Surprising activity in Tufted Titmice and Chickadee’s

Researcher Mark Hauber a professor of evolution, ecology and behavior at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and other scientists have made an unusual discovery. They found that Tufted Titmice and Chickadees will use animal hair to line their nests. While this may not seem unusual, what he found by studying videos, was that the birds braved landing on sleeping mammals to pluck out their hair. It seems the mammals did not mind having the birds do this and some did not wake up. The fact that these birds use animal hair was not new to the researchers, but it was always assumed that the birds obtained the hair from carcasses, not from live animals.

Tufted Titmouse

The researchers have named this behavior “kleptotrichy” which is Greek for “theft” and “hair.” As the researchers further studied this behavior, they found that the birds plucked hair from 47 humans, 45 dogs, three cats, three raccoons and a porcupine. I wonder if the humans were aware of the plucking birds.

Lily the Havanese
budgie who pulled Lily’s tail

What came to mind for me was a parakeet (budgie) that I owned years ago. While I was working in my office, I would let the bird fly around. My small Havanese would sleep in her bed next to my desk. The keet would sit on my lamp and watch the dog. Then he would fly down, landing on the floor and tilt his head back and forth as birds do, watching her sleep. He would take a few hops toward her until he reached her tail and then he would grab one hair and pull it. The dog would wake up, half rise and growl at the bird, who would squawk bird laughter, as he flew back to the lamp. When the dog went back to sleep, he would do it all over again. I always felt that he did it for fun but who knows?

Cockatoos are very smart

An international team of scientists, Barbara Klump and Lucy Aplin from the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, John Martin from the Taronga Conservation Society and Richard Major from the Australian Museum have made an interesting discovery.The sulphur-crested cockatoo, native to Australia, has been observed lifting the lids off of garbage bins to gain access to food. The team of researchers have determined beyond any doubt, that this behavior has been taught through social interaction from bird group to bird group. In one case a lone bird reinvented the technique of opening the trash bin and it was quickly copied and spread to other bird groups. The researchers have determined that this “taught/copied” behavior illustrates regional subcultures.     

cockatoo opening a trash bin – Max Planck photo

Not all of the cockatoos use the technique to open trash bins, but will wait for another bird, typically a male, to open the bin and then they scavenge for food.

Sulphur crested cockatoos are very smart. They are also persistent and in the wild as well as as pets, have adapted very well to living with people.

Zebra finches can recognize up to 50 “voices”

A recent study illustrated that Zebra finches can recognize the song or call of at least 50 members of their flock. They use this ability to find a lost member or to call and see if it is safe to return to the nest.

They need this ability because they usually travel in colonies of 50 to 100 birds and they split up and then come back together. They have distance calls that they use to identify where they are and to find members of the flock.

Zebra finch

While it has been known that songbirds are capable of communicating sounds with complex meanings, the latest research shows that songbird brains are capable of complex vocal communication. This also reflects on their high level of intelligence. Imagine how smart other animals are.

Wild parrots in the United States

Although they are not native to the US, there are colonies of wild parrots living in the US. These birds were pets that either were released or escaped. Fifty-six different parrot species in 43 different states have been spotted and 25 species in 23 states have established breeding colonies.

The most common are the Monk parakeet, Red-crowned Amazon and the Nanday Parakeet.  

Red Crowned Amazon

A famous colony of Monk parakeets’ lives in Chicago. Since they do not migrate, they survive the winter by feeding at bird feeders. The largest colony is located at the Skyway bridge that connects Illinois to Indiana.If you are a birdwatcher, do not be surprised if you see an unusual bird at your bird feeder or in a tree or bush around your home.

