Robo-Falcons Will Soon Patrol Edmonton International Airport

A robotic falcon prepares for takeoff.
A robotic falcon prepares for takeoff.

Counterintuitive as it may be, birds and planes don’t get along. Ever since Orville Wright knocked into a flock while flying over a cornfield in 1905, airborne humans have worked hard to keep their feathery predecessors away from airports, where they tend to crack windshields, bend sensitive instruments, and get sucked into fuselages.

To keep birds away, airports have shot off fireworks, hired snipers, and planted vast prairies nearby so that birds will live there instead. Now, according to a recent press release, Edmonton International Airport has decided to up the ante: they’re going to bring on a fleet of robo-falcons to chase away the real…

Seabirds use preening to decide how to divvy up parenting duties

Common murres
FAMILY AFFAIR Common murres take turns brooding their chick and foraging for fish. Preening each other acts as a health check and way to negotiate parental duties if one bird is in poorer condition, new research suggests.

Seabirds called common murres appear to use preening as a way to negotiate whose turn it is to watch their chick and who must find food. And when one parent is feeling foul, irregularities in this grooming ritual may send the other a signal that all is not well, researchers report in the July issue of The Auk: Ornithological Advances.

“The fascinating part of this study is the inference that communication between mates allows murres to negotiate the level of effort that each member of the pair puts into the breeding effort,” says John Piatt, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Anchorage, Alaska. “Reproductive success of this species requires a high degree of cooperation by each mate as they switch duties.”

Common murres (Uria aalge) lay only one egg each breeding season. Parental roles aren’t determined by gender for the birds; mothers and fathers take turns watching over their chick and foraging for fish. When one parent returns with a fish for the chick, the couple preen each other and switch roles. This swapping ceremony typically happens three to four times a day.

But study coauthor Carolyn Walsh noticed that switches don’t always go smoothly. Video of 16 pairs of murres, documenting a total of 198 role swaps, showed that sometimes both birds appeared indecisive. Each…

Trackers may tip a warbler’s odds of returning to its nest

Cerulean warbler
Cerulean warblers wearing geolocators on their backs may be less likely to complete the usual return flight from South America to their breeding grounds in the eastern United States.

Strapping tiny trackers called geolocators to the backs of birds can reveal a lot about where the birds go when they migrate, how they get there and what happens along the way. But ornithologists are finding that these cool backpacks could have not-so-cool consequences.

Douglas Raybuck of Arkansas State University and his colleagues outfitted some Cerulean warblers (Setophaga cerulea) with geolocators and some with simple color tags to test the…

Do You Know About the Sly Bird #Meme?

Image: twitter

Another day another meme, my friends.

The internet never takes an off day and is a fickle beast when it comes to its memes. Today’s meme is an image of a mischievous looking duck that looks like it knows something you don’t. The origin of said image is already lost to history, of course, but needless to say the internet has had a great time with it over the past couple of days.

Turn Your Backyard Into a Wildlife Refuge for Under $40

One of my favorite things about where I live is that there is all kinds of wildlife I can see right outside my window. I don’t need to go anywhere to experience nature. If you want to boost the wildlife population in your yard, here are some inexpensive ideas that provide a safe habitat for local creatures.

Bee house

Build a mason bee house to attract these pollinating bees to live and work in your yard. You can also buy a stylish pre-made mason bee house for about $20.

Bird house

Install a birdhouse to give birds a place to live in your yard even if you don’t have a lot of natural nesting sites. You can design and build your own birdhouse from a variety of scavenged materials including coffee cans and cowboy boots or order a wooden birdhouse kit for around $12.

Bird feeder

Birds will come from all around if you put out a bird feeder and keep it stocked with fresh birdseed. You can choose a simple tube-style feeder for as cheap as $5–$10, or get a rectangular feeder for a few dollars more. Sprinkle a bit of feed on the ground to help birds find it.

