Over the past month, people in Qinghai province, China
have been reporting that migratory birds in the mostly-rural region were dropping dead of an unknown disease, later diagnosed as a few hundred cases of "an isolated case"
[sic] of influenza strain H5N1
, a.k.a. bird flu
. Three weeks later, the Chinese government admitted
that actually about a thousand birds had died of bird flu
in the province. Now there are reports saying that at least 8,000 animals--not just birds--have died
from the flu, including not only breeds of fowl not previously known to be affected by the virus, but non-avian species, too.
Every national park and bird sanctuary in China has been closed for weeks
, since the first reports surfaced of an outbreak. But today, disturbing photos started appearing on Chinese language news websites, supposedly taken at the closed Qinghai Lake Nature Reserve
. They appear to show thousands of dead birds
(warning, disturbing images
- Engrish version via Babelfish here
) on the island in the middle of Qinghai Lake, China's largest saltwater lake and a rest-stop for migratory birds from all across southeast Asia. Nervous pandemic-watchers are debating
whether the photos are real or doctored, but compared to previous photos
of the once-lively
birding spot, something definitely seems to be wrong. [ much more inside >> ]
posted by Asparagirl
on Jun 5, 2005 -
) are small, colorful sparrow-sized birds found all over Central and South America. Manakin males engage in elaborate courtship dances
, including rhythmic sounds they produce with their wings. No one really knew how the birds made this sounds, until Kimberly Bostwick
, Curator of Birds and Mammals at the Cornell University
Museum of Vertebrates
, went into the jungles of Ecuador to film the birds at 1000 frames per second. As it turns out, different species of manakin use entirely different motion to produce the sounds. The Journal of Experimental Biology has published the results
, complete with videos
. Mark Barres
, who studies avian genetic population structures at the Univ. of Wisconsin, has also filmed the mating dance of the Manakins [.mov]
posted by monju_bosatsu
on Apr 29, 2005 -
For lovers of the hard-boiled crime story, life began with the black bird.
It's a tale of greed and a wisecracking gumshoe. The femme fatale is a liar. The object of the hero's search is a statuette of a falcon. Published exactly 75 years ago
on Valentine's Day, Dashiell Hammett
's private-eye novel "The Maltese Falcon
"' immediately won critical acclaim. And when it was made into a 1941 movie
starring Humphrey Bogart
, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre (and directed by a rookie
), Hammett's story found a worldwide
audience and his hero, Sam Spade
, became a household name. Now
, three-quarters of a century later, that's still the case
. More inside.
posted by matteo
on Feb 14, 2005 -
A new species of monkey turned up in India [NYTimes
]. Though the monkeys are new to science, people in the area are quite familiar with them. They call them "mun zala" or deep forest monkeys. It's a stocky, short-tailed, brown-haired creature they have named the Macaca munzala, or Arunachal macaque.
Maybe not that excting for those of us not excited by, uh, mokeys, but did you know this year there have been other new things discovered?
A new species of plec
and one of Neon goby
, even more exciting, a new
electric fish was found as well. A quick search turned up dozens of new fish this year. ABC News
says 178 new things found in the oceans this year alone, raising the number of life-forms found in the world's oceans to about 230,000. The big question is, of course, how many of those will Taste Like Chicken
The bad news on the little critter front is 1 in 10 bird species could vanish within 100 years
, and I bet they all taste like chicken.
posted by Blake
on Dec 16, 2004 -
A live feed of 100% Naked Chicks at the MIT HawkCam. They preen, they sleep, and they watch you watching them. Now to settle in for a long afternoon waiting for Mom to show up.
posted by robocop is bleeding
on May 5, 2004 -
Tool Making Crow
"In the experiments, a captive female crow, confronted with a task that required a curved tool (retrieving a food-containing bucket from a vertical pipe), spontaneously bent a piece of straight wire into a hooked shape -- and then repeated the behavior in nine out of ten subsequent trials." The behavior was captured on an amazing video clip
posted by Irontom
on Jul 22, 2003 -
First Birds with teeth in 70 million years
. Vicious toothed, flying microraptors once darkened the Jurassic skies. Now, scientists
have learned to activate the dormant, vestigal avian "tooth gene" and so coaxed chicken embryos into growing teeth. From the grave, Alfred Hitchcock enviously quips - "a messy thing indeed when toothed birds kill a man". Meanwhile the French are appalled: “quand les poules auront des dents”, which translates to “when hens have teeth”, is analogous to the English “pigs might fly”. Coming soon: flying pigs.
But there might be a baldness cure in this new research. I'll remember that as the flocks of mutant raptor-fowl move in for the kill.
posted by troutfishing
on Jun 4, 2003 -
Victor, The Budgie Who Could Talk
Ryan Reynolds built an online shrine to his friend and pet bird Victor, a precociously chatty budgerigar with an extensive 800-word vocabulary. There are audio
and video clips
of Victor talking and a history
of the bird and even budgie training tips
. You may need to replay the audio a few times to get the gist of what Victor's saying, it takes a minute to get into his little budgie accent, but you will be amazed at what you hear (hope this is all true and not a farce). Reynolds has included subtitles with each of the audio and video clips. Sadly, Victor suddenly became very ill and died on March 2, 2001. (Warning: Every link off the main page pops up in a new browser window. It's annoying, but the site is worth the mild inconvenience.
posted by VelvetHellvis
on Apr 3, 2003 -
mega wind farm miles into the ocean off Cape Cod is being fought by Democrats like Robert Kennedy Jr because it would "obstruct" the view from his oceanside house on clear days. Other concerns like bird kills (perhaps a few hundred birds a year), fish disruption from poles in the sand and danger to low flying planes are cited and could hold the project up for 5 years or perhaps forever. Would you care about a windfarm out in the ocean if Kennedy and few other had a view that was not "like when the Pilgrams arrived" or is this powerfull community leaders pulling a Not in my Backyard when it comes to fighting for the Environment. Horseshoe Shoals is one of the best wind spots on the East Coast.
posted by stbalbach
on Nov 3, 2002 -
Those Crazy birds
The birdwatchers of Ireland were atwitter Tuesday after spotting a Baltimore oriole in a seaside village named Baltimore.
posted by aj100
on Oct 9, 2001 -
A £900,000 mirror sculpture destined for a square in Nottingham, UK, will have to be shielded to prevent it focusing the Sun's rays and barbecuing passing birds. Anish Kapoor's
highly polished concave steel mirror is six metres in diameter. Direct sunlight hitting the mirror would be focused into a narrow beam of light as hot as the surface of the Sun, says astronomer Michael Merrifield of Nottingham University.
posted by zeoslap
on Mar 7, 2001 -
Birds are not descended from Dinosaurs.
The latest in the ongoing debate about the origin of birds and whether they evolved from dinosaurs or from a earlier common ancestor. Chinese scientists report the discovery of a 120 million year old bird fossil that had feathers and could clearly fly.
posted by lagado
on Dec 10, 2000 -