David-Rivera

Laniocera hypopyrra. Credit: Santiago David-Rivera

A trio of researchers has found and documented the case of a newly hatched bird with plumage that mimics a poisonous caterpillar to ward off predators. In their paper published in American Naturalist, Gustavo Londoño, Duván García and Manuel Sánchez Martínez, describe finding the young birds and observing their habits while in their nests.

Scientists have discovered a number of creatures that mimic other species to protect themselves from predators, but until now, no evidence for it has been found in birds, (aside from one that makes a noise like a rattlesnake). The team found that cinereous mourner (Laniocera hypopyrra) chicks are born with bright orange coloring that very closely resembles one of two large, hairy toxic caterpillars (Podalia or Megalopyge), and even behave like them while in the nest. The adults, on the other hand, are rather bland with mostly grey feathers. Continue reading

Eagle research soars via GPS trackers

 A wedge-tailed eagle is being tracked by a solar GPS satellite transmitter. Credit: Simon Cherriman

A wedge-tailed eagle is being tracked by a solar GPS satellite transmitter. Credit: Simon Cherriman

A world first study tracking wedge-tailed eagles (Aquila audax) via GPS satellite transmitters has led one researcher into uncharted territory after a female appeared to have her partner stolen by a new bird, challenging a long-held belief that this species mates for life.

Perth Hills-based ornithologist Simon Cherriman used the solar GPS technology—Platform Terminal Transmitters (PTTs)—to track the birds to map out new inroads into raptor research.

Each PTT was programmed to record a GPS fix at almost every hour of daylight and was fitted to two adult and two juvenile eagles at the Lorna Glen proposed conservation reserve in the Murchison. Continue reading

Highly sociable Australian birds show us the effects of social conformity

Scientists from LJMU have published research that provides a unique opportunity to investigate how personality can be affected by social context.

Dr Leah Williams and Dr Claudia Mettke-Hofmann of the School of Natural Sciences and Psychology, published work in the journal Animal Behaviour which reveals that the Australian Gouldian finch birds adjust their behaviour according to the personality of their partners.

When tested alone, a Gouldian finch’s personality correlates with its head colour. This finding together with its highly social nature makes Gouldian finches ideally suited to investigate the effect not only of other individuals but also of individual identity (head colour) on personality expression. Continue reading

Noise forcing songbirds chorus pre-dawn

Noise forcing songbirds chorus pre-dawn

Noise forcing songbirds chorus pre-dawn

It is the sound synonymous with the start of a new day. But because of increased urbanisation and man-made noise levels, birds are having to begin their dawn chorus long before sunrise to make themselves heard.

Robins, blackbirds and nightingales are among species which are altering the time of their morning song so their efforts are not in vain, a study has found.

In some cases, birds are starting their dawn chorus two hours before sunrise, potentially putting themselves at risk from predators. A study conducted at five airports found that birds were anticipating the morning rush of planes, which start taking off at 6am, and changing their song times to avoid it. Continue reading

Urban ecologist conducts research for the birds

 Research on how and when birds collide with buildings could inform future construction plans.

Research on how and when birds collide with buildings could inform future construction plans

Dead birds might be the last thing you would think of collecting, but they were the target of a recent campus-based research initiative.

This October, six undergraduate students and one professor spent 21 consecutive days searching for newly deceased birds that have crashed into campus buildings.

“Window strikes are pretty common. They can survive, but it depends on how fast they’re going,” says project leader John Withey, an assistant professor of biology. A victim brought to him recently was an ovenbird, a warbler with black speckles on a white chest that commonly winters in Florida. Continue reading

Researchers Reveal Lifespan of Hummingbirds

hummingbirds

They are admired for their incredible ability to hover in mid-air and to beat their wings at up to 200 times a second.

Now, a new study has uncovered more if the hummingbird’s secrets.

Researchers have discovered the migration patterns of hummingbirds and say they can live for just over a decade – up to five times as long as previously thought.

For the last decade, experts have been placing tiny numbered bands on the legs of birds, enabling researchers to identify a creature – and its vital statistics – when it is recaptured.

The exercise has so far revealed astonishing migrations, with one Rufous hummingbird tagged in Florida showing up six months later more than 3,500 miles (5,630km) away in southeast Alaska. Continue reading