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Flamingo That Escaped Kansas Zoo in 2005 Is Spotted Living It Up 700 Miles Away, in Texas

An African flamingo that famously escaped Wichita’s Sedgwick County Zoo in 2005 has been on the run ever since. The freedom-loving bird was recently spotted hanging out with a flock of seagulls, in Lavaca Bay, Texas, 700 miles from the zoo it once called home.

The runaway bird is known as ‘No. 492’ because of the number on a plastic band still attached to its leg. Its legendary escape was due to an error by zoo staff who thought his flight wings hadn’t fully developed, so they didn’t bother cutting them. One night, the flamingo took advantage of some strong storm winds and escaped the zoo before staff even got the chance to determine its sex. The long-legged bird has been enjoying its freedom ever since, as the zoo never attempted to recapture it. That would be difficult to do anyway, both because sightings of No. 492 have been rare in the last 14 years, and because it was born in the wild and is wary of approaching humans.

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Polish NGO Puts GPS Tracker on a Stork, Gets Hit with Unexpected $2,700 Phone Bill

Polish environmental group EkoLogiczna recently had to pay a massive phone bill, after the SIM card in a GPS tracker they put on the back of a white stork, so it could collect data about the bird’s winter migration route, got stolen.

In April 2017, members of EkoLogiczna fit Kajtek, a white stork, with a GPS tracker so they could monitor his migration route to Africa, as well as his feeding habits. In the next year, the bird flew around 6,000 km and EkoLogiczna was able to collect the data they wanted, but in February of this years, something weird happened. On his way back from Africa to Poland, Kajtek stopped in Sudan, and “for unknown reasons” remained in the area for over two months, “travelling 25 kms in different directions during the day”. Then, on April 26, they lost the signal completely.

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Deadliest Flight – Taiwan’s Grueling Sea Races Kill Over One Million Pigeons Each Year

Every year, more than a million pigeons die while competing in Taiwan’s controversial pigeon sea races, a series of grueling events in which young birds are shipped far out to sea, released in the middle of nowhere and forced to fly home. According to several reports from animal rights organizations, less than 1% of them make it back to land.

The small island of Taiwan hosts more pigeon racing events than any other country in the world. A reported 500,000 Taiwanese race pigeons every year, competing for billions of New Taiwan dollars in prize money. Pigeon racing is such a big business that the National Pingtung University of Science and Technology once introduced an optional course on it, which proved very popular with both young and old pigeon racers. However, important notions taught during this course, like injury prevention and the use of performance enhancing drugs fly out the window during Taiwan’s seasonal sea races.

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Male Stork Travels 14,000 Km Every Year to Be with His Handicapped Mate

The world’s most faithful male is a stork. Every year, for the past 16 years, he has flown 14,000 km from his winter home in South Africa to a small village in Croatia, Europe, to be with his handicapped mate, who cannot fly due to an old gunshot wound.

The amazing love story between Klepetan and Malena has made the two storks celebrities in Croatia. Every March, the male stork flies back to the village of Brodski Varos, where Malena is waiting for him. They mate and have new babies each year, which Klepetan then teaches how to fly, before migrating with them to South Africa. The injured female stays behind, as she cannot fly, but she’s always well taken care of during the cold winter.

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Chicken in Thailand Still Alive 10 Days After Literally Losing Its Head

A chicken from the Ratchaburi Province in central Thailand has been hailed as a “true warrior” for surviving more than a week after being decapitated. It has now been adopted by monks who are feeding it by pumping food into its throat with a syringe.

The headless chicken first made news headlines earlier this week, after photos and videos of it went viral on Thai social media, but no one actually expected it to survive so long without a head. Facebook user Noppong Thitthammo was the first to share the story of the resilient bird, along with photos showing the mangled remains of its neck. He wrote that a vet in the Mueang Ratchaburi district of Ratchaburi Province had been caring for it, feeding it by dropping food down its neck and giving it antibiotics to prevent the infection of its wounds.

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Australia’s “Firehawks” Deliberately Start Wildfires to Flush Out Prey

According to a research paper published recently in the Journal of Ethnobiology, several Australian birds of prey have the habit of starting wildfires for the soul purpose of flushing out prey from the blazing grasslands. Interestingly, aboriginals have known about this for over 40,000 years and even have a name for the fire-wielding birds – “firehawks”.

