Breakthrough in Understanding Bird Intelligence

April 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Features

Humans and primates have always been seen as intelligent due to the ability to solve problems and create tools to assist in various labors. But there is another creature that uses its tool making skills every day: the New Caledonian Crow. Similar in size to the normal House Crow, New Caledonian Crows can be distinguished by their less slender look, and their rich feathers that often shine in shades of dark blue and purple. They are all black in color, with chiseled features, and have very advanced skills that give the phrase “bird-brain” new meaning.

Scientists have been researching New Caledonian Crows and are ready to release their findings in regard to the abilities of this fascinating bird. It has always been known that these crows make use of tools in the wild to obtain food. They create tools from screw pine leaves by using their beaks to cut away the leafy edges to form a narrow strip that they are able to use to scratch in small holes to extract insects. Researchers decided to put the skills of the crows to the test, not by asking them to perform a one step task, but by giving them various options and multi-step tasks to complete. Some birds were able to assess the situation and complete their tasks on their first try, while others were able to figure out the solution to the problem within their first four attempts.

One of the tests given to the crows involved a piece of meat that was placed in a box, but was out of their reach. They were then given a short stick, and a long stick was placed in another box. The crows quickly established that the short stick was too short to retrieve the meat, but long enough to retrieve the longer stick and completed their task, which was rewarded by the tasty treat. Another test gave the crows a straight wire to remove a small bucket from a hole, containing meat. Here, the crows assessed the situation and used their skills to bend the straight wire into a hook to retrieve their food. Zoologist, Professor Alex Kacelnik, from the University of Oxford commented: “These animals learn something interesting, no doubt, and can use its flexibly to generate new behavior, a feat that until a couple of decades ago was thought to be restricted to humans and other apes.” Research has also shown that adults teach their young the skills they know, ensuring that the next generation is also able to solve food related problems. One fact is for certain: humans will never look at crows in the same light again. They have proven to have extraordinary skills and the ability to manufacture tools.

Attracting Birds

February 9, 2009 by  
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Attracting birds to your garden can be a most rewarding activity, providing countless opportunities to enjoy bird watching in your own back yard. There is no need for a bird cage to gain pleasure from viewing and listening to these beautiful winged creatures.

There are three basic requirements for attracting birds to your garden, namely: Food, water and shelter.

Food for garden birds can be provided in two complimentary ways. First, is by the use of a bird feeder or a bird table. Consider the species you would like to attract to your garden and provide feed accordingly. A variety of bird feeders spread throughout the garden will encourage a wider variety of birds to visit. Consider a bird table for ground feeding birds; a hanging feeder for perching birds and a suet feeder for insect eating birds. Pet shops, garden centers and even some supermarkets will sell a range of bird feeders as well as a variety of foods suitable for different types of birds. Consult a good bird guide to get an idea as to what certain birds will be interested in i.e. are they seed eaters, insect eaters, nectar eaters etc. Secondly, consider planting a bird-friendly garden. Visit your local garden centre and look for indigenous plants that will produce berries, nuts, seeds and other food all year round. Such plants will meet the needs of local garden birds. Indigenous plants will also attract insects on which insect-eating birds can feed. Avoid the use of insecticides as these may end up poisoning the very birds you have invited to your garden.

Next to consider is water. Birds will thoroughly enjoy splashing around in a water feature. A bird bath will be just as much appreciated. When purchasing a bird bath, ensure that the surface is rough so that the birds will have something to grip onto. Remember to keep the bird bath or water feature clean so that the bird’s health will not be adversely affected.

Shelter can be provided in the form of a bird house (nesting box) or by planting indigenous trees and shrubbery. Pet shops and garden centers should be able to provide you with a suitable bird house for the different species.

By meeting these three basic requirements, you can enjoy bird watching from the comfort of your home.

Benefits of Project Wildbird

January 7, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

In 2005 the board of directors of the Wild Bird Feeding Industry (WBFI) took the initiative to establish a not-for-profit foundation to undertake research relating to food and feeder preferences of the wild birds in Canada and the United States. Running from September 2005 through to August 2008, Project Wildbird, funded by the WBFI Research Foundation, is one of the most ambitious and comprehensive bird feeding studies ever undertaken.

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Pet Budgies and Their Care

December 12, 2007 by  
Filed under Pet Birds

Up until 1840, most Europeans were familiar with the green parakeets that first arrived from Australia in 1770. It was John Gould soon introduced a new group of pet birds when be brought budgies (Melopsittacus undulates) back to England. From here, the race was on to breed some of the most colorful budgies, or budgerigars, and in 1870 a yellow budgie with red eyes was bred, even though this colour variant did not survive. Today, there are more than two hundred and fifty color variants to choose from.

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Oxpeckers – Cleaners or Parasites?

December 10, 2007 by  
Filed under Features

The two species of oxpecker which make up the family Buphagidae are endemic to sub-Saharan Africa. The yellow-billed oxpecker (Buphagus africanus) is slightly larger and more widely found than its red-billed cousin (Buphagus erythrorhynchus) which is generally only found in the eastern part of sub-Saharan Africa.

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