Many birds migrate thousands of miles each spring and fall. Often these birds return to the same area and even the same bird houses or nesting sites. When you consider that being off even a half of a degree could cause birds to be hundreds of miles away from their destination, it is an amazing feat of navigation.
Researchers have long believed that birds follow the magnetic field of the Earth to navigate but were not sure how they accomplished this with such accuracy. Recently Researchers at Lund University in Sweden believe they have discovered the secret. It is a unique protein found in bird’s eyes.
Atticus Pinzón-Rodríguez, one of the researchers involved in the study explained that the cryptochromes protein, Cry4, is the only one that remains constant both day and night. According to the study all birds have this protein which is sensitive to the magnetic fields of the Earth. They found that even birds that do not migrate have the Cry4 protein.
The researchers feel that more studies are needed to fully understand how Cry4 works, but that it is a step in the right direction. Eventually they feel it may help develop new navigation systems for people.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.