A recent expedition in Bolivia by the conservation group Asociación Armonía, revealed a wonderful surprise for the future of the rare blue-throated macaw: a newly discovered nesting area.
As with many macaw species, the illegal pet trade has devastated wild populations. Only an estimated 200-300 individuals remain in the wild. Where they breed and nest has been a mystery — until now.
The expedition team discovered a handful of nests with breeding pairs, including two nests near a populated farm where the secretive birds seemed unbothered by proximity to humans.
The expedition team hopes that the discovery will also help reveal information about the blue-throated macaw’s breeding behavior and life cycle.
American Bird Conservancy reports, “It’s too early to know for sure whether the macaws found during the expedition are the same birds that visit Barba Azul Nature Reserve in the dry season or whether they constitute a separate population.”
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.
Adult male zebra finch, Taeniopygia guttata. Photograph: blickwinkel/Alamy
The old saying, “Don’t put all your eggs into one basket” belies the very thing that many bird species must do.
For this reason, predation is a major cause of loss of eggs, nestlings and the brooding hen, especially for birds that build open-cup nests.
So how do birds protect their nests from predators?
If you’ve ever tried to find a bird’s nest, then you know that birds are very clever at camouflaging their nests. But is nest camouflage an accident — nest materials are part of the environment and so they should blend in after all — or is it intentional?
A research team at the University of St Andrews in Scotland decided to find out by studying nest materials choices made by zebra finches, Taeniopygia guttata.
Endemic to Australia, these tiny, quiet and personable songbirds are popular lab subjects and pets throughout the world. In this species, it is the male who builds the nest.
The researchers wallpapered the enclosures of 21 male zebra finches in one of three pastel colours; blue, pink or yellow.
They then provided the birds with two colours of paper strips to build their nests — one that matched and the other that mismatched the wallpaper — and recorded the birds’ choices on video.
Grey Crowned Cranes – Each crowned crane was photographed on an acacia tree near Richards Camp in Masai Mara, Kenya. Mount Kenya was photographed from a Cessna.
Before attempting to explain what’s going on in these images, the artist, Cheryl Medow, might appreciate you taking a similar approach to experiencing her photography as she does to making it.
“I don’t think my pictures through,” she says, “I feel them.”
Roseate Spoonbills Each bird was photographed at St. Augustine’s Farm in Florida. This is where they nest in the spring. The waves were shot in Hanalei Bay, Kauai.
She described this incident to me: Visitors at one of her gallery shows were asking questions about how she creates her work, and she was answering. But then a guest approached her and said, “No, no, no, don’t say a thing. I just want to enjoy these pictures.”
It was then that she realized that she was looking for an emotional reaction, for people to enjoy looking at the work without having all the answers.
So please: Look. Enjoy. Feel.
Saddle-Billed Storks This mother and baby were photographed in the Masai Mara Game Reserve. The landscape was shot by plane in the same area, traveling from Sirikoi Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Laikipia to Richards Camp in Masai Mara.