Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

While the rest of us were out doing whatever the heck it is that we do, the geeks and nerdlings in the world of science were doing this…


Smartly done, folks!

New shape: http://bit.ly/1jHVFID
Y chromosome: http://bit.ly/1hrLASQ
Chernobyl: http://bit.ly/1tOdLR8
Coldest star: http://bit.ly/1fgit6q
Pterodactyloid: http://bit.ly/1hwaZuO
Aging: http://bit.ly/1rqpGT7
Mimic plant: http://bit.ly/RToETw
Mineral: http://bit.ly/1f4Sdf6




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Thanks to intrepid science reporter Danielle Elliot!

As she reports in the Weird & Wild section at the National Geographic, an influx of emus is starting to take over a town in Queensland, Australia.

Shopkeepers in any downtown area love foot traffic, right? It’s the key to business.

But what if that traffic isn’t full of potential shoppers. What if, instead, it’s a flock of large birds strutting their stuff down the sidewalks?

That’s the scene these days in Longreach, Queensland; an influx of emus (Dromaius novaehollandiae) is starting to take over the town.

“They were waltzing up and down the street, drinking from the puddles and having a nibble in the garden beds at a council redevelopment site down the road. They were making themselves right at home,” gallery and coffee shop owner Deb Scott told The Australian.

Local experts say the emus are looking for food, but drivers are more concerned that they’re going to end up as road kill—someone forgot to teach them to look both ways before crossing the street.

“They are taking absolutely no notice of the people, or the cars or dogs,” Longreach Mayor Joe Owens told the Australian Broadcasting Company. “When they are crossing the street, people have to stop for them. They just toddle across as they please.”

And that’s posing a challenge for drivers, considering their long legs allow them to sprint at 31 miles per hour and cover up to nine feet in a single stride. The largest bird native to Australia, they have soft brown feathers, but they never take flight. (Related: “The Great Emu Caper.”)


The emus have been circling the outlying areas of town for a few months, the ABC reports, but this is the first time they’ve ventured into the more densely populated town center.

Under normal conditions, emus stick to the brush, feasting on seeds, grass, and insects. They can last several weeks without a meal, but higher-than-average temperatures and an extended drought have left them on the hunt.

“The [kangaroos] and the emus are just desperately seeking something to eat and a bit of greenery, so they are marching in and getting it wherever they can,” naturalist Angus Emmott told ABC.

As the drought continues, there’s no telling when the emus will leave the main areas of town, but one thing’s for sure: It’s not every day that you get to share a sidewalk with an emu.


Danielle Elliot is a multimedia producer and writer who earned her chops reporting and producing for networks, start-ups, and everything in between. A graduate of the University of Maryland, she covered tennis and Olympic figure skating for a few years before earning an M.A. in Science and Health Journalism at Columbia University.

Follow her on Twitter.

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Hurray for Blue Tits!!

(No! Not THOSE kind of… oh, never mind!)

Could they be the key to solving a serious British environmental problem?

(THIS kind!! [1])

Yes, bird-watchers and tree huggers, the geeks and nerdlings over at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology have uncovered the wonderful truth about blue tits.

(A bird feeder sporting a nice pair of British blue tits)

The article begins, “Blue tits, a familiar garden bird, could be the salvation of our imperiled conker trees (horse-chestnut trees), which are under severe attack by a tiny non-native moth that has spread from continental Europe.”

Yes, the foreign illegal alien moth arrived in London just ten years ago, and has since spread across most of England and Wales. The moth caterpillars eat the leaves while hiding inside them, so damaging the leaves and causing them to turn brown and making the tree appear as if autumn has come early.

(Horse Chestnut Leaf-miner Cameraria ohridella. [Photo © Ian Kimber]) 

Experts at the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) and the University of Hull are asking today (August 30, 2012) for the public’s help to find out how many moth caterpillars are eaten by birds, such as blue tits. They are asking volunteers to check leaves from a horse chestnut tree for the distinctive damage caused by the birds to the leaf mines and report it through the Conker Tree Science website.

(Damaged horse chestnut leaf, showing whitish leaf mines [2])

Dr Michael Pocock, from CEH, said, “It’s a big mission and we’re reliant on people’s help to discover how much birds are feeding on the alien moths.”

Dr Darren Evans from the University of Hull added, “In discovering whether garden birds, like blue tits, can help to protect conker trees, we will also be learning more about the behaviour of the birds themselves.”

The alien moth, which was discovered in the 1980s, has caterpillars that live inside the leaves, forming distinctive patches of damage called “leaf mines”. Up to 700 leaf mines have been recorded on a single leaf and the damage caused by large numbers of larvae can be striking. A previous Conker Tree Science mission discovered that predatory wasps were not effectively controlling the alien moths, possibly explaining their rapid spread.

(Signs of a bird attack on the leaf mine home of the moth [3])

This project, where anyone can get involved with genuine scientific research, is one of the largest of its kind in the UK and is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Find out more by visiting the Conker Tree Science project’s website. People in Britain can take part in the new “Bird Attack” mission from August 20 to September 23, 2012.

Let’s keep those cute blue tits up front in our battle against these pesky moths!


[1] A blue tit in front of horse-chestnut leaves that are covered with brown patches of damage caused by the caterpillars of the leaf mining moths. (Photo Credit: Richard Broughton/CEH)

[2] [3]  Photo credit: Dr Michael Pocock/CEH

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