Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

New Cousin to the Velociraptor Discovered in China

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

Liaoning Province in China is known for the substantial amount of dinosaur fossils that’ve turned up in the dirt there. Over the years everything from insects to fish to plants have been discovered in such detail that even skin textures have been left behind in the rock.

Now it appears that a new feathered dinosaur that is cousin to the Velociraptor can be added to the long list of discoveries there.

The new dinosaur with a ridiculous name to try and pronounce, Zhenyuanlong suni, stood at about 5 feet tall, had wings too short to allow them to fly and some of the most complex feathers seen on a dinosaur up to this point. The feathers’ complexity is clearly visible on the rock that the near-complete skeleton has been found in and resemble the feathers of today’s eagles.

Professor Junchang Lü from the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences’ Institute of Geology:

“The first feathered dinosaurs were found here and now our discovery of Zhenyuanlong suni indicates that there is an even higher diversity of feathered dinosaurs than we thought. It’s amazing that new feathered dinosaurs are still being found.”

It’s also hugely terrifying to think of these semi-flying, feathered 5 foot dinosaurs tracking you down to feed their young.


Seagulls Rise to the Top of the Food Chain – By Killing Whales!

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Seagulls are about the very last animal you’d think of when someone ask you to name something that might kill a full-size whale.

But that would just mean that weren’t keeping up on the events taking place out in the waters off the coast of Argentina.

Because trash isn’t covered or really being recycled on nearby land, the gull population has exploded in recent years. No one’s really sure when it started but with dead whales turning up on shore, researchers began noticing something a little unsettling…peck marks.

Seagulls are opportunists like vultures when it comes to an easy meal. At some point a gull realized that whales are pretty easy targets when they come up for air. Now that behavior has become the norm for thousands of these birds. During the calving season when babies whales are born the problem is exacerbated because baby whales need to stay up longer to feed off their mothers. Routines are changing because of the gulls and their relentless attacks…the calves feeding time is shortened. Calves bodies are washing up on shore suffering obvious effects of malnutrition.

Local government is allowing a cull of the birds within the month and targeting the birds who’ve developed this behavior. It’s been done before with no real change in the birds’ behavior.

Let’s all hope this gets sorted out…because once, and we’re just tossing this out there because we like to get hypothetical this way, we run out of whales…

We’ll probably be next.

Pigeon Racing Attracts ‘New Money’ Millionaires in China

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

Pigeon racing is quickly becoming a hot place for a new generation of wealthy people in China to drop some cash. In fact it’s attracting drops of cash worth millions. One race can net the winning team’s owner upwards of $80,000. There’s even a black market for racing pigeons being fed by pigeon pirates. Who knew?

We were just informed that Mike Tyson apparently knew this’d be hot before all of us.

[Vice’s YouTube Channel]

Mission Accomplished: WWII Carrier Pigeon Finally Delivers Message

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

We all watch movies like National Treasure and secretly hope that something cool like that might actually be out there in the world or even better that it might, out of some cosmic chance, actually happen to us.

David Martin of England had a small bit of such wishful awesomeness fall into his lap when he began renovating his 17th century fireplace. Inside the chimney were the remains of a pigeon….but not just any pigeon…

David Martin uncovered the remains of a carrier pigeon…and not just ANY old remains of some random carrier pigeon…

These particular remains were attached to a small red cylindrical container…and not just ANY small red cylindrical container…oh no, kids…Mr. Martin had found the remains of a World War II carrier pigeon that was still clutching a little red container which held a small, cigarette paper-sized encrypted message!

Martin found this mysterious container in 1982 and sent it off to have it solved. Intelligence officials believed that it was impossible to break because the code books from back then that might hold the answers to this particular code had been lost or gone missing.

Addressed to the mysterious “X02” from the more mysterious “Sjt W Stot”, the message, sent during the Allied invasion, continues to baffle codebreakers who are working on the message. Bletchly Park, once a highly secretive location where the Nazi’s Enigma Code was broken and now features a museum about pigeons’ role in the war, has more than 30 messages carried by pigeon and not a single one is written in code which causes many of those involved to believe that this message was of utmost importance and urgency.

Just how important was the information this little bad-assed bird o’ war was carrying?

When Martin showed the bird to a counter-espionage specialist who was actually THE inspiration for Ian Fleming’s infamous agent 007?