Australia’s dry climate makes it prone to wildfires. Lightnings and human activities are considered the main causes, but according to a recently-published research paper, birds may sometimes have a part to play as well. Raptors like the black kite (Milvus migrans), whistling kite (Haliastur sphenurus), and the brown falcon (Falco berigora) can allegedly start fires in the continent’s 730,000 square miles of savanna by dropping burning sticks in the dry grass to flush out prey like insects, reptiles and small mammals. What’s even more remarkable is that they seem to be doing it on purpose.

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Wealthy Brits Install Spikes on Trees to Stop Birds Pooping on Their Expensive Cars

Wealthy residents of an elite neighborhood in Bristol, England have installed ‘anti-bird spikes’ on trees  in an attempt to protect their expensive cars from bird droppings.

The spikes, which are commonly used to prevent birds from roosting and nesting on building ledges over public sidewalks, were nailed to two trees in the exclusive Clifton area of the city, near the wildlife-rich Downs and the Avon gorge. The use of these spikes in trees has outraged locals and environmentalists alike, with one Twitter user calling it a war on wildlife. The affected trees have been described by a local Green Party councilor as uninhabitable to birds. A spokesperson for Bristol city council, however, said that the trees were on private property, so there was nothing that the local authorities could do to stop them. The spikes had apparently already been in place for several years.

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Tiny Birds Build Communal Nests So Large They Can Pull Down Trees

While most songbirds build small, discreet nests designed to shelter one clutch of eggs, the Social Weavers (Philetairus socius) of southern Africa build communal nests so large that they can pull down mature trees. Each structure can weigh over a ton, and range upwards of 20 feet wide and 10 feet tall, with over a hundred separate nesting chambers. Successive generations refurbish and reuse these compartments, often for more than a century.

Social Weavers utilize several different building materials, starting with a basic structure of woven twigs. They then line the interior with grasses and feathers and construct a 10-inch long, one-inch wide private entrance with downward pointing spiky straws to deter snakes. While a breeding pair will have a private apartment, most chambers house three or four of the birds at a time. The benefits of this lifestyle become clear in the context of the desert where temperatures vary dramatically.

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“Bird-Catcher Tree” Lures Birds with Free Meals, Then Accidentally Kills Them

Pisonia Brunoniana is a species of small flowering trees native to tropical regions from Hawaii to New Zealand, and as far west as India. The pisonia tree has soft brittle wood with large glossy leaves and a dark secret. If you search among its roots and branches, you’re likely to find thousands of delicate bones and tiny mummified corpses. It is this macabre feature that gives the tree its creepy nickname – “the birdcatcher tree”.

The pisonia tree produces long seed pods coated with a thick sticky mucus that entraps insects and the birds tempted to feast on them. The ensnared insects look like easy pickings to unsuspecting birds, but if they’re not careful, they can easily get entangled in the sticky seedpods themselves. Too many seeds caught among their feathers can weigh the birds down and prevent them from flying off the tree. If they’re not picked off by a passing scavenger, the birds are doomed to a slow death by starvation. Often, the birds die without ever escaping the pisonia’s branches, which means their withered corpses are left dangling like some strange fruit or a creepy Christmas ornament. In what can only be described as a vicious cycle, birds of prey tempted by the trapped birds sometimes also get entangled in sticky seeds and become trapped themselves.

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The “Gangs of Urban Turkeys” Terrorizing Massachusetts

After being nearly wiped out from New England in the 1800s, wild turkeys are apparently turning the tables on their human oppressors, wreaking havoc on the streets of Boston and other urban areas of Massachusetts. The number of residents attacked by the aggressive birds has increased dramatically in the last year, police say.

Wild turkeys once dominated the forests of the Northeast, but they seem to have taken a liking to cities and towns in Massachusetts, where finding better foraging beside dumpsters and in people’s backyards than in the woods. They’ve become so at home among humans that people have started referring to them as “urban turkeys”. They can be seen strutting their feathers on sidewalks, pecking shiny objects, blocking traffic, chasing after smaller pets and, in rare cases, even attacking people.

