the ballad of Captain Cowpie
February 11, 2021 5:30 PM   Subscribe

"When I mentioned that male sage grouse often copulate with dried cowpies, I didn't do the situation justice. I will elaborate in a twitter thread. For most males, cowpie copulation is just an occasional indulgence. For others, it's a lifestyle."

Dr. Patricelli's lab focuses on the sage grouse and other birds, studying sexual selection, the impacts of noise pollution, and directional communication. Among other cool things, they built a female sage grouse robot to conduct experiments on lekking behavior and male reproductive strategies.
posted by ChuraChura (20 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sage grouse are fucking hilarious. And not super bright. If you ever find yourself wandering around in the Red Desert of Wyoming, try not to trip over one.
posted by aspersioncast at 5:38 PM on February 11 [6 favorites]


Absolutely none of this surprises me and I am impressed with their data collection.

Spending a moment thinking of a hawk I knew that had a preferred perch for this activity. He also had a preferred time, which was whenever a tour group had stopped in front of his enclosure and the volunteer leading the tour had just launched into their speech about what a fascinating species red shouldered hawks are.
posted by lepus at 6:07 PM on February 11 [7 favorites]


“legends such as Colonel Cowpie, Corporal Cowpie, and Steve”

The mind reels. What the hell did Steve do, what the hell could anyone do, to earn himself a dishonourable discharge from the copulating-with-cowpies militia?
posted by mhoye at 6:32 PM on February 11 [21 favorites]


Tears running down my cheeks - needed this today - laughing. so. hard!
posted by leslies at 6:49 PM on February 11 [2 favorites]


fuckin shite
posted by glonous keming at 7:14 PM on February 11 [5 favorites]


"Fuck this shit." - some sage grouse apparently
posted by mhoye at 7:31 PM on February 11 [24 favorites]


Sometimes I think human males have difficulty distinguishing between the needs and roles of human women vs. domestic cats (I have a whole spiel I'll save for later). This whole thing doesn't really surprise me.
posted by amtho at 7:59 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


Out West, on a bare cattle station
Brave biologists work, on location.
'For some birds, it's hip
'To schtup buffalo chip,
'For others, it's a vocation'
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:07 PM on February 11 [23 favorites]


The video is priceless.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:37 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


The mind reels. What the hell did Steve do, what the hell could anyone do, to earn himself a dishonourable discharge from the copulating-with-cowpies militia?

To be fair, I think the whole militia is very familiar with dishonorable discharges.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:12 PM on February 11 [24 favorites]


This year is going to have some fierce Ig Nobel competition.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:15 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


This is going to be one of those things where women's observation of the human male leaves them completely unsurprised, isn't it?
posted by Paul Slade at 11:45 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


This is amazing. I did the wrong thing with my career.
posted by biogeo at 12:52 AM on February 12 [5 favorites]


Oh, ha ha, of course. A friend of mine trained with Dr. Patricelli; she actually did the bulk of her Ph.D. research in the same lab where I trained, co-advised by my adviser, but Patricelli was her primary adviser. Her Ph.D. project involved training peahens to accept optical eye tracking cameras being strapped onto them while peacocks did their mating displays. It was an incredible project and she had some really outstanding results. It turns out peahens don't really look much directly at the eyespots in a peacock's train when it's fanned out, but instead mostly scan back and forth along the bottom of the fan. I had the pleasure of helping her out a couple of times; one memorable occasion was when a storm knocked down a largish tree onto her peafowl enclosure, and she needed emergency help removing the fallen tree so she could repair the enclosure before her birds escaped. We found an old two-person saw (something like one of these) on the farm where she kept her birds and eventually managed to cut the log into small enough pieces that we could shift them. That was really hard work, but it's a really pleasant memory.

Anyway, I guess what I'm saying is Dr. Patricelli and her students do awesome work.
posted by biogeo at 1:09 AM on February 12 [26 favorites]


my name is grouse
an wen i hot
or if the cows
hav shat a lot
i wip it out
i wil not lye
i do my theng
i fuk the pie
posted by sillyman at 5:46 AM on February 12 [40 favorites]


involved training peahens to accept optical eye tracking cameras being strapped onto them while peacocks did their mating displays

Oh, I think I've seen that work! It really is phenomenal. Just absolutely brilliant work that brings incredible resolution to the female preference end of sexual displays. *chef's kiss*

I was chattering with one of my collaborators the other day about this and lamenting with her that both of us had initially approached Dr. Patricelli as a potential grad school advisor, but her lab had been full at the time. (I did go on to interview at UC Davis, but at the time they couldn't guarantee TAships for any length for their grad students for Animal Behavior, and I opted to go elsewhere based on that.)

Dr. Patricelli's lab really does some incredibly cool work. I was listening to a talk out of her research program at a virtual conference a few weeks ago and was just absolutely blown away by how carefully her program thinks about preference, signaling, and attention.
posted by sciatrix at 7:36 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


When I volunteered with the BLM in Burley, Idaho in 1989, the wildlife biologist told us that when they went out to count sage grouse at night, they found that footsteps would spook the birds. Therefore, they would go out in the desert in a Suburban with lights blazing, and play hard rock at top volume so the birds would not hear them walking alongside the truck. They swore this worked.

I think I might believe him now.
posted by corvikate at 7:54 AM on February 12 [8 favorites]


I'm not familiar with the sage grouse... though this is quintessential "bird brain". Foolish and consequently hilarious.

My late-bloomer interest in biology (married to a primatologist/zookeeper, here) gets me to think about behavior about across families, and in sharing with Mrs. J, it sparked my memories way back when hiking up in the northeast US boreal forests... the spruce grouse!

Trudging up a mountain trail in clouds and cold, the only colors are deep green and grey, stillness everywhere and the only sound a whistling wind. I'm a fool for being out on the trail! Any reasonable being would be hunkered down somewhere warm and cozy. About that time I catch a fleck of red jumping out on to the trail, and a small game bird struts several completely pointless loops in front of me on the trail, and then lingers on the trail for a few minutes as though it never considers "safe amongst the trees" to be a viable option. Mother Nature's laughing at me out in the cold, I'm laughing at peak bird brain head-bopping across the trail. Gosh, I miss the mountains...

Mrs. J and I laughed about how Dr. Patricelli's research might generalize with the spruce grouse... somewhere in New England, a moose pie is getting a valentine, right now.
posted by Theophrastus Johnson at 9:53 AM on February 12 [4 favorites]


somewhere in New England, a moose pie is getting a valentine

Nicely put.
posted by Paul Slade at 11:15 AM on February 12


Oh, I think I've seen that work! It really is phenomenal. Just absolutely brilliant work that brings incredible resolution to the female preference end of sexual displays.

Yep, I agree completely! And having been lucky enough to witness it first-hand, I have to say it's kind of crazy that it worked. Not because of inherent flaws or anything, but just because of all the huge number of things that could have, and often did, go wrong when trying to convince peahens to let you put backpacks on them and strap cameras to their heads. I could write paragraphs about why it should have been impossible to even calibrate the eye trackers, but she made it work! And directly addressed a really central, long-standing question about female mate choice and sexual selection in peafowl. Really good science done by a really good scientist, I'm proud I got to witness it.
posted by biogeo at 2:44 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


« Older She was shamed for still having her Christmas...   |   A Demoparty in a Browser Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments