Why birds are awesome [part 2]

I’ve already written about magpies holding funerals, robins being able to understand food cravings and blue tits that build aromatic/anti-bacterial nests.

Here are even more reasons why birds are awesome:

Male palm cockatoos craft sticks to ‘play the drum’ and find a mate.

The cockatoos will break off twigs and sticks to create a ‘drumstick’ and then strike hollow trees with them to create loud noises that can can be heard up to 100m away. A 2017 study from Heinsohn et al observed that ‘This behaviour is remarkable because tool manufacture among nonhuman species is rare and almost always occurs in the context of solving problems related to foraging but palm cockatoos use their tools only to make sounds.’

Even more interestingly, in the 18 male palm cockatoos that were observed in the study, each one was shown to have its own style or drumming signature.

“The large smoky-grey parrots fashion thick sticks from branches, grip them with their feet and bang them on trunks and tree hollows, all the while displaying to females. The icing on the cake is that the taps are almost perfectly spaced over very long sequences, just like a human drummer would do when holding a regular beat.”

— Prof. Heinsohn

Over 200 species of birds cover themselves in ants to keep their feathers clean.

Anting is a behaviour in which birds either allow ants to crawl around their bodies, or the birds rub ant corpses under their wings and into their feathers. The behaviour has been commonly observed over 200 species, including cardinals, hoopoes, kestrels, crows, ravens and chaffinches.

The ants (and other insects) produce formic acid, which helps the birds to get rid of lice, cleans up dry oil and apparently gets birds high.


Budgie yawns are contagious

Contagious yawning is the spreading of a yawn from person-to-person. Out of curiousity, did reading that sentence make you yawn? Contagious yawning has been observed in chimpanzees, dogs and lab rats; and budgies are the first non-mammal to demonstrate this behaviour. Gallup et al’s 2015 study proposed that social non-mammals could feel empathy.

“Contagious yawning by itself is not exactly empathy, but it hints at the tendency to mimic and synchronise with the bodies of others. This process is probably the basis of mammalian empathy. Until now, most empathy research has been on mammals… …Empathy may turn out to be a mechanism even more widespread than we think, which is all the more remarkable given that it was thought just one or two decades ago that empathy was uniquely human.”

Frans de Waal (Emory University in Georgia)

The Bassian Thrush hunts by use of flatulence?

This is a bird fact that’s been doing the rounds and limited research has made it hard to prove. According to the books Extreme Birds: The World’s Most Extraordinary and Bizarre Birds’, and ‘Top 100 Birding Sites of the World’, the Bassian Thrush uses flatulence when feeding. The behaviour dislodges leaf litter, disturbing earthworms into revealing their location. Intrigued by stories of this behaviour, birder James Mustafa has observed and written about the Bassian Thrush but didn’t see any of this behaviour in practice.


Until next time! ❤

Design, leadership, open culture, data, ethics, justice. These are my personal thoughts on work.

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