I think our local red kites were mostly living on roadkill, and the lockdown means they’re not getting fed. They’ve also forgotten how to hunt: this afternoon I watched one get its ass handed to it by a medium-sized crow.
I told this story to a few guildies a while back and decided to archive it in a longer format; so here is the story of The Great Flamingo Uprising of 2010 as told to me by my favorite cousin who was a keeper at the time.
In addition to the aviary/jungle exhibit, our zoo has several species of birds that pretty much have the run of the place. They started with a small flock of flamingos and some free-range peacocks that I’m almost certain came from my old piano teacher’s farm. She preferred them to chickens. At some point in time they also acquired a pair of white swans (“hellbirds”) and some ornamental asian duckies to decorate the pond next to the picnic area. Pigeons, crows, assorted ducks and a large number of opportunistic Canada geese moved in on their own.
I lost it at the bit where the koi blooped again.
Morals: geese are evil, swans are eviler, flamingos and peacocks are weird as fuck, and this story’s hilarious.
So… two eagles, Valor I (male) and Hope (female) raised some chicks in a nest. Then Valor II (another male) came along and tried to displace Valor I, but he wouldn’t go, so the pair of them both ultimately cooperated in raising Hope’s chicks, even after Hope was driven away by some other eagles. Later, another female, Starr, turned up and Valor I and Valor II are collectively incubating three eggs of hers in the nest.
I’ve known (human) polyamorous networks with origin stories less-complicated than this.
Nigel, a handsome gannet bird who lived on a desolate island off the coast of New Zealand, died suddenly this week. Wherever his soul has landed, the singles scene surely cannot be worse.
The bird was lured to Mana Island five years ago by wildlife officials who, in hopes of establishing a gannet colony there, had placed concrete gannet decoys on cliffsides and broadcast the sound of the species’ calls. Nigel accepted the invitation, arriving in 2013 as the island’s first gannet in 40 years. But none of his brethren joined him.
In the absence of a living love interest, Nigel became enamored with one of the 80 faux birds. He built her — it? — a nest. He groomed her “chilly, concrete feathers . . . year after year after year,” the Guardian reported. He died next to her in that unrequited love nest, the vibrant orange-yellow plumage of his head contrasting, as ever, with the weathered, lemony paint of hers.
“Whether or not he was lonely, he certainly never got anything back, and that must have been [a] very strange experience,” conservation ranger Chris Bell, who also lives on the island, told the paper. “I think we all have a lot of empathy for him, because he had this fairly hopeless situation.”
While on lunch break from the MCGProjects conference in York, Jenny Townshend shoots footage of a harrier hawk flying through a loop made by the arms of Dan and some random tourist.
Birds that sing their songs at a higher pitch help them travel further in built-up areas.
Previously it was thought that great tits and other common birds sung at a higher pitch in noisy areas to avoid the low pitch noise from traffic and industry.
Now, scientists from Aberystwyth University and the University of Copenhagen have found that it is the buildings that are changing the way that birds sing in cities.
Their new study, published in the journal PLoS One, suggests that urban architecture may be just as important as background noise in shaping how our birds sing.
“Our cities are packed with reflective surfaces, open spaces and narrow channels, which you just don’t get in woodland. Because sounds bounce and travel in different ways, birds have to use songs that can cope with this”, says researcher Emily Mockford. “The higher notes mean the echoes disappear faster and the next note is clearer”.
A surprise result also showed that urban songs transmitted more clearly in woodland than the rural songs of the local birds. So why don’t rural birds also sing urban songs?
Dr Rupert Marshall, Lecturer in Animal Behaviour at Aberystwyth University, commented “In woodland where trees and leaves obscure the view, many species of songbird can tell how far away a rival is by how degraded its song is. In cities there are fewer visual obstacles and song doesn’t degrade as quickly, so city birds may just concentrate on being heard”.
City birdsong may be bouncing off the walls – but does it have the X factor?
Well, Spring’s finally coming around: the tell tale sign for me is that the black-headed gulls are back. One flew over my head as I crossed the bridge on the way to work this morning; for your reference, they’re the ones that look like this:
Their reappearance is a good sign that the weather’s taking a turn for the better, because they bother to fly all the way from the Mediterranean just to hang out on cliffs in the UK and steal chips from British tourists. Kids these days, eh?