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“Birdman of Gujarat” Has Been Feeding Around 3,000 Birds Every Day, for 17 Years

Harsukh Bhai Dobariya, of Gujarat, India, is very popular with birds. Every day, between 2,500 and 3,000 parrots and sparrows visit his 4-acre farm to feed on tasty millet cobs and build their nests away from predators. Nicknamed “The Birdman”, Dobariya has spent the last 17 years of his life looking out for the birds and transforming his land into a safe ecosystem for them.

It all started in the year 2000, when Harsukh Bhai Dobariya suffered a leg fracture on his property in the Junagadh district of Gujarat, and had to spend most of his time in bed. After a neighbor came to buy some pearl millet from him, he had the idea to hang a millet cob on his balcony, which soon caught the attention of a parrot. The next day, two parrots came to feast on the delicious treat, then three, four, and within a month, there were already 100-150 parrots and sparrows visiting him every day.

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UCLA Researcher Grows Colony of 200-Plus Hummingbirds Outside Her Office

Melanie Barboni, an assistant researcher at UCLA’s Earth, Planetary and Space Science department, is known as an expert in geology and volcanic activity among her colleagues, but those who haven’t worked with her before know her only as the “hummingbird whisperer”. She has always been fascinated by the tiny birds, and after moving to Los Angeles, she has nurtured a colony of over 200 hummingbirds right outside her office window.

Growing up in Switzerland, a country with an almost non-existent population of hummingbirds, Melanie Barboni admired the colorful birds in books, but dreamed of one day seeing them up close, so when she learned that her next job assignment would lead her to Los Angeles, California, where hummingbirds live all year round, she was overjoyed. She has spent the two years since developing a colony of 200-plus hummingbirds right outside her office window, by hanging four nectar-filled feeders for them. Melanie has gotten so close to her hummingbirds that she “cannot go to a place where they are not there”.

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The Alaskan Town Where Bald Eagles Are as Common as Pigeons

The majestic bald eagle is the national bird of the United States, but most Americans are lucky to see one first-hand during their lifetimes. Unless they live in the town of Unalaska, Alaska, where bald eagles are as common as pigeons are in other human settlements.

Unalaska is home to around 4,700 people who have to share their space with over 600 beautiful bald eagles. It looks and sounds like something out of a fairytale, but it turns out that sharing your home with territorial predators also has its downsides. For one thing, you’re more likely to get attacked by a bald eagle in Unalaska than anywhere else in the US, and locals constantly have to keep an eye out for the birds, especially when going near their nests. They apparently hate it when people get too close.

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Brazilian Church “Hypnotizes” Pesky Pigeons with Colored Bullseyes

The Nossa Senhora da Consolação church, in downtown Sao Paolo, Brazil, used to have a serious pigeon problem. The pesky birds would fly through the place during sermons, poop on  the benches and leave feathers everywhere, but ever since they had these colored circle panels installed in the windows and doorways, no pigeon gets close anymore.

Regular parishioners at Nossa Senhora da Consolação describe the pigeon situation as a “real hell”. Dozens of birds had made the place of worship their home, flying in and out whenever they pleased, making a lot noise during mass and dropping stones and bits of plaster on people. Every morning, the floor and wooden benches had to be cleaned of bird droppings, and at one point it all became too much to bear. The church wanted to find a humane way of driving the pigeons away, but they never imagined hypnosis would be the answer.

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Japanese Professor Claims That Crows Respect Written “Do Not Enter” Signs

When a friend and “crow expert” told Katsufumi Sato to hang some “do not enter signs” on the outside of a building to keep pesky crows a way, the Japanese professor thought he was only kidding, but after three years of employing the bizarre strategy, he says it works perfectly.

Sato, a professor of ethology, hanged his first “crows do not enter” signs at a university research center in Otsuchi, Japan’s Iwate Prefecture, in 2015, at the the advice of his friend, Tsutomu Takeda, who he regards as an expert on crows. The birds had been targeting the insulation material covering the building’s pipes, ripping it with their beaks and flying away with bits of it to use for their nests. He was desperate to keep them away, so even though he though the idea of hanging written signs for crows funny, he was willing to give it a try.

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