Bird, go home, you are drunk. (AP Photo/Rawlins Daily Times, Jerret Raffety, File)
Sometimes science means getting a bunch of finches sloshed. Or at least giving them blood alcohol levels of around .08 percent, which is pretty crazy by bird standards.
In a study published last week in PLOS ONE, researchers from the Oregon Health and Science University tempted zebra finches with spiked juice — but not because they wanted to help the lab animals ring in the new year in style.
The researchers study birdsong to learn more about human speech. Birds learn to sing in much the same way that humans learn to talk (in fact, a recent study found that birdsong and speech even rely on the same genes).
It’s much easier to keep a bird in a cage and study its brain than it is to do the same with a human toddler, so birds give scientists some of our best insights into the brain mechanisms that make speech possible.
If you’ve ever talked to someone under the influence of alcohol, you know that it makes speech more difficult. But there hasn’t been much research on vocal impairment caused by alcohol — mostly because scientists have so few non-human lab animals capable of “speech” to work with.
“At first we were thinking that they wouldn’t drink on their own because, you know, a lot of animals just won’t touch the stuff,” researcher Christopher Olson told NPR, “But they seem to tolerate it pretty well and be somewhat willing to consume it.”
And once the birds were buzzed, they started to slur their songs.
“The most pronounced effects were decreased amplitude and increased entropy,” the researchers wrote in the study.
So in other words, their songs got quieter and less organized.
Stilt is a common name for several species of birds in the family Recurvirostridae, which also includes those known as avocets.
They are found in brackish or saline wetlands in warm or hot climates.They have extremely long legs, hence the group name, and long thin bills.
Stilts typically feed on aquatic insects and other small creatures and nest on the ground surface in loose colonies.Most sources recognize 6 species in 2 genera, although the white-backed and Hawaiian stilts are occasionally considered subspecies of the black-necked stilt.
The genus Charadrius was introduced by the French zoologist Mathurin Jacques Brisson in 1760 with the black-winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus) as the type species.
The generic name Himantopus comes from the Ancient Greek meaning “strap-leg”.
The Gyrfalcon is the largest falcon in the world. Despite its size, it maintains a falcon-like profile with a long tail and long wings.
Its wings are broader and more blunt at the tips than many other falcons. The plumage of the Gyrfalcon can take three main forms, white, gray, and dark, with many intermediate plumages.
White adults have almost pure white breasts and bellies. The rest of their bodies are white mottled with brown.
They have dark wingtips. Gray adults have gray upperparts with subtle darker mottling, and white underparts mottled with gray. Dark adults are dark-brownish overall above and brown streaked with white below.
There is extreme sexual size dimorphism among Gyrfalcons, with males being only about 65% the size of females.
Ribbon-tailed Bird of Paradise | Oil on panel by Errol Fuller
As David Attenborough returns to Papua New Guinea for a film he has ‘wanted to make for 40 years’, artist and author ERROL FULLER writes about the fascination for birds of paradise that he shares with Attenborough.
Greater Birds of Paradise, male and female | Oil on panel by Errol Fuller
The two co-authored a book, Drawn from Paradise, which traced the natural history of these enigmatic creatures through their depiction in western works of art.
Black Sicklebill, lithograph by William Hart, c.1890
From William Morris patterns to computer desktops, flowers and birds are a classic combination for wallpapers. In her series Birds of a Feather, New York-based artist Claire Rosen created living versions of these traditional wallpapers, matching a selection of tropical birds with vintage floral backdrops.
“It was like picking out outfits for them,” she says.
“It wasn’t just colour, it was more about my perceived idea of their personality: exotic, domestic, cheeky, confrontational.” She contacted her local pet store and set up a mini-studio in their lobby.
“The birds didn’t sit still, so I had to be patient. You just have to wait and hope that something good happens. Usually it does.”