Funny animated doodle: 'Bird with Arms'

This is a very funny short story, told in a crappy overly compressed GIF and some doodle overlays. It's brilliant. Wait for it. Read the rest

Pretty sure this bird just discovered that the Earth is a simulation

Don't let the Flat-Earthers find out that our world is just an unrendered level in a video game.

Image via NeedPix / Public Domain

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And now, a skateboarding sparrow

This is a java sparrow that's learned to ride a tiny skateboard.

Image: YouTube Read the rest

This tiny skull trapped in amber belongs to the smallest dinosaur ever discovered

The tiny skull, about the size of a thumbnail, trapped in amber may belong to the smallest dinosaur scientists have ever discovered. Paleontologist Lida Xing of the China University of Geosciences spotted the skull in a 99-million-year-old chunk of amber from northern Myanmar. From the New York Times:

[Xing, Chinese Academy of Sciences paleontologist Jingmai O’Connor, and their colleagues] called the bird Oculudentavis khaungraae — a name that comes from the Latin words for eye, teeth and bird. The dinosaur’s skull is only 14.25 millimeters, or a little more than half an inch, from its beak to the end of its skull. The animal had bulbous eyes that looked out from the sides of its head, rather than straight ahead like the eyes of an owl or a human.

“We were able to show that this skull is even smaller than that of a bee hummingbird, which is the smallest dinosaur of all time — also the smallest bird,” O’Connor said. “This is a tiny skull, and it’s just preserved absolutely pristinely"....

Most scientists now believe that birds are theropods, dinosaurs of a group that included tyrannosaurus and spinosaurus, but that birds were on their own evolutionary branch from a common ancestor. Paleontologists have long assumed that as birds evolved away from other dinosaurs, having teeth was a trait that was in the process of disappearing altogether. “But this specimen strongly shows that evolution’s really going in all different directions,” Dr. O’Connor said.

More at Nature: "Tiny bird fossil might be the world’s smallest dinosaur"

image: Lida Xing Read the rest

Cockatiel sings Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time 'Lost Woods' song (with sound)

It's downright majestic is what it is. Read the rest

Incredible slo-mo video of raptors flying through bubble clouds... for science

How does an owl's tail help it fly? To better see the role of the tail in raptor aerodynamics, researchers at the UK's Royal Veterinary College recorded birds of prey flying through clouds of tiny helium bubbles. According to the science journal Nature, analyzing the swirling motion of the bubbles enabled the scientists to discover "a new way in which birds use their tail to provide lift and so reduce drag while gliding... Their findings could provide a new way to improve the efficiency of small gliding aircraft."

More: "High aerodynamic lift from the tail reduces drag in gliding raptors" (Journal of Experimental Biology)

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Albatrosses deployed to detect illegal fish vessels out at sea

With their massive wingspans and high speed, albatrosses fly across the seas in search of food. That's why marine ornithologist Henri Weimerskirch of the French National Center for Scientific Research calls the birds the “sentinels of the sea" and is using them to survey the ocean for illegal fishing boats. Apparently, the operators of these vessels frequently turn off their automatic identification system (AIS) that broadcasts who they are and their location. From Katherine J. Wu's article in Smithsonian:

(Weimerskirch) and his colleagues have outfitted nearly 200 albatrosses with tiny GPS trackers that detect radar emissions from suspicious ships, allowing the birds to transmit the locations of fishers in the midst of illicit acts...

The range of these signals isn’t big enough to be reliably picked up by stations on shore, keeping the ships’ movements mostly discreet. Radar can be detected within a few miles of the vessel itself, however—as long as something, or someone, can get close enough...

Over the course of six months, the team’s army of albatrosses surveyed over 20 million square miles of sea. Whenever the birds came within three or so miles of a boat, their trackers logged its coordinates, then beamed them via satellite to an online database that officials could access and cross-check with AIS data. Of the 353 fishing vessels detected, a whopping 28 percent had their AIS switched off—a finding that caught Weimerskirch totally off guard.

"Ocean sentinel albatrosses locate illegal vessels and provide the first estimate of the extent of nondeclared fishing" (PNAS)

image: "Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans) in flight, East of the Tasman Peninsula, Tasmania, Australia." Read the rest

Rooster kills man during illegal cockfight

In Pragadavaram village in India's state of Andhra Pradesh, a man was killed by a rooster during an illegal cockfight. The birds' owners tie razors to the animals' natural spurs and fight them to the death. From the New Zealand Herald:

As one of the organisers held the bird, preparing to release it into the arena, it struggled free and lashed out, inflicting a deep wound on the victim who stood nearby.

Cockfights were banned by the Indian Supreme Court as part of the 1960 Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act but the practice remains popular in some areas, especially as part of celebrations for Makar Sankranti, a Hindu festival day...

A dozen other injuries were reported from cockfights held during the celebrations.

image: detail of "Cockfight in London, c. 1808" (public domain) Read the rest

Pigeon in a cowboy hat, RIP

A bird rescue group in Las Vegas says one of three hat-wearing pigeons which gained popularity on social media has died.

