Dennis Hlynsky is a professor of film and animation at RISD whose most recent work, titled Small Brains on Mass, looks at bird behavior, particularly how they interact when flying in groups. To better understand how flying as a flock is achieved, Hlynsky filmed the birds and then stacked the images on the same frame for a set number of frames, the results show each bird’s flight as a trail, but synchronized with the flock. The results are often pure poetry. [more inside]
Snowy owls are irrupting across the upper Midwest and down the East Coast as far as the Carolinas in what could be the largest such irruption in at least 20 years. They're here because there were a lot of lemmings in the Arctic last year, and so snowy owls made a lot of snowy owls. This year? Not so many lemmings, and so many of them have come south in search of food. [more inside]
Minnesota Birdsong: An interactive poster Cute interface with birdsong content provided by the always amazing Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Birds of the West Indies. Artist Taryn Simon (previously, previously, previously) has a work of photographs of James Bond's gadgets, guns, cars, and women. The work is currently showing at this year's Carnegie International, and has an accompanying book. Info at the main link, and a more thorough gallery here.
"My subject is a barren one – the world of nature, or in other words life; and that subject in its least elevated department, and employing either rustic terms or foreign, nay barbarian words that actually have to be introduced with an apology. Moreover, the path is not a beaten highway of authorship, nor one in which the mind is eager to range: there is not one of us who has made the same venture, nor yet one Roman who has tackled single-handed all departments of the subject."Naturalis Historia was written by Pliny the Elder between 77 and 79 CE and was meant to serve as a kind of proto-encyclopedia discussing all of the ancient knowledge available to him, covered in enough depth and breadth to make it by a reasonable margin the largest work to survive to the modern day from the Roman era. The work includes discussions on astronomy, meteorology, geography, mineralogy, zoology and botany organized along Aristotelian divisions of nature but also includes essays on human inventions and institutions. It is dedicated to the Emperor Titus in its epistle to the Emperor Vespasian, a close friend of Pliny who relied on his extensive knowledge, and its unusually careful citations of sources as well as its index makes it a precursor to modern scholarly works. It was Pliny's last work, as well as sadly his sole surviving one, and was published not long before his death attempting to save a friend from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, famously recounted by Pliny's eponymous nephew Pliny the Younger.
Here is a reasonable translation that is freely available to download from archive.org for your edification.[more inside]
The Emus and Sexy Sexy Sniper the Ostrich dance the tango against their greatest enemy: The weasel ball.
Operation Migration has helped endangered bird species migrate by leading the way with ultralight aircraft. At the moment you can see a live video of them in flight.
Animals have tempers. Bad tempers. And they want what they want. And there are animated gifs to prove it.
Megapode, Greek for "large foot," refers to refers to 12 species of Australasian chickenlike birds (order Galliformes), which have small heads compared to their bodies, and large feet. They are also known as Mound Builders, or Incubator Birds, as they bury their eggs in some warm material, most commonly fermenting or decomposing plant matter. But on Sulawesi island in Indonesia, Maleos bury their eggs in sun-baked or volcanically heated sands, then depart. The young hatch from their large eggs (5 times the size of chicken eggs), then dig out of their sandy incubators and walk or fly away. If you can't make it to Indonesia to see the birds in person, you can also visit the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo to see their 9 Maleos, or check out their video about Maleos and the zoo's breeding program. [more inside]
In 2012 alone, keas were responsible for $425 million in damages and 5 deaths. And while it’s true those statistics aren’t based on real data and that I just made them up, they are nonetheless startling.
Boring day job? Watch a grizzly bear hunt for salmon at Brooks Falls or the Lower Brooks River in Katmai National Park, Alaska. [more inside]
Cocks (almost) don't have a penis, a trait common to 97% of bird species, but they can grow one when the expression of the Bmp4 gene is prevented. The expression of this gene causes the percursor of the phallus in the chick embryo to undergo apoptosis (cell death) and Bmp genes are also involved in 3 other bird traits: feather development, toothlessness and beak shape. In penis-less bird species, copulation requires a sex maneuver nicknamed the cloacal kiss (in French) which requires a full cooperation of the female (3 min of tender parrot sex). In species where males have a penis, like ducks, females are less lucky: the coevolution of the rather convoluted morphology of male and female genitalia has been hypothezised to occur through sexual conflict [many previouslies]. The evolutionary mechanisms that drove phallus reduction in most birds species are still unknown.
BBC Radio 4 has begun to transmit Tweet of the Day, a 90 second 5:58 A.M. weekday broadcast (also podcast!), featuring the songs of UK birds. The program is set to last for 265 episodes, and will feature a revolving door of presenters, beginning with Sir David Attenborough.
Here's a video of a cockatoo dancing to Daft Punk. Bird's got moves.
[V]Robo Raven[V] is a robot bird. So uncanny a hawk attacked it during testing. Other robot birds include the SmartBird, a flying robotic seagull, and AirPenguins. Robobee is a robot bee.