Monk Parakeet
Nanday Parakeet

Squirrels eavesdrop on bird chatter

It is always amazing to learn how different species work together. A recent study showed that grey squirrels listen to the chatter of birds to determine if there is danger or if it is safe.

red headed woodpecker good photo

Anyone who watches birds at a bird feeder will recognize the chatter of birds that are content and feel safe. Squirrels also respond to bird chatter to see if it is safe to raid the bird feeder or forage in the area. If the birds react to danger, the squirrel also reacts. By the same token, if the birds return to their normal “all is safe” chatter, the squirrels also assume it is safe.

This brings up interesting questions about how many other animals communicate in this way. I have noticed a difference in my pet budgies reaction to the safe chatter of songbirds when I have a window opened. They seem to chatter more then when they are by themselves. The only other time my birds are as vocal is when they like the music I am playing. Interesting to say the least.

New research shows how birds learn new songs

Richard Hahnloser a researcher from the Institute of Neuroinformatics run by ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich has made an interesting discovery. He found that Zebra finches divide the complex task of learning a new song into manageable parts. When the song was changed, the birds adapted the syllables or notes of the song that they knew to the new song. After a short period of time they were able to master the new song.

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The researchers found that the method that the birds used is similar to the method that computer linguists use to compare documents. It is also the same method that children use to learn a primary and secondary language.

The real implication of the study is not only the technique that the birds use, but the intelligence and thought process that they  have to use this technique. It requires awareness and the ability to analyze. The more we learn about animals, the more we realize they are much more intelligent than previously thought. How exciting it is to think of what discoveries await us.

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171101092010.htm

A new species of parrot discovered in Mexico

Dr. Miguel A. Gómez Garza found a new species of parrot in 2014. This parrot has a distinctive shape, color, call and behavior. Dr. Garza found the parrot in a remote part of Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. It is referred to as the “blue winged” parrot.

Its call is a loud, sharp, short, repetitive and monotonous one. It lives in small flocks of a dozen or less and the offspring tend to stay together in groups.

Like other parrots, its diet consists of fruits, flowers, seeds and leaves, the same as other parrots. It is exciting to find a new species and that there are new species of animals and plants that we have yet to discover.

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170627073607.htm

Play laugh in Kea’s, a New Zealand parrot

Dogs do it, rats do it and chimps do it, why not birds? A new study has determined that the Kea, a New Zealand parrot has a “play laugh” that will get other Kea’s to play with them.

Researchers felt that the play laugh was infectious making other birds play with each other. If a bird heard the play laugh and had no one to play with, they would play by themselves. The researchers plan to study more about this aspect of the Kea’s behavior. What is interesting is that this is the first time a researcher has discovered play laughter in a bird. All other research showed it in mammals.

However, this should not be surprising, anyone who has owned multiple birds has seen them play together or at the same time but this is the first time a call or sound has been connected with the behavior

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170320122838.htm

Birds nest near friends that they made during the winter- new study shows

Birds in general are much smarter than previously thought. They form friendships, work together and protect each other.

Most people have seen flocks of geese grazing in a field or by the water. If you look closely you will see one or two geese standing with their heads held high scanning the area for danger. They are the geese on guard.

Crows will have meetings to learn who had the best success in finding food that day. The next day some of the members of the flock will follow the successful crows.

Certain types of birds, such as Chickadees, Titmouse, and others will let birds in the area know that they have found a well-stocked bird feeder, especially in the winter. The other birds learn to listen for the announcement.

New research shows that some birds will establish their spring nesting sites near the birds they made friends with during the winter. They seem to share boundaries with the birds that they are closest too. What is interesting is that the birds will form friendships. This indicates that the birds have social interactions with each other, perhaps more than we humans suspected.

Even birds that typically live a solitary life, such as Robins, will join together and flock to migrate. Sometimes a person is able to predict the weather by the behavior of the wild birds. The birds seem to  know when a storm is coming, sometimes a day before.

How fascinating it is to learn about wild animals. Birds are easy to watch if you put up a few bird feeders. It is wonderful that scientists are learning how smart animals really are.

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160914143538.htm

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/backyard-food-scouts-titmice-chickadees-sherry-thornburg

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