Enjoy a Day at Birdworld in Surrey

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Located on 26 acres in Surrey’s Alice Holt Forest, Birdworld offers the perfect setting for a family outing. As one of the largest bird parks in England, Birdworld is home to an extensive collection of bird species, housed in conditions which keep the birds happy while allowing visitors to view them up close. In addition to viewing the birds, which include everything from the tiniest Sunbird to the impressive Maribou stork, the park offers a daily program of events and activities that will keep the family busy all day.

Birdworld includes the Jenny Wren Farm with a wide range of domestic animals such as goats, pigs, ponies, chickens and a cow which visitors can pet. The pet shop at the farm has rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, ferrets, chipmunks, finches, rats and poultry. If the kids manage to persuade mom and dad that they really will look after one of these cute little creatures, the pet shop has all the housing, bedding and other paraphernalia needed to take the new member of the family home. Bird lovers will find that finches make good pets, but need to keep in mind that while they are not demanding on their owner’s time, they do need a mate, so be prepared to get two.

Daily events at Birdworld include feeding the Humboldt Penguins twice a day (11am and 3:30 pm). The keepers doing the feeding will offer interesting facts on these comical birds as they dive into the glass-sided pool for their food. Depending on weather conditions, each day between Easter and the end of October, the park has an outdoor flying display featuring a range of birds, including owls, kookaburras and parrots. The indoor Heron Theater Show stars a range of birds displaying their natural behavior while the presenter details a number of fascinating facts about these indigenous birds. Visitors can join the keepers as they feed the Owls and Bird of Prey, all the while sharing interesting facts about the birds and answering questions. The Safari Road Train takes visitors to see some of Birdworld’s larger inhabitants, including Emus, Cranes, Storks and Ostriches. Be sure to ask about the conservation projects Birdworld is involved in.

With so much to do at Birdworld, plan to spend the day at the park. You may want to try and include some of the special events, such as Art in the Park, Teddy Bear’s Picnic, or Mini Beast Safari Day, so be sure to check in with Birdworld on what’s happening when you make your plans to visit.

DNA Research Reveals Lifespan Link

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Researchers from the Universities of Exeter and Glasgow have determined in a study of the DNA of a captive population of zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata), that just one specific piece of genetic material in a bird’s cells can reveal how long it is likely to live. Called telomeres, these portions of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) which mark the ends of chromosomes are found in almost all higher animals and plants. Telomeres help to protect the ends of chromosomes as they divide, preventing them from fusing with one another, or unraveling. After time, telomere ends become shorter and no longer protect chromosomes, resulting in cell damage and deterioration.

It has long been suspected that telomeres decline and the ageing process are closely linked, but this has not been proven in humans, and studies thus far have relied on limited monitoring during a lifespan. This recent study started measuring telomere length when the zebra finches were twenty-five days old and continued periodically over the course of the birds’ lives. The results, which were published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, revealed a close association between telomere length and longevity. Although the results in this study are very convincing, ecologist Pat Monaghan of the University of Glasgow notes that this does not necessarily hold true for humans, and telomere researcher Duncan Baird of Cardiff University agrees.

Zebra finches were chosen for the study as they breed well in captivity and have an average lifespan of nine years, allowing researchers to draw conclusions in a relatively short space of time when compared to humans, while at the same time not being as short-lived as mice. A total of ninety-nine finches were used in the study and it was noted that the association between lifespan and telomere length was strongest at twenty-five days of age. This is a time in the bird’s life when it is almost fully grown, but still sexually immature and reliant of its parents for sustenance. This age would be roughly equivalent to a prepubescent human.

More research needs to be done to determine the significance of the results, as it is known that telomere length is not exclusively genetically determined and can be shortened by stressful events. Baird also noted that the data doesn’t reveal whether telomeres are driving the ageing process. Moreover, the results were for the entire population of birds being monitored, individual results may present a different picture.