Lofty Hopes pigeon rescue of Las Vegas tweeted the sad news this past Sunday. Read the rest

SO GOOD: Live cam pointed at bald eagles incubating their eggs in the wild

Watching the Big Bear Bald Eagle Cam is really quite a thrill!

It's pointed at a nest near Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino National Forest (Southern California) occupied by Jackie and Shadow, a bald eagle couple waiting for their two eaglets to arrive. One of their eggs was laid on January 8 and the other just on Saturday. Jackie sits on the eggs the most, typical for paired eagles because the females are bigger and heavier. They simply provide more warmth and protection. But Shadow is doing his share, feeding Jackie, fluffing the nest, and, as in the past years, sitting on the eggs for stints in the daytime hours when it's not as cold. The incubation period for eagle eggs is 35 days, so the first eaglet is expected to hatch around Valentine's Day. My friend Heather was the one who showed me the cam and told me to gird my loins because (spoiler alert!) for the last two years, "the second / smaller chick always dies." Arggggghhhhh!

The Friends of the Big Bear Valley are doing a bang-up job on Facebook of narrating the day-to-day activities of these majestic raptors.

screengrab via Big Bear Bald Eagle Cam Read the rest

One of the Las Vegas pigeons wearing a cowboy hat has been caught

Last week, we posted about pigeons wearing cowboy hats in the Las Vegas Valley. Pigeon rescue group Lofty Hopes reports that they've finally trapped one of the animals, named Cluck Norris. The hats appear to be glued on the pigeons' heads. Lofty Hopes are still seeking a pink-hatted bird they've nicknamed Coo-lamity Jane.

Nobody has yet identified the birdbrain who put the hats on the pigeons.

(8 News Now) Read the rest

Why are pigeons in Las Vegas wearing cowboy hats?

In the Las Vegas Valley, some pigeons are wearing cowboy hats. While the chapeaus may seem cute on first glance, and pigeons are annoying anyway, it's unlikely they are purposely making a fashion statement. A "pigeon positive" animal rescue group called Lofty Hopes is now trying to catch the pigeons and safely remove their hats.

"Did they glue them? And what does that mean for them?” (Lofty Hopes head Mariah) Hillman told KVVU-TV. "Is it something that's going to impede their flight or attract predators?"

“We drove up and down here yesterday for a good two hours just handing out business cards to any location where I saw pigeons and people," Hillman said. "If you see these birds, just feed them until I get here. I'm only 3 miles away and I'll come trap them." Read the rest

This is the world's loudest bird

Ornithologists have determined that white bellbirds of the northern Amazon have the loudest mating call of any bird. The male white bellbird sounds off to females as close as 13 feet away with a call that can reach 125 decibels at that range. That's louder than what you'd hear holding a chainsaw while not wearing earplugs. From Discover:

The mating call also comes with a strange performance. The males turn their back to the female, lower their tail and head, and puff up. “And then all of a sudden, boom,” Podos says — one note comes screeching out, and the bird flips around dramatically to sing the second tone directly into the female’s face. The researchers think this volume might damage the female’s hearing, but maybe it’s a sacrifice she is willing to make for the sake of a good mate...

Species from the Amazon are under intense sexual selection pressures, so it makes sense that two of the loudest birds on record are from the region. Also, the screaming piha (another very loud bird) and white bellbirds are fruit-eaters, and (study coauthor Jeff Podos of University of Massachusetts Amherst) thinks the wide beaks needed for choking down berries could also help project loud calls.

"Extremely loud mating songs at close range in white bellbirds" (Current Biology) Read the rest

Bird flight, bug gaits, and animal walks: fascinating videos for animators

Artist and animator Stephen Cunnane directed these wonderful videos to help artists animate bugs, birds, and other animals.

.embed-vimeo {text-align: center; position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%;} .embed-vimeo iframe {position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%;} Read the rest

Pigeon poops on state lawmaker as he gives TV interview about pigeon poop problem

Rep. Jaime Andrade (D-Chicago) was giving a TV interview about the pigeon poop problem at a train station when a pigeon promptly illustrate the lawmaker's point.

"I'll just have to go clean up," Andrade said. "That's what happens to my constituents. They get [expletive] on all time."

(UPI)

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Bird love: Hyacinth macaws are being so affectionate with this girl

Here, you need some sweetness. Read the rest

Seagull helps man avoid weed bust

When two plain-clothes police officers approached a woman smoking a joint at the Gothenburg Cultural Festival in Sweden, they noticed a fellow sitting nearby toss what they say was a bag of weed. As they were moving in for the bust, a seagull snatched the bag and flew away. While the police were distracted by the bird, the man reportedly took off.

“What the policemen did not expect was that a third party would interfere,” explained police spokesperson Stefan Gustafsson.

My hope is that the man and the seagull were in cahoots.

(The Leaf Desk)

image: Ring-billed Gull photographed by Jiyang Chen (CC BY-SA 3.0) Read the rest

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