Where did this rare Mandarin duck in New York City's Central Park come from?

A rare and beautiful Mandarin duck, native to East Asia, has turned up in New York City's Central Park. The bird spends most of its time entertaining curious on-lookers in a pond near 59th Street and Fifth Avenue. City official plan to leave the duck alone so long as it's safe. From CBS News:

(Bird enthusiast Dave) Barrett said he's checked with every zoo in the city and none are missing a duck. It leads the bird-watching community to believe it was a domestic pet, which is illegal in New York City.

"It might have got away or someone might have got tired of it and dumped it," Barrett said.

It also may have flown to Manhattan from a neighboring town.

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An old viral bird video is perfectly enhanced with Led Zeppelin

This is brilliant. Make sure your sound is on.

Twisted Sifter writes:

The Internet has a penchant for taking things, adding to them and making them funnier, quirkier or even more bizarre. In this instance, we’ll go with all three. Apparently this was found on a now defunct Tumblr page, so the creator looms large and anonymous.

For those unfamiliar, the audio is ‘Immigrant Song’ by Led Zeppelin...

Here's the original bird video, sans the Zeppelin upgrade:

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Super-fancy bird may comprise a second species

Sharp-eyed ornithologists noticed that some specimens of Vogelkop Superb Bird-of-Paradise that they observed looked different enough that they may be a separate species. They captured video of the other kind for comparison. Read the rest

Magical hummingbird slow-motion video shot on a smartphone

Conservationist, entomologist, and photographer Phil Torres recorded this enchanting slow-motion video of hummingbirds in the cloud forest of Sumaco, Ecuador. He used Moment lenses Read the rest

African birds create massive colonies on utility poles

Dillon Marsh (previously) documents interesting types of utility poles around the world, including ones colonized by birds in the Kalahari desert: Read the rest

The Tower of London's Ravenmaster wrote a great book

I first spoke with Chris Skaife in 2013 after he was was awarded a position at The Tower of London following a long and distinguished career in the the British Army. A Yeoman Warder, Skaife holds the position of Ravenmaster. As the title implies, he’s responsible for the care of the Tower's unkindness of ravens.

Our first conversation about his gig left me fascinated: Here was a man with a job that’s completely singular in the world. His days, are full or tourists and the occasional state visit, history and tradition. That he goes about his duties in a uniform that looks like it’s designed to kill its wearer on a hot summer day, is shorthand for the amount of dedication he has to his responsibilities. I came from talking with Skaife with so many unanswered questions about what his day entails, his passion for the birds under his care and what it’s like to navigate such a unique gig.

Happily, I’ve had most of my questions answered by Skaife’s upcoming book, The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London. It’s not out until October, but it is available for pre-order at Amazon. Chris, good fella that he is, provided me with an early draft of the book to read, a few weeks ago. I’m looking forward to buying the real McCoy once it becomes available.

The book’s structure and Skaife’s friendly, matter-of-fact narrative style made for a quick, enjoyable read. It smacks of a friend talking you through his day at work. Read the rest

Feral Peacocks terrorize Canadian neighborhood

You’ve likely heard of Vancouver, British Columbia. Surrey? Maybe not: it’s a city in its own right and a part of the Greater Vancouver Regional District. Surrey’s got an unfortunate reputation for crime due largely to occasional targeted daytime gang hits and the omnipresent narcotics trade. I lived across the bridge from Surrey for close to a decade. I always felt safe there and enjoyed the food, culture and good times that Surrey had to offer.

But now that I know that it’s infested with feral peacocks, I may not be back.

According to the CBC, Surrey city officials believe that Surrey residents living between 150 Street and 62 Avenue are being forced to cope with the presence of between 40 and 150 feral peacocks roaming the streets. Yeah, peacocks are gorgeous when seen in a zoo and hilarious when used as an alarm system by Hunter S. Thompson. But for a bunch of renters and homeowners who just want to live their lives with a minimal amount of bullshit, they’re sort of a nightmare. Peacocks are loud, aggressive and, like most large birds, leave massive amounts of greasy shit everywhere they go. The problem with the birds has gotten so bad that some residents have started taking matters into their own hands.

Shit has gone down, friends.