“When I showed the bird and code, the blood drained from his face and he advised us to back off. He said nothing would ever be published.”

[Discovery News]

Bird Flu Goes Viral in Lab Ferrets!

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Virologists and epidemiologists sure can be a fun bunch.

Put enough money behind one of their projects and who knows what you’ll end up with.

In this case we may end up with the end of the human race.

Remember the bird flu scare? Total Year 2000-style panic. Many people just took it as another sign that those silly Mayans weren’t so silly and 2012 was the last time they’d have to buy a calendar from one of those kiosks in the mall.

After an article in the L.A Times, that panic could start to rear its ugly head if current research results on the H5N1 virus mentioned in the story begin making rotation on televised news sources.

Scientists have been playing with the bird flu virus in order to see if it would ever mutate enough to become a pandemic among humans spreading merely through someone sneezing on someone else.

And guess what? It could. Since 2003 there have been 606 confirmed cases of H5N1 in humans…almost 60% of those proved fatal. Fatalities among birds, where the virus gets its ‘bird flu’ monicker, have been in the millions. Scientists want to get a lead on the pathogen to see what evolutionary process it would have to take to become a global pandemic amongst humans.

They have an answer and it’s not pretty.

Using ferrets, Dutch researchers led by virologist Ron Fouchier, have developed a strain of the virus that is transmitted through droplets in sneezes. Passing ten times between infected ferrets and mutating five times in the process, H5N1 became airborne and a very real threat to all of us.

After injecting one ferret with H5N1 via droplets to their nose, scientists would let the virus mutate inside the ferret’s body. Once the virus mutated, researchers would then infect another ferret with the mustation. Ten ferrets and five mutations later? Lots of ‘uh ohs’ and nervous, unspoken glances at the other scientists in the room.

As the government continues to provide funding for studies like this in ongoing biological weapons research, scientists, researchers and world leaders are trying to put safeguards in place and determine just how far developing mankind-destroying viruses should go.

The public, because we’ve seen the movies, are worried that scientists may create something that would wipe us all out either because they felt like being a jerk that day, want to swim in a pile of cash like Scrooge McDuck or are making up for all those times people picked on them as a child and would like to pay everyone back for that.

What most people are concerned about is when controversial papers like this are published for the world to see. All we need is one of those scientists with the back-stories mentioned above or a crazy person with enough tenacity and hatred for all of us to peruse a detailed document like the paper for this study to wake up on the wrong side of bed one day.

Brakes had been applied to publishing this research. After six months of red-tape? That paper is about to go public. The Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program at the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science (which publishes Science where the paper will appear) want the paper to see publication so that work can continue on the H5N1 virus. Both the Dutch and US government are seeking to add addtional guidelines concerning publishing research like this in order to prevent individuals from having complete access to the process of creating something like the airborne H5N1 mutation so it doesn’t end up at some local elementary science because some super-nerdy ‘pageant parents’ wanted little Billy to get first place at any price.

Director of the Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program at the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science (seriously…have a title), Mark Frankel, stated that the beneifit of studying H5N1 “far outweighs” any potential danger.

“There’s a risk in everything in life”, he said.

To which many of us would probably think that too.

Especially when we decide to manufacture deadly-to-mankind, airborne viruses.

I’m running to the mall…anyone else want me to pick them up one of those Mayan calendars?

[LA Times]

What Inspired Birds to Slam Into Homes, Alfred Hitchcock to Make a Movie About It?

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

The Birds explained

You may not know that the 1963 Hitchcock masterpiece The Birds was inspired by real events. But two years prior, a swarm of the normally docile Sooty Shearwaters which rarely come to shore at all, began slamming into houses inexplicably.

Hitchcock, who frequented nearby Santa Cruz, thought the story was so compelling he crafted the suspense classic.

The film never explained why the birds went rogue, which echoed reality. Until now. Louisiana State University oceanic researchers now hypothesize that it could have been poison red algae that created the airborne attacks.

In a study published in the journal Nature Geoscience, Bargu argues that “toxin-making algae were present in 79 percent of the plankton” the birds ate. The toxins contained “a nerve-damaging acid, which causes confusion, seizures and death in birds.”

“All the symptoms were extremely similar to later bird poisoning events in the same area,” Bargu said.

