Possible Insights into the Evolution of Flight

June 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Features

A study run by the University of Montana might just be able to bring clarity to the evolution of flight, as Brandon Jackson and his team conducted research into bird flight. Their findings have recently been published in the Journal of Experimental Biology. The art of flap-running by birds is the major factor discussed in the study, showing that this method could have been used by once flightless birds, and is still used by birds today to enable them to propel themselves forward. Jackson wanted to know why.

It seems that birds today will often flap their wings while walking up a slope or incline, to enable them to move forward. It is believed that this flap-run movement enables birds to take to flight. It is the same technique that is adopted by chicks, as they are unable to fly when they are born, and need to learn how to conquer this method of movement. The fact that birds are not born with flight abilities, has led researchers to believe that this very method was part of the evolution of flight. This interesting method of movement was noticed by Ken Dial while he was studying chuckars, which are part of the partridge family. After talking to locals and ranchers who have constant contact with these birds, they confirmed that most of the chuckars would rather flap-run up a hill or cliff, as it seems that it takes a lot less energy for them to flap-run instead of flying. This became very intriguing to researchers and they decided to measure how much power is being used while flap-running as opposed to flying.

They managed to record this by implanting electrodes into pigeons’ flight muscles, which could then record the muscle activity. Pigeons are very good flyers, but given inclines and ramps, the difference between flying up the incline and flap-running was analyzed. It was found that much less power was used during flap-running and that this method would therefore be crucial for chicks to learn how to fly, as well as for birds that are still developing their plumage to escape predators. This study has not only given the researchers new insight into birds but a glimpse back into the evolution of flight.

Raising a Chick at the Age of Sixty

March 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Pet Birds

Wisdom’s first band was placed on her while incubating an egg in the year 1956, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been keeping an eye on her ever since. To be able to breed, a Laysan Albatross needs to be five years old, which now puts her age at an estimated sixty years. Wisdom is a celebrity of the North American Bird Banding Program, as she is the oldest bird on their records since the project was initiated ninety years ago. Now she is raising another chick, which brings her total number of chicks raised during her lifetime to approximately thirty to thirty-five. What is even more amazing, is the fact that these birds mate for life, meaning that her partner is either still accompanying her on her journey or she has outlived him.

The albatross has a long history with mankind, with sailors believing that each albatross was the soul of a lost sailor and thus they were extremely opposed to these birds being killed. The relationship between birds and humans might have changed somewhat, but they are still being studied and protected.

Not only is the new chick that Wisdom is raising a wonderful landmark event, but she has been a great source of information for researchers and scientists. Her estimated age is determined by the life cycle that the Laysan Albatross follows. Parents will raise a chick for an entire year, and once the chick is fledged, it heads out to sea for time period of between three to five years. These amazing birds will not touch ground during this time and are even able to take a small nap while they are flying. Due to these birds traveling a distance of around fifty thousand miles in a year, Wisdom has traveled an estimated two or three million miles already. She has most definitely used her wisdom to survive all these years.

Bruce Peterjohn could not be prouder of Wisdom, and as the North American Bird Banding Program chief, he was able to confirm that the second oldest Laysan Albatross that was recorded by the project was banded as a chick and lived to forty-two years and five months. And while Wisdom silently sits with her chick and continues on her journey, still looking fit and healthy, she has no idea what a stir she has caused amongst the humans who have been following her life and how proud and excited they are for her.

What Should You Do if You Find a Baby Bird?

November 9, 2007 by  
Filed under Features

What should you do if you find a baby bird? There are times that baby birds either fall out of their nests or their nests are destroyed. People often feel sorry for these babies and take them home to care for them, but there are a few dangers involved for the bird that the public should be aware of.

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Choosing the Perfect Bird House: Part 1

January 15, 2007 by  
Filed under Features

In today’s world, many birds can’t find good cavities to nest in. Many of their old nesting haunts have been developed or deforested. You can help these birds by erecting birdhouses on your property.

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Scrubfowl and their Spectacular Nests

January 8, 2007 by  
Filed under Features

Some bird species build very large nests. The Bald Eagle, for instance, arranges sticks and branches into a giant platform weighing hundreds of pounds. One bald eagle nest that fell from a tree weighed in at 2 tons!

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