This past May, in a fit of peacock-induced rage, a man cut down a tree where an ostentation of dozens of the birds had decided to nest, every night. There was just one problem: BC’s kinda touchy about preserving nature. Read the rest

World's largest rodent extermination plan clears entire island of pests

South Georgia Island (population 20), due east off the tip of South America, had no rodents until 18th-century sailing ships accidentally introduced them. After seven years of work, the island is now rodent-free, allowing native birds to recover. Read the rest

Crows hold "funerals" for their dead and this very weird experiment revealed why

According to researcher Kaeli Swift of the University of Washington's Avian Conservation Laboratory, crows hold "funerals." When they see a corpse of their own kind they gather together and squawk loudly. To determine what they may be doing, Swift displayed a taxidermied dead crow to other crows. On some days though, she wore a creepy mask and wig. After multiple experiments with and without her disguise or the dead bird, the crows appeared to remember "the experience with the mask and dead crow and now connected the area with danger." From Deep Look:

And here’s what Swift said makes that really interesting: These new mobs (she encountered even weeks later) contained crows that had never seen the masked Swift with the dead crow. But they still learned to avoid the masked figure.

Learning directly from each other, rather than through individual experience, is called social learning.

“By participating in these funerals, crows can get information about new dangers without taking the risk,” Swift said.

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Study: birds can sense earth's magnetic fields thanks to a fancy eye protein

It's long been known that birds possess magnetoreception, or ability to sense earth's magnetic fields. Now researchers are narrowing down a specific eye protein called Cry4 that appears to allow birds to sense magnetic waves in the presence of blue light. Read the rest

Charming birdhouses that look like retro camping trailers

Nashville maker One Man One Garage created these fun flat-pack birdhouse kits that assemble into vintage campers. Read the rest

When birds sound like heavy metal and hardcore vocalists

TIL two things:

1. YouTube is home to the world's only heavy metal-themed talk show. It's called Two Minutes to Late Night.

2. Vocalists of all metal subgenres often shriek and squawk like birds. To prove it, the Two Minutes to Late Night host recently asked ornithologist Tom Stephenson of BirdGenie (an app that identifies birds by their sounds), "What Birds Do Metal Singers Sound Like?" He had no problem matching birds to their metal equivalent.

For instance, the (most-non-metal) bird expert (ever) identified the Northern Potoo as a close match to the screeching vocals of Converge's 2001 metalcore song "Concubine." Ok, sure.

(The Awesomer) Read the rest

Allow these birds to chirp away your misery

Everything is kind of terrible right now. Do yourself a solid by spending a few minutes watching this fine fellow feed a flock of finches. Read the rest

Round birds

Finnish photographer Ossi Saarinen has gotten quite adept at taking photos of birds facing directly to camera, making each bird look adorably round, like the cute shot above. Read the rest

Couple commits to painting 365 mini birds, one a day

Nayan and Vaishali originally planned to make one piece of miniature art daily for 30 days, but following a great response for the first month, they decided to go for a full year. Lucky us! Above: a Baya Weaver Bird. Read the rest

Parrot requests ice cream

Consider the above Exhibit A. Below, Exhibit B.

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'One in a million' yellow cardinal sighted at backyard feeder

Late last month, a woman in Alabaster, Alabama spotted an unusual bird in her backyard feeder, which was soon revealed to be an extremely rare yellow-pigmented Northern cardinal.

AL.com reports:

Auburn University biology professor Geoffrey Hill said the cardinal in the photos is an adult male in the same species as the common red cardinal, but carries a genetic mutation that causes what would normally be brilliant red feathers to be bright yellow instead.

Alabaster resident Charlie Stephenson first noticed the unusual bird at her backyard feeder in late January and posted about it on Facebook. She said she's been birding for decades but it took her some time to figure out what she was seeing.

"I thought 'well there's a bird I've never seen before'," Stephenson said. "Then I realized it was a cardinal, and it was a yellow cardinal."

... Hill -- who has literally written books on bird coloration -- said the mutation is rare enough that even he, as a bird curator and researcher has never seen one in person.

"There are probably a million bird feeding stations in that area so very very roughly, yellow cardinals are a one in a million mutation."

However, an expert at the National Audubon Society has a different theory on why the bird's plumage is yellow:

As Geoff LeBaron, Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count director, points out, the cardinal’s crest and wing feathers look frayed in photos. While wear and tear is a natural part of a bird’s life, it can be exacerbated by a poor diet or environmental stressors.

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