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

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

Buzzed birds slur their songs, researchers find

 A pair of Zebra finches at Bird Kingdom, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. Credit: Wikipedia

A pair of Zebra finches at Bird Kingdom, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. Credit: Wikipedia

You know how that guy at the karaoke bar singing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” sounds a little off after he’s had a few drinks? The same goes for buzzed birds, according to a team led by researchers from Oregon Health & Science University.

For a study published in PLoS ONE, scientists found that when they got some unsuspecting zebra finches drunk, the birds slurred their songs. The findings could help scientists study the neural processes underlying birdsong – and shed light on human speech.

While many scientists want to understand alcohol’s effects on such a complex system as speech, it’s difficult to perform the necessary studies on humans, which is why many researchers turn to birds. Continue reading

Drought causes birds to nest later, reducing nesting success

A recent study suggests drought conditions are delaying nesting by two weeks or more for some Sonoran Desert bird species, such as Black-tailed Gnatcatchers and Verdins.

Despite recent rainfall, drought conditions persist in much of the southwestern U.S. Drought negatively impacts, many wildlife species, making it harder to maintain their numbers, even when adapted to a dry environment.

Newly published research from Point Blue Conservation Science (Point Blue) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) finds that increased drought frequency in southwestern North America results in increased instances of delayed nesting. This delay can push the start of nesting back by several weeks in severe drought. This, in turn, makes it harder for many Sonoran Desert bird species to successfully produce young that year, as they are more vulnerable to nest predators and parasites. Continue reading