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
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:
Read the rest
(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.
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
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
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.
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:
Read the rest
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.
Acorn woodpeckers create acorn granaries that hold tens of thousands of acorns. Scientists are especially interested in their living arrangements, once described by Cold War ornithologists as communism. Read the rest
This remarkable demonstration of a pigeon, a falcon, and an owl flying past six extremely sensitive high-end microphones shows just how quiet owls are when they fly. Read the rest
Enjoy these trippy, Muybridge-esque videos of flight patterns and wingbeats.
Here's a diagram that shows the relative size of a great grey owl's body to its feathers. It's hosted on Wikimedia commons, labelled "Cross sectioned taxidermied Great Grey Owl, Strix nebulosa, showing the extent of the body plumage, Zoological Museum, Copenhagen."
File:Strix nebulosa plumage.jpg
(via Beth Pratt) Read the rest