Young Penguins Fitted with Monitors

July 19, 2011 by  
Filed under News

The African Penguin, also referred to as the Jackass Penguin, might be a little awkward on land, but can definitely hold its own in the water as a very efficient hunter. Tourists who visit Cape Town, South Africa, and see the beauty of these birds do not realize that they are actually witnessing a very rare moment, as the population of these birds has decreased from approximately four million in the 1900s. The last census done by the Southern African Foundation of the Conservation of Coastal Birds in 2010 counted only sixty thousand. This alarming decrease has led to the creation of a new project to protect these valuable birds.

Humans, as the story usually goes, had a great influence in the reduction of numbers of African Penguins, as up until the 1960s the penguin eggs were being harvested for human consumption. Another factor was the harvesting of guano that was used as fertilizer, but is crucial for adult penguins, as they use the hardened guano to make nest burrows. To add to the penguins’ problems, oil spills and over harvesting of anchovies and other fish species that are a part of their diet has made their fight for survival even harder.

Scientists want to try and create artificial hatcheries to assist in the breeding of African Penguins for release, but to recreate the hatcheries efficiently, it is vital for them to have the correct information to understand the penguins better. In order to do this they have attached a transmitter, which is approximately the size of a matchbox, to baby penguins that are about ten weeks of age. The penguins are first placed in a pool so they can get used to swimming with the transmitter and then released into the ocean. One penguin has already been released, and a penguin named Richie is due for release. Scientists will be releasing approximately five penguins with transmitters.

Dr Richard Sherley, a key member of the scientific team from the University of Cape Town, commented that he hoped that the data collected would allow them to understand what influences breeding colonies in the choices they make and the early life of a penguin, as these questions have not been answered as yet. Lucy, which was the first penguin to be released, has already transmitted back data, which showed scientists that young penguins are able to swim approximately twenty-eight miles in one day. Sherley commented that because no-one really knows much about the early days and life of young penguins, it is crucial for them to collect this data to assist in their conservation projects. The transmitters will eventually fall off of the penguins, but it is hoped that by then enough information has been gathered to assist scientists in finding the ideal breeding site for a colony that can be protected and will be the site of the hatchery.

A Bird’s Touch

March 5, 2010 by  
Filed under Pet Birds

Nature not only surrounds us with sheer beauty but also offers an abundance of fascinating new discoveries that continue to amaze us. Just when we think we know everything about an animal or bird, they seem to prove us wrong. More recently, birds have revealed that crests and beards are not merely used for finding a mate, but serve a greater purpose, allowing them to explore their surroundings as well. Research on birds, such as the auklet, has opened up a new door into the world of birds and their feathers.

Professor Ian Jones, St John’s Memorial University, and Dr Sampath Seneviratne, University of British Columbia, shared their insights and suspicions that certain feathers on a bird’s body could serve to heighten the sense of touch. When looking at birds, such as the auklet, which have intricate feathers on their heads, scientists found that by putting them through a simple navigational test, much was revealed in regard to the role that crests and head feathers play. Using a dark maze, as this breed tends to breed in dark crevices, it was found that when the birds navigated the test, they succeeded in completing the maze with less difficulty than when researchers flattened their head feathers. It was also noted that in general, if birds have ornamental feathering, they tend to be birds that are active at night.

Researchers then looked at bird species that do not feature elaborate feathering, including pheasants, kingfishers, parrots, penguins and owls. They suggest that even if some birds do not have crests and rectal bristles, longer wing feathers may also serve as a means of touch. Many birds use their feathers and coloring to show off their abilities and to either startle or camouflage themselves from their predators, but there is good reason to believe that feathers have various other functions that we have not been aware of until now. The new insight into facial feathers and flamboyant feathering could lead to further studies,to confirm these findings and the preliminary research. This use of their feathers for touch and orientation has revealed a more complex side to birds, and will have us gazing a little more intently whenever we look at these colorful creatures of the skies.

Birds of the World

February 9, 2009 by  
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Around the world, birds are amongst the most loved creatures due to their variety, beauty and amazing vocal abilities. They are also popular due to their accessibility, that is, even if you live in a built up city you will still be able to see wild birds.

If you are going to be traveling, you may find it useful to purchase a handbook of the birds of the world. Some of the most fascinating bird species live in Australia and New Zealand. The emu is the second largest bird in the world (the largest is the ostrich). These flightless birds are nomadic, feeding on grains, fruits, insects and whatever else is available as they travel. They are able to run at speeds of 50 km/h. Folklore states that Emus have the ability to detect rain from hundreds of miles away.

The kiwi bird of New Zealand differs from other birds of the world in that its nostrils are at the end of the beak and proportionally it lays the largest egg in relation to its body. It can be compared to a chicken laying an ostrich egg.

The world’s smallest bird is the bee hummingbird from Cuba. It is only 2.5 inches in length (6.2 cm) and weighs a mere 0.06 oz (1.6 g).

On the other hand the largest bird in the world is the ostrich. The ostrich is indigenous in Africa, however it is farmed throughout the world. It reaches 9 ft (2.7 m) in height and its eggs weigh in at about 3 pounds (1400 g).

Another interesting creature in the avian world is the Gentoo penguin. This flightless bird is the fastest swimming bird in the world. Their primary colony is on the Falklands.

Certain of world’s birds are endemic. This means that they are found only in that specific area. For example the helmeted woodpecker, black-fronted piping-guan and russet winged spadebill are endemic to the Atlantic forest. Endemic to the Nicobar Islands of India are the Nicobar sparrowhawk, Andaman cuckoo-dove, white-headed starling and Nicobar Megapode.

From the world’s smallest bird to the largest, from the fastest in air to the fastest in water, they are all fascinating and worthy of our attention.

Giant Penguin Fossils Found in South America

September 18, 2007 by  
Filed under News

The Giant Penguin fossils found in South America, more specifically in Peru, have been a monumental discovery. The research of the two new penguin species found in Peru was conducted by Julia Clarke and funded by the Expeditions Council of the National Geographic Society. Finding giant penguin fossils in South America casts a shadow on the previous belief that penguins can only survive in the cold. Unearthing penguin fossils in a tropical region sheds a whole new light on penguins from the past.

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How Penguins Stay Warm (and cool!)

March 5, 2007 by  
Filed under Features

Penguins live in icy waters. The Emperor Penguin, in particular faces cold weather, living in Antarctica. It faces quite a challenge: how to keep its body temperature at 100-102 degrees Fahrenheit, when the winter air it lives in may be a full 200 degrees colder!

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