Hummingbird feeder

You can attract hummingbirds to your yard by putting out a nectar feeder, which will cost around $10. Hummingbirds are attracted to red, so choose a feeder that is red or one that has a clear glass that can be filled with red nectar. Change the nectar every few days to keep it fresh. You can buy this nectar in bulk (about 64 oz) for about $10. I mix my own nectar in small batches using a powdered formula. You can also keep unused portions of nectar fresh in your refrigerator until you need…

The sly bird meme is the latest thing you have to know about

Image: twitter

Another day another meme, my friends.

The internet never takes an off day and is a fickle beast when it comes to its memes. Today’s meme is an image of a mischievous looking duck that looks like it knows something you don’t. The origin of said image is already lost to history, of course, but needless to say the internet has had a great time with it over the past couple of days.

Early dinosaur relative sported odd mix of bird, crocodile-like traits

Teleocrater rhadinus
REPTILE REIMAGINED Unlike other known close dinosaur relatives, Teleocrater rhadinus (illustrated) walked on four feet instead of two and had an ankle bone like a crocodile’s.

Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales “Bernardino Rivadavia” (Buenos Aires, Argentina), artwork by Gabriel Lio

While researching fossils in a museum in 2007, Sterling Nesbitt noticed one partial skeleton that was hard to place. Though the reptile — at the time, unofficially called Teleocrater rhadinus — was thought to be a dinosaur relative, it was an oddball. At about 2 meters long, it was larger than other close relatives, walked on four feet instead of two, and had an unusually long neck and tail. Since the skeleton was missing some key bones, it was hard to know where the creature, found in Tanzania in 1933, fit within Archosauria, the group that includes crocodiles, birds and dinosaurs.

Nesbitt, himself on the way to Tanzania for a dig, couldn’t shake thoughts of the strange fossil. “It would be nice if we found more,” the vertebrate paleontologist, now at Virginia Tech, remembers thinking.

Now, a decade later, he and colleagues have done just that, discovering three additional partial skeletons of T. rhadinus — including bones missing from the original specimen. The more complete picture of T. rhadinus provides the first good…

Wake Up to a Chorus of Bird Songs With This Mobile Alarm App

No matter where you live, you can wake up to the sweet warbles of songbirds. The Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh’s Innovation Studio has released an alarm clock app to wake you up with the birdsong of your choice, as Hyperallergic reports.

Dawn Chorus came out of an effort to create a museum app that would be useful to people every day, not just on days they visit. What the developers came up with was an alarm clock that draws on the collection of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

The audio featured on the app comes from birds that are native to western Pennsylvania, all sourced from the Macaulay Library, a Cornell-based archive of multimedia…

Woman Visits Her Son’s Grave, A Bird Shows Up And Gives Her A Sign

Nature has a beautiful way of comforting us just when we need it the most. For example, take this little bird who showed up next to Marie Robinson’s son’s grave on the third anniversary of his passing. The grieving mother, who lost her 4-year-old son Jack to brain cancer in 2014, was visiting the cemetery when a beautiful robin appeared and started flying around the woman.

The birdie wasn’t afraid at all, and at one point, he even landed on Robinson’s foot. But it gets even better.

When the woman started filming the bird, he took perch on…

Dog Saves Unconscious Bird, Bird Can’t Be More Grateful

Meet Diamond, the smart doggie from Iceland who has just become a hero after saving an unconscious bird. The Jack Russell’s dad Gunnar Kr Sigurjónsson was busy working at a home office when the dog walked in and started whining, as if wanting the man to follow. “When I didn’t follow, he came back and whined some more,” Gunnar told The Dodo. “So finally I gave in and followed him.”

Diamond ran straight to the balcony where Sigurjónsson saw a little bird without any signs of life. “I immediately thought the bird was dead, so I called Diamond inside,” said Gunnar. “Then I thought I saw the bird blink an eye.”

The little fellow started to move his wings. Sigurjónsson quickly brought him inside the house. “I gave him some water and some birdseed I had. After an hour or so, I was going to…