The Lost Bird Project documents the stories of five North American birds driven to extinction in modern times and sculptor Todd McGrain's road-trip to memorialize them. (via)
NestWatch offers all kinds of interesting information about birds and their nests with beautiful pictures of the birds, their nests, clutches, broods, and fledglings. An example: the Indigo Bunting. Each page about a particular bird includes their often beautiful songs and sounds. There is a related Flickr NestWatchers site, as well as an extensive community with links about places for bird watching in each state. It's part of the fabulously encyclopedic website of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology with its own rich archive of superbly organized recordings and videos at the Macaulay Library. [more inside]
Prior to their southward migration, the godwits eat up large, until up to 55 per cent of their body weight is fat. They then reduce the size of their gut, kidney and liver by up to 25 per cent to compensate for the added weight. Godwits are amazing migratory shorebirds who travel many thousands of miles at a go. Here's a brief documentary of people studying them (12 minutes on youtube + ad, shows invasive surgery). Here's some science on their flights (creative commons). [more inside]
Why are owls so wise? Perhaps it's because they're utter badasses.
Ferocity is essential for a bird whose frigid, spotty range extends across northeastern China, the Russian Far East and up toward the Arctic Circle, one that breeds and nests in the dead of winter, perched atop a giant cottonwood or elm tree, out in the open, in temperatures 30 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Dr. Slaght’s colleague Sergei Surmach videotaped a female sitting on her nest during a blizzard. “All you could see at the end was her tail jutting out,” Dr. Slaght said.The New York Times Science section gives an update on some current owl research. [more inside]
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.
The Birds of Paradise Project "It took 8 years and 18 expeditions to New Guinea, Australia, and nearby islands, but Cornell Lab scientist Ed Scholes and National Geographic photographer Tim Laman succeeded in capturing images of all 39 species in the bird-of-paradise family for the first time ever. This video gives a sense of their monumental undertaking and the spectacular footage that resulted.". See, for example, the Ballerina Bird's novel shape shifting view.
In a report that scaled up local surveys and pilot studies to national dimensions, scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that domestic cats in the United States — both the pet Fluffies that spend part of the day outdoors and the unnamed strays and ferals that never leave it — kill a median of 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals a year, most of them native mammals like shrews, chipmunks and voles rather than introduced pests like the Norway rat.That cuddly kitty is deadlier than you think
See also Feral Cats Kill Billions of Small Critters Each Year
See also The impact of free-ranging domestic cats on wildlife of the United States
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has released a trailer for their upcoming documentary, "The Birds of Paradise" (SLYT) [more inside]
Artist makes music with bird droppings. This BBC report includes probably the most excited reaction to guano in history.
Marc Morrone is a pet shop owner from the Bronx who spun a small cable-access show about pet care into a Martha Stewart Omnimedia-backed pet-advice career. But he first became known for his call-in show in which he gave advice while surrounded by a menagerie of moving, falling, pooping animals.
“One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of a March thaw, is the spring.”
The great naturalist Aldo Leopold took detailed notes in his journals every morning before sunrise, logging the birds he heard calling on his farm in rural Wisconsin. Now, using journals from the Aldo Leopold archives, and bird calls from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, researchers at UW-Madison have replicated what Aldo Leopold would have heard one morning on his farm in the 1940s autoplays bird calls.
Adam Doyle paints "beautiful gestural portraits of birds," according to the art blog Colossal. His other work includes book covers, paintings and illustrations aimed at children, and contributions to the 52 Shades of Greed card deck (4 of clubs, 5 & 6 of hearts, and 7 of spades).
Nature constantly engineers new and creative solutions to all sorts of problems—turning our stereotypes about sex upside-down along the way.
Staying_On-Topic in r/intelligentanimals posts a huge number of links explaining why Corvids (crows, ravens, magpies, etc) are amazing.
Photographer Todd R. Forsgren works with ornithologists to safely capture striking images of birds in nets. [more inside]
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.
Bowerbirds, a family of 20 species in eight genera, are a fascinating bunch of birds who range from New Guinea and Australia. Some are flashy, others drab, but all are named for the "bowers" (avenues, huts, or towers of sticks; source) that the males craft and decorate to attract a mate. There are regional styles (PDF) in the design of the bowers, and the male Greater Bowerbirds even employ optical illusions. Some, like the Vogelkop Bowerbird, add mimicry vocal to their repertoire of courting methods. Add accidental cultivation to the list of fascinating features of the bowerbirds. [more inside]
Birds are gorgeous but you can't have pets and can't abide stuffed animals. What's a bird lover to do? Vegan Taxidermy to the rescue! [more inside]
An Anna's hummingbird on a tiny nest, smaller than an ivy leaf, with two hatchlings therein. Watch it live. [more inside]
Next weekend, February 17-20, is the 2012 Great Backyard Bird Count, sponsored by the National Audubon Society, the Cornell Lab for Ornithology, and Bird Studies Canada. [more inside]
High Speed Animal Flight Videos Show Hidden Aerial World. The Dutch Program Vilegkunstenaars (Flight Artists) sent high-speed video tools to amateurs around the world with the challenge: Capture nature in flight. They then picked the best from the over 2,400 slow-motion clips that were uploaded. [more inside]