Ravens Show Emotions

July 27, 2010 by  
Filed under Features

Ravens have had a stigma attached to them for centuries, symbolizing darkness in poems, songs and movies. With their black plumage and black eyes, they would seem to be the ideal bird to symbolize death and depression, but these fascinating birds also have a compassionate and social side to them that few have been aware of until recently. Researchers specifically chose ravens for their studies, due to the fact that ravens stay in a social flock for approximately ten years of their lives before finding a mate and pairing off. This characteristic of the raven has allowed researchers to study how they interact, and even how they console each other.

More than 150 fights were documented and recorded by the researchers over a two year study period to learn more about the socialization of the ravens. A special group of hand-reared ravens were chosen for the study, allowing them to live in a flock as they would in the wild. The young ravens showed all the natural signs of birds that are not in captivity, such as fighting for dominance and various other reasons. From these conflicts it could easily be assessed which of the birds were the victims, which were the aggressors and those who can be classified as bystanders.

The study showed that once a fight had occurred between the birds, bystanders that had a relationship with the victim would console each other. At times, victims would be consoled by random bystanders through preening or even just by touch. It was also observed that bystanders did not fear approaching a victim, as victims rarely initiated aggressive behavior, and that victims could also approach other birds in the flock after an altercation without leading to another unprovoked fight. Victims could, however, not approach their aggressor. The act of consoling a victim also seems to bring peace to the flock. Relationships between birds can also blossom through the act of consoling, bringing the flock together again. Emotional acts that were once only attributed to humans can now also be seen in birds, and the study of the ravens has confirmed this fact. Nature never ceases to amaze us and teaches us something new each day. In this case, the ravens have revealed a softer and lighter side to their personalities.

Nightingale’s Journey Provides Valuable Migratory Information

July 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Features

While being fairly nondescript in appearance, the nightingale is legendary for its amazing singing ability, which can often be heard at night, as well as in daylight hours. The name nightingale literally means ‘night songstress’ revealing the misconception early writers had that it is the female that produces the complex range of trills, whistles and gurgles, when in fact it is the male. It has long puzzled researchers as to where exactly in Africa these migratory birds spent the northern hemisphere’s winter months. Now thanks to technological advances, it has been possible for scientists in Norfolk to track a single nightingale’s 3,000 mile migratory journey, thereby providing invaluable information that will hopefully assist in halting the decline in numbers of this fascinating bird.

In April 2009, scientists from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) captured a male nightingale near Methwold Hythe in Norfolk and fitted it with a geolocator – a tiny device for tracking the bird’s position. This new technology has proven to be vastly superior in providing accurate information as compared to the method of ringing birds which has been used for decades prior to this. The information gathered helps scientist not only to examine threats to the wellbeing of breeding birds in their home territory, but also to evaluate whether migratory destinations of the birds are impacting negatively on their numbers.

Codenamed OAD, the nightingale left its home territory in Norfolk on July 25, 2009, arriving in southern France in mid-August. By September, OAD had arrived in northern Morocco, where it remained for around three weeks. The nightingale continued on to the Western Sahara, where it appeared to stop for a while before continuing to Senegal in November, and from there to Guinea Bissau where it remained until returning to Norfolk in February 2010. Due to the locator failing, the exact route of the return journey is not known, nevertheless it was captured by researchers about 50 yards from the spot where it was initially found in April 2009.

No doubt, the information gleaned from OAD’s epic journey will be of great value to BTO as they continue their work of understanding the pressures faced by birds migrating to Africa.

Birdlife Cheese and Wine 2010

July 14, 2010 by  
Filed under Events

The Birdlife SA association will be hosting the Birdlife Cheese and Wine 2010, to raise funds for bird conservation and birdlife awareness projects. Guest speakers such as David Chamberlain, Mark Anderson and Alan Knott-Craig will captivating audiences with their fascinating information on birds, photography and bird watching adventures that wait to be discovered. It is an opportunity to support the conservation efforts in South Africa and to be educated on the beautiful birds of the country.

For more information, visit the Birdlife SA website at http://www.birdlife.org.za/page/6090/fundraisers.

Date: 17 August 2010
Venue: Irene Country Lodge
City: Irene
Country: South Africa

British Bird Fair 2010

July 14, 2010 by  
Filed under Events

The British Bird Fair is one of the biggest birding and bird watching events on the British calendar, and offers visitors a host of activities and stores to enjoy. It is an event that focuses on birds and wildlife, and visitors can find everything from binoculars, sculptures and nutritional items to take home with them. Eco-holidays will also be available, and over and above lectures and workshops, there will be fun quiz shows, book launches, art work to enjoy and various other entertaining activities.

The British Bird Fair will be held from 20 – 22 August 2010, and those interested in attending, can visit the fair website at http://www.birdfair.org.uk/ for more information.

Date: 20 – 22 August 2010
Venue: Eagleton Nature Reserve
City: Rutland
Country: United Kingdom

Attracting Birds: Seed Preferences

July 6, 2010 by  
Filed under Birding Tips

There is no better way to decorate your garden than with a collection of wild birds that bring color and song to the trees and landscaped areas. Luring a variety of birds to a garden is not always as easy as it may sound. Most birds know exactly what they like and will travel to an area where they know they can eat their preferred seed or form of food. Fortunately, if you know what birds you want to attract, you can purchase the seeds and items that draw these species into your garden.

It is important to fill a variety of bird feeders and place them in different locations throughout the garden. This way birds will not be fighting to get to the food and a greater number of birds will frequent the feeders. Putting out their favorite foods is the best way to ensure that they will continue to return, and in winter bird feeders assist a great number of birds to survive the cold weather. Wild birds will not usually eat artificial pellets or processed seeds as they are not accustomed to them, so natural seeds are the key.

Sunflower seeds are generally a safe bet, as a wide variety of birds will eat them, such as chickadees, nuthatches, finches, cardinals, grosbeaks, sparrows, blackbirds, jays, woodpeckers and titmice. All these birds, with the exception of the sparrows, blackbirds, jays and woodpeckers, will also eat Safflower seeds. When trying to lure ducks, geese, mourning doves and quails, cracked corn will do the trick; and woodpeckers, titmice and chickadees are also known to eat unsalted peanuts. Nyjer (or Thistle) will attract redpolls, doves and pine siskins; while orioles, thrushes and hummingbirds prefer nectar. Fruit is another option to use in combination with seeds as mockingbirds, bluebirds, thrushes, cedar waxwings and orioles will enjoy the treat. The preferred food for juncos and towhees is millet. Setting out a mixture of seeds, fruits and nectar will have any garden filled with birds in no time, allowing home owners to enjoy the beauty of these winged creatures and relax to the melodies of their cheerful songs.