Researchers able to perform extended study of stunning wild northern cardinal gynandromorph

 Credit: Brian D. Peer

Credit: Brian D. Peer


Ornithologists Brian Peer and Robert Motz, with Western Illinois University, found themselves with a unique opportunity a couple of years ago—to study a gynandromorphy in its native environment for an extended period of time. They have written a paper describing what they observed and have had it published in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology. The observations made by the pair of researchers represent the most extensive study of a bilateral gynandromorph bird in the wild to date. 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

Birds can sense storms days in advance, say scientists

  A golden-winged warbler, perhaps taking shelter from a storm. (Photo: Andy Reago/Wiki Commons)

A golden-winged warbler, perhaps taking shelter from a storm. (Photo: Andy Reago/Wiki Commons)


Do some animals have a “sixth sense” that allows them to predict things like earthquakes or the weather? According to scientists who are studying the migration patterns of the golden-winged warbler, the answer is yes, at least in regards to the weather, reports the Guardian.

After retrieving trackers that were fitted to a group of warblers, researchers noticed an odd pattern in the data. As the birds approached the southern United States on their way back from wintering in South America, they took a sharp detour, as if to avoid some invisible obstacle in their path. Continue reading

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

We finally know when birds lost their teeth

Open wide. (Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images)

Open wide. (Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images)

Scientists have figured out when and how birds lost their pearly whites — and it wasn’t a prehistoric fist fight, according to a paper published Thursday in Science.

As the modern descendants of dinosaurs, birds must have once had teeth. We’ve known this since 1861, when paleontologists uncovered Archeopteryx, a 150-million-year-old bird fossil with teeth. But now, as you probably know, all birds have got beaks instead.

Fossil records are too spotty for scientists to pinpoint when the shift occurred. Until now, so was genetic information.

But because of the newly reported sequencing of 48 different bird genomes (representing at least one species from each major lineage), we can now trace beaks back to their origin. 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