birds

You seek life, and a godly fire gushes and gleams for you out of the earth

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Raising chickens in backyard coops is all the rage with nostalgia-loving hipsters but apparently the facial hair obsessed faux farmers often don’t realize that raising hens is loud, labor intensive work because animal shelters are now inundated with hundreds of unwanted urban fowl.

From California to New York, animal shelters are having a hard time coping with the hundreds of chickens being dropped off, sometimes dozens at a time, by bleary-eyed pet owners who might not have realized that chickens lay eggs for only two years but live for a decade or more. […]

The problem with urban farmed chickens starts at birth when hipsters purchase chicks from the same hatcheries that supply large commercial poultry producers. However, the commercial chickens are specifically bread to produce as many eggs as possible in the shortest amount of time.

{ NY Post | Continue reading }

Polycarp pool, the pool of Innalavia

All is lost now

On 5 June 1995 an adult male mallard collided with the glass façade of the Natuurmuseum Rotterdam and died. An other drake mallard raped the corpse almost continuously for 75 minutes. Then the author [of this paper] disturbed the scene and secured the dead duck. Dissection showed that the rape-victim indeed was of the male sex. It is concluded that the mallards were engaged in an ‘Attempted Rape Flight’ that resulted in the first described case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard.

{ C.W. Moeliker | PDF }

Always try to keep a patch of sky above your life

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Single-Nostril Navigational Reliance in Pigeons

We recorded the flight tracks of pigeons with previous homing experience equipped with a GPS data logger and released from an unfamiliar location with the right or the left nostril occluded. The analysis of the tracks revealed that the flight path of the birds with the right nostril occluded was more tortuous than that of unmanipulated controls. Moreover, the pigeons smelling with the left nostril interrupted their journey significantly more frequently and displayed more exploratory activity than the control birds, e.g. during flights around a stopover site.

[…]

How Randomly Selected Legislators Can Improve Parliament Efficiency

Democracies would be better off if they chose some of their politicians at random. That’s the word, mathematically obtained, from the Catanians’ extension of their random research, using insights they gleaned from the much earlier stupidity work by Cipolla.

Parliamentary voting behavior echoes, in a surprisingly detailed mathematical sense. Cipolla had sketched this in the “Basic Laws of Human Stupidity.” Cipolla gave an insulting, yet possibly accurate, description of any human group: “human beings fall into four basic categories: the helpless, the intelligent, the bandit, and the stupid.” Pluchino, Rapisarda, Garofalo and their colleagues base their mathematical model partly on this fourfold distinction.

{ Annals of Improbable Research | full issue }

photo { Daniel Seung Lee }

‘Who could be a better technocrat than an actual robot?’ –Malcolm Harris

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Most people think that even though it is possible that they are dreaming right now, the probability of this is very small, perhaps as small as winning the lottery or being struck by lightning. In fact the probability is quite high. Let’s do the maths.

{ OUP | Continue reading }

image { Dr. Julius Neubronner’s Miniature Pigeon Camera }

Take it easy, Gramps! We gotta stay here ’til Evinrude brings us word from the mice.

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The extraordinary ability of birds and bats to fly at speed through cluttered environments such as forests has long fascinated humans. It raises an obvious question: how do these creatures do it?

Clearly they must recognise obstacles and exercise the necessary fine control over their movements to avoid collisions while still pursuing their goal. And they must do this at extraordinary speed.

From a conventional command and control point of view, this is a hard task. Object recognition and distance judgement are both hard problems and route planning even tougher.

Even with the vast computing resources that humans have access to, it’s not at all obvious how to tackle this problem. So how flying animals manage it with immobile eyes, fixed focus optics and much more limited data processing is something of a puzzle.

Today, Ken Sebesta and John Baillieul at Boston University reveal how they’ve cracked it. These guys say that flying animals use a relatively simple algorithm to steer through clutter and that this has allowed them to derive a fundamental law that determines the limits of agile flight.

