Secretary birds can be found striding through the grasslands of sub-Saharan Africa. They cut a striking and unmistakeable profile, with light grey bodies, black wing tips and shorts, a red mask, and a crest of black quills. The latter, according to one dubious-sounding hypothesis, look like the quill pens that secretaries once tucked behind their ears—hence the bird's name. A more plausible alternative is that “secretary” is a bastardization of the Arabic “saqr-et-tair” for “hunter bird.” [more inside]
The Burning Man of Birding: Inside Iceland's Puffin Festival by Brian Kevin [Audubon.org] For decades Icelanders have celebrated the Atlantic Puffin even while they've served it up on plates. But some traditions can't last forever.
These days, though, the only place to reliably find smoked puffin at Thjodhatid is in the concession tent, where, alongside cheeseburgers and chicken fingers, it’s sold for 1,500 krona, or about $12, per bird. That’s three times what it cost 20 years ago, making one little puffin an expensive snack; it’d take three birds to make a modest meal. So it isn’t a popular menu item—the concession tent has stocked just 600 birds for a three-day fest that regularly draws 16,000 people. Still, the puffin has its devotees.
A study published in the journal Animal Behavior found that crows can recognize their fellow dead crows and learn to avoid the dangerous circumstances associated with death. The BBC described the study, which involved a "masked individual playing bad cop, arriving on the scene holding up a dead crow." [more inside]
"It was always assumed that V-formation flight was learned from the adult birds. But these guys are all the same age and they learned to fly from a human in a microlight. They learned V-formation flying from each other. National Geographic reports on some of the fascinating intricacies of the V formation observed in migrating birds.
Koryos, who previously explained how cats got domesticated using tumblr, now explains why homosexual pair-bonding can be a successful reproductive stratagem. Also, Coot Parenting Tips, Queen Cowbird Of The Brood Parasites , There's No Such Thing As An Alpha Wolf, and Can Animals Have Pets?
Minnesota Birdsong: An interactive poster Cute interface with birdsong content provided by the always amazing Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Earthflight is a BBC nature documentary narrated by David Tennant that takes a breathtaking flight on the wings of birds across six continents and experiences some of the world's greatest natural spectacles from a bird's-eye view. There are some full episodes up on YouTube (including South America, Africa, and the Making Of), but in particular these two clips caught my eye: Feral Cat Hunting and Peregrine Falcon Hunting.
Nature constantly engineers new and creative solutions to all sorts of problems—turning our stereotypes about sex upside-down along the way.
Rosemary Mosco is a field naturalist who draws bird & nature comics: "bird and moon" (previously), "ghosts of the northeast woods", "bird sound mnemonics", "birds are gross", "evolution sucks". Her bi-weekly comic strip Wild Toronto ("It cleverly observed and taught us about the animals and plants that live in our city") ran on Torontoist for some months in 2008; she has an illustrated collection of 55-word stories as well (previously mentioned). Her website, flickr, & tumblr.
An Anna's hummingbird on a tiny nest, smaller than an ivy leaf, with two hatchlings therein. Watch it live. [more inside]
What is Bird Poop? What Do Nesting Birds Do With All That Poop? Poop From The Front End. The Poop Wars of 1879. Poop Week has just concluded at 10,000 Birds, with stories, dirty science and beautiful photos at "the intersection of poop and birding, a fertile precinct if there ever was one." [via The Agonist] [more inside]
The Rufous Hummingbird measures only 4-inches, but it can pack a lot of beauty into that small package. Often described as "feisty," it weighs just a little more than a penny. With a migratory range of 1500 km, the Rufous has the longest known avian migration proportional to its size.
"[Irruption] is the term birders use to describe an unusual mass movement of birds into an area. But even that big word fails to capture what happened last winter when thousands of owls descended on northern Minnesota." [more inside]
E.J. Peiker, Nature Photgrapher There are a lot of nature photographers out there -- some better than Peiker and some worse -- but what fascinates me about Peiker's site is the number of photos available. A birdwatcher's dream, it features pages of photos of over 500 different species of birds, including an index devoted solely to wild waterfowl. Maybe animals are more your speed? How about nearly 150 pages of photos of wild animals (including my favorite - a quite handsome, flower-eating porcupine.) There's also a section for scenic photography featuring 23 states and 20 countries (or you can search by national park.) The photos are, unfortunately, not that big but there a ton of them, many of them quite pretty.
Gregory Colbert's Ashes and Snow has been linked to twice before on Metafilter. However, you can now view 10 minutes of his film as part of his Ted Talk--it's the most stunning nature footage I've ever seen. In the talk he also mentions a new concept he's developing called Animal Copyright, which I think is long overdue.
Birds that rap and cows with accents. The big picture is urban adaptation, which is pretty cool. (...and the egg wins.)
Birds As Art: Photographer Arthur Morris shares his dazzling images of (mostly) feathered creatures in his (up to 196 so far) email bulletins. It's quite worth wading through the archive.
the new urban jungle. . . is a growing movement led by cities like San Francisco, New York, and Leiden to restore active and vibrant natural systems in urban areas. Far from the eden-like depictions of nature of yesteryear, i.e. the garden of earthly delights (nonetheless, still attracting some dynamic new christian converts), the movement has morphed into today's backyard and grassroots environmental movement which is more and more a picture of hybridity, compromise, mixed-use, and ultimately, taking nature out of the walled islands of zoos, aquaria, national parks and other thick-walled institutions and offering a different kind of everyday "unmediated" community experience with the new urban wilderness. VIDEO LINK
A good resouce for bird idenification / watching: USGS's Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter includes calls, photos and population coverage maps and seasonal birding checklists. And on a completely unrelated note, they have a sweet guide on the morphology of tadpoles. -mi-
Searchable Ornithological Research Archive a site containing back issues of avian journals dating back to 1884. Some highlights: The landing forces of domestic pigeons, [pdf] an 1889 comparison of bird brains [pdf]
Songs of Brazilian Birds A fantastically diverse collection of .au files, including the beautifully evocative Organ Wren or Uirapuru, the mooing of the Capuchinbird, the sci-fi minimalism of the Short-tailed Antthrush and a duet of Laughing Falcons (they'll make you laugh at the end).
Bird Watchers Guide on Flickr. "Linked list of species submitted; find all photos of a species here".
Seabirds Skull Gallery An amateur birder in Holland is fascinated by the internal structure of various seabirds. [via Incoming Signals]
Listen to nature. If the sadness of life makes you tired, remember that in California, all the treetops are bursting with birds, and be happy again (unless you don't like pages that load with sound, or commercial sites, or Flash; don't go adding to your sorrows).
Crows better than chimps at making tools? British scientists were reportedly "astonished" when a captive crow named Betty "spontaneously bent a straight piece of wire and used it to retrieve a snack." But another scientist says crows have been seen making two kinds of hook tools in the wild, although he's not sure we should say they have "insight." It's clear that there are lots of different kinds of animal intelligences, so why are humans so surprised when dolphins recognize themselves in mirrors, chimps demonstrate culture and lions engage in social problem-solving? What explains the reluctance to admit that animal "consciousness" exists?