April 20th, 2014
A seagull, following the ferry boat from Thassos to Keramoti, demonstrates the elegance of natural flying.
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April 21st, 2013
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September 25th, 2012
Natalie Angier on army ants and their parasites:
[Wherever…] there are army ants out on a hunting raid, peckish antbirds are almost sure to follow.
The birds are not foolish enough to try to eat them: Army ants are fiercely mandibled and militantly cohesive. Instead, they hope to skim off a percentage of the ants' labor, by snatching up any grasshoppers, beetles, spiders or small lizards that may jump to the side in a frantic attempt to elude the oncoming avalanche of predatory ants.
It's a gleeful reversal of the conventional notion of parasites as little, ticky things that plague large, poorly dressed hosts. Here the big vertebrates are the parasites, freeloading off insects a fraction of their size. […]
Fun and frightening as the army ants are, the real stars are the birds. Angier explains that the antbirds' behaviour is in flux. Over time, as the populations of the various species of antbird fluctuate, scientists are observing how species are changing their behaviour in order to take advantage of the opportunities that open up. Fascinating stuff.
[Via The Awl]
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June 25th, 2012
Why Aren't Cities Littered With Dead Pigeons? It turns out that the answer, in part, is … turtles.
Yes, there's a video. A deeply unsettling video, the memory of which is likely to keep me from getting to sleep tonight.
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April 17th, 2012
This Past Imperfect post about Closing the Pigeon Gap is a fascinating look at how 19th century continental powers made use of networks of carrier pigeons in wartime, and how the British responded to the perceived threat of a Pigeon Gap developing. All good stuff.
And then there's this one passage that reads like a scene from a discarded Blackadder Goes Forth script, recounting a description by Lieutenant Alan Goring of a sticky moment during the Passchendaele offensive of 1917:
[…] I was left with just a handful of men, all that was left out of those three platoons…. We had two pigeons in a basket, but the trouble was that the wretched birds had got soaked when the platoon floundered into the flooded ground. We tried to dry one of them off as best we could, and I wrote a message, attached it to its leg, and sent it off.
To our absolute horror, the bird was so wet that it just flapped into the air and then came straight down again, and started actually walking towards the German line. Well, if that message had got into the Germans' hands, they would have known that we were on our own and we'd have been in real trouble. So we had to try to shoot the pigeon before he got there. A revolver was no good. We had to use rifles, and there we were, all of us, rifles trained over the edge of this muddy breastwork trying to shoot this bird scrambling about in the mud. It hardly presented a target at all.
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October 9th, 2010
The rooster problem isn't going to go away anytime soon. […]
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April 12th, 2010
An acrobatic display of passion proved too much for a pair of eagles engaged in a mating dance over Alaska's Prince William Sound. […]
Be sure to follow the link and scroll down to the second photo of a dazed, post-coital and thoroughly confused female eagle. Poor thing.
[Via James Nicoll]