{ The Physics arXiv Blog | Continue reading }

600 boyfriends later

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Why do birds sing in the morning?

There are two parts to the question, of course: why do birds sing? And why do they sing in the morning more than at other times of day? The first I think we’ve had a pretty good idea about for a long time, and there are two main reasons: to attract mates, and to claim their territory. (…)

One of the oldest ideas is that they sing in the morning because it’s still too dark to be out and about finding food, so you might as well sing. That’s a pretty solid idea - but it doesn’t really explain why they sing more in the morning than in the evening, when the light also fades - or even in the middle of the night. Another theory is that the conditions early in the morning - often cool and with lower humidity than later in the day - might be particularly good for letting the sounds of the song carry further, though recent experiments suggest that actually the middle of the day might be the best time to sing if acoustic conditions are what’s important so I don’t think that’s a winning idea. The third and most interesting theory is that birds sing most in the morning because that’s when, most days, they’ve got spare energy to use up. (…)

Here in Africa there’s an additional complication we should consider: many female birds sing too.

{ Safari Ecology | Continue reading }

She even caught me on camera (It wasn’t me)

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Whenever we are doing something, one of our brain hemispheres is more active than the other one. However, some tasks are only solvable with both sides working together.

PD Dr. Martina Manns and Juliane Römling of the Ruhr-Universität Bochum are investigating, how such specializations and co-operations arise. Based on a pigeon-model, they are proving for the first time in an experimental way, that the ability to combine complex impressions from both hemispheres, depends on environmental factors in the embryonic stage. (…)

First the pigeons have to learn to discriminate the combinations A/B and B/C with one eye, and C/D and D/E with the other one. Afterwards, they can use both eyes to decide between, for example, the colours B/D. However, only birds with embryonic light experience are able to solve this problem.

{ EurekAlert | Continue reading }

Imagine the smell of an orange. Have you got it? Are you also picturing the orange, even though I didn’t ask you to? Try fish. Or mown grass. You’ll find it’s difficult to bring a scent to mind without also calling up an image. It’s no coincidence, scientists say: Your brain’s visual processing center is doing double duty in the smell department.

{ Inkfish | Continue reading }

To the window! To the wall! Till the sweat drips from my balls! Skeet, skeet, skeet, skeet!

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Even though chili fruits are popular amongst humans for being hot, they didn’t evolve this character to keep foodies and so-called “chili-heads” happy. Previous research indicates that chilis, Capsicum spp., evolved their characteristic “heat” or pungency as a chemical defence to protect their fruits from fungal infections and from being eaten by herbivores. Chili pungency is created by capsaicinoids, a group of molecules that are produced by the plant and sequestered in its fruits. Capsaicinoids trigger that familiar burning sensation by interacting with a receptor located in pain- and heat-sensing neurons in mammals (including humans).

In contrast, birds lack this specific receptor protein, so their pain- and heat-sensing neurons remain undisturbed by capsaicinoids, which is the reason they eat chili fruits with impunity. Additionally, because birds lack teeth, they don’t damage chili seeds, which pass unharmed through their digestive tracts. For these reasons, wild chili fruits are bright red, a colour that attracts birds, so the plants effectively employ birds to disperse their seeds far and wide.

{ The Guardian | Continue reading }

‘The problem with self-improvement is knowing when to quit.’ –David Lee Roth

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{ 1 | 2 }

‘If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t fuck them.’ –John Waters

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{ A black-headed female Gouldian finch, Erythrura gouldiae, chooses her mate. Having a genetically incompatible mate can increase a female bird’s stress hormone levels which then can affect the sex ratio of her offspring. | Nature | Continue reading }

related { Effects of stress can be inherited, and here’s how }

A tiny yawn opened the mouth of the wife of the gentleman with the glasses. She raised her small gloved fist, yawned ever so gently, tiptapping her small gloved fist on her opening mouth and smiled tinily, sweetly.