Pretty terrifying stuff.

[Marquee Blog]

A Beebe New Year Tradition: Dead Blackbirds Raining From The Sky

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

Once again the town of Beebe, Arkansas is cleaning up dead blackbirds around New Years and the police are banning fireworks.

“It’s just got to be a pain in my career,” Beebe Police Chief Wayne Ballew said.

Prior to this New Year’s Eve, Ballew said he wouldn’t be surprised if people sit out on their front porches in case the winged creatures fall from the sky again.

“I guess we could have an annual blackbird watch,” he said with a laugh. “People can just bring their umbrellas, open them up and walk through the neighborhood and hope they don’t get hit.”


Strange Bird Carcass Found In Iran

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

The carcass of a strange bird said to inhabit a local cave has been found in Iran. What do you think this it could be?

The dead body of a strange dinosaur-like bird has been reportedly found near the city of Meshginshahr in the northwestern Iranian province of Ardebil.The locals found the feathered bipedal creature, which seemed to have died a few days ago, near a remote village of Meshginshahr, IRNA reported on Sunday. A team of officials of Iran’s Environment Protection Organization (EPO) were dispatched to the region to investigate whether the reports were true. One of the villagers has reportedly hidden the carcass and the EPO team is trying to find it. The team has managed to obtain a photo of the creature taken by one of the locals. The team has also found evidence that confirmed the locals’ claims the bird lived in a cave near the village. The creature has a reptilian skull with long canine teeth and large molars. It has small wing bones like those of flightless birds. The avifauna of Iran includes a total of 527 species, none of which are similar to the found creature; however, the discovery needs ornithologists to verify the claims. Scientists believe that fossil evidence demonstrates birds and dinosaurs shared many features such as hollow bones, gastrolith in the digestive system, nest-building and brooding behaviors. The discovery of fossilized Tyrannosaurus rex soft tissue also suggests that the 68-million-year-old dinosaur and birds are closely related to each other.

[IRNA vis Cryptomundo]

First Scientifically Confirmed Poisonous Birds

Monday, April 25th, 2011

This is from last year, so it is not new information or breaking news, but I am just hearing about this and it is fantastic. There are poisonous birds that are flying around on this planet. The Hooded Pitohui (Pitohui dichrous), Variable Pitohui (Pitohui kirhocephalus), and Brown Pitohiu (Pitohui ferrugineus) birds from New Guinea have a neurotoxin in their skin and feathers which causes numbness and tingling when handled. This neurotoxin is identical to the toxin from poison dart frogs and in high enough doses COULD KILL YOU.


Australian Birds Use Fear To Attract Mates

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Male splendid fairy-wrens flirt using fear and sing a special song each time they hear the call of one of their predators, the butcherbirds. Although this behaviour exposes their position and puts them in danger, it has been determined that this “vocal hitchhiking” on the predator calls is extremely useful for grabbing the attention of the ladies.

“We have shown that females do, in fact, become especially attentive after hearing butcherbird calls,” said Emma Greig, PhD, first author of the study and currently a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell University. “So, it seems that male fairy-wrens may be singing when they know they will have an attentive audience, and, based on the response of females, this strategy may actually work!”


Jamaican “Ninja Birds” Had Weaponized Wings

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

A flightless ibis (Xenicibis xympithecus) that lived on Jamaica until about 10,000 years ago had wings that evolved into weapons. It would use its club-like wings to beat predators and perhaps other ibis in defense of its territory and young. However, these club-like wings proved useless when humans finally showed up and the birds were extinct shortly afterwards.

“Working with Olson, Longrich went to Jamaica and found more fossils – including curved hefty handbones.

He thought the first he found was a deformity, but as he found others, including a couple that had been cracked and healed, he realized they had been used as clubs. The new fossils also showed the wrists were hinged so the hands could swing like flails.

“I would guess that they would try to grab each other using the beak and then just proceed to pound each other using the wings,” Longrich told Discovery News.”

[New Scientist]

It’s Raining Dead Blackbirds In Arkansas

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

Thousands of dead blackbirds rained down onto Beebe, Arkansas to help ring in the new year. Welcome to 2011!

UPDATE: 100,000 dead fish have washed up on the banks of the Arkansas River as well.  Get out while you still can.

[KATV via io9]