Searching for Magnetoreceptors in Birds

April 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Features

The theory that navigational skills in some birds may be influenced by iron particles in their beaks reacting to the magnetic field of the earth, has recently been refuted by scientists at Vienna’s Institute of Molecular Pathology. Acknowledging that the new discovery was somewhat disappointing, molecular biologist David Keays noted that the mystery of how animals detect magnetic fields had become even more mysterious.

Using 3D scanners on slivers of pigeon beak, researchers found that the particles which had previously been thought to react with the earth’s magnetic field were in fact macrophages with normal amounts of organic iron to protect the birds from infection. These cells have no ability to produce electric signals to communicate with brain cells and are therefore unable to influence the pigeon’s behavior. These same cells were also found in other parts of the bird’s body and are found in other animals, particularly in the spleen, lungs, and skin, where they play an essential role in recycling iron from red blood cells and fight against infection. The findings were confirmed by scientists from the University of Western Australia – Jeremy Shaw and Martin Saunders – who were also working on the study.

Keays was reported as saying that the new discovery should not be seen as a set-back as it puts scientists on the right path to finding magnetic cells. The general consensus remains that birds, and a significant number of other animals, detect the magnetic field of the earth and use it for navigation. So it stands to reason that they must have cells facilitating this, although in the case of birds, it has been suggested they may make use of landmarks or sunlight for navigation as well.

Scientists will continue in their quest to understand how migratory birds interact with the earth’s magnetic fields, with the hope of linking their findings to other species with homing habits, including sea turtles, rainbow trout and bees. Although the project has its challenges, Keays believes that learning how nature detects magnetic fields could lead to the creation of artificial magnetoreceptors with the potential of treating human medical conditions, particularly relating to the brain.

Pet Birds: Green-Rumped Parrotlets

April 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Pet Birds

Green-rumped parrotlets are the second most popular species of parrotlets. Green-rumps (Forpus passerinus) are a bright, beautiful emerald green. They are shy birds, a contrast to the Pacific parrotlets. However, if they are cared for properly and have time spent with them daily, they will eventually come out of their shell. Green-rumps are not known for talking but may pick up a few words and are capable of learning tricks. Green-rumps are available in several color mutations, such as Green-Gray and Turquoise.

Green-rumped parrotlets are not known for being aggressive or biting, and very rarely bite or nip. Green-rumps need at least three toys in their cage and a playgym, as they are very active birds and love to climb. Green-rumps need at least thirty minutes a day with you, as they will become lonely and develop anxiety and possibly pluck their feathers without one-on-one playtime daily.

Green-rumps also need at least 3 veggies and two fruits daily to keep them in top condition. They also need about four teaspoons of a ¾ seeds, ¼ pellet mix. Feed color mutations this except the pellets. Don’t feed pellets to color mutations. Parrotlets should also have a cuttlebone, mineral block, or both in the cage at all times.

Green-rumps aren’t for everyone, but are lovely birds and are loving, sweet, and friendly. If you’’re interested in a Green-rump parrotlet, check out a local parrot rescue society or contact a breeder. Green-rumps are a serious commitment as they live for 20 years or more, so think things over before you get a new bird. Parrotlets can’t just be given up, as they bond with their owner very strongly, so think things through before making serious decisions.

Article contributed by: Eliza Kuklinski.

2012 Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua

April 17, 2012 by  
Filed under Events

Individuals attending the 2012 Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua have a fantastic program to look forward to. A number of exciting field trips have been organised in a variety of habitats. Interesting presentations and workshops will be hosted including: Aerial Predators and Ecology, Nature Awareness: Fire by Friction and Primitive Shelters, Meet the Chipmunks, Bird Vocalizations, Field Sketching, Great Basin and Sierra Nevada Odonates 101, Who Gives a Hoot, Introduction to Image Editing, Bird Words, The Art of Seeing and much more. Don’t forget to register for the Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua.

Dates: 15 to 17 June 2012
Location: Lee Vining
State: California
Country: United States of America

Cerulean Warbler Weekend

April 17, 2012 by  
Filed under Events

Organized by Michigan Audubon the Cerulean Warbler Weekend is held in the state’s best area for spotting these delightful little birds, Barry County. This weekend is devoted to learning about North America’s fastest declining songbird and its conservation. Several birding tours will be held, focussing on Cerulean Warblers, Henslow’s Sparrow, Flycatchers and so forth. The Cerulean Warbler Weekend schedule also includes workshops on butterfly and dragonfly identification and opportunities to paddle on Glass Creek. Keynote speaker at the evnet is Dr. Jeff Hoover, an Avian Ecologist from the Illinois Natural HIstory Survey.

Dates: 1 to 3 June 2012
Time: 05:30 am
Location: Barry County
State: Michigan
Country: United States of America

Pet Birds: Yellow-Faced Parrotlets

April 17, 2012 by  
Filed under Pet Birds

Yellow-faced parrotlets (Forpus xanthops) are beautiful birds. They are green with gray and bright, beautiful, sunny yellow faces. Although they are small, they are smart and may learn to do tricks or talk.

Yellow-faced parrotlets, like all parrots, need a quality seed mix and fruit and vegetables daily. They need at least 30 minutes to an hour of attention daily or they get very lonely. Yellow-faces are very active birds and need at least three to four toys in their cage. They also need a play-gym and love one-on-one snuggling. Yellow-Faces should not be kept in an aviary unless it is very large or they may attack other parrotlets.

Yellow-faces, as mentioned before, are good talkers. While it is not guaranteed that they will learn words, they can learn whistles, words, and short sentences. Yellow-faced parrotlets generally aren’t huge fans of petting, but may enjoy the occasional “scratchie.”However, they are still very social and love attention, especially having their owners talk to them. In general they are very sweet, loving birds.

These parrotlets have many different subspecies. There is also a Pacific parrotlet color mutation, Fallow, which makes those birds appear similar to Yellow-faces; however, they don’t have the dark spots on the beak like Yellow-faces. Yellow-faced parrotlets are rare in the U.S. and may be hard to find.

Yellow-faced parrotlets can live over 20 years, so they’re a lifelong commitment. These parrotlets aren’t easy and need a serious dedication. Don’t buy a bird on a whim; take your birds seriously.

Article contributed by: Eliza Kuklinski.

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