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Evidence Suggests World’s Largest Solar Farm Burns Birds That Fly over It

Environmentalists might swear by solar energy, but it turns out that the alternative source has its pitfalls too. Ivanpah, a giant solar farm in California’s Mohave Desert, is actually producing such high levels of heat that birds flying over it are burning to death.

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System that opened last Thursday is a joint effort by NRG Energy Inc., Google Inc. and BrightSource Energy. It can produce electricity that is sufficient to power 140,000 homes. The project is supposed to be the beginning for the United States’ emerging solar industry. It uses a technology that is different and more expensive to build than a similar-sized conventional solar power plant.

The Ivanpah site is located 45 miles southwest of Las Vegas, with virtually unbroken sunshine for most part of the year. It is also close to transmission lines that carry power to consumers. The project makes use of technology called solar-thermal – more than 300,000 computer-controlled mirrors (each roughly the size of a garage door) reflect sunlight to boilers on top of 450-foot towers. The sun’s power heats the water in the boilers’ tubes and the steam drives turbines to create electricity.

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Romantic Bowerbird Builds Intricate Structures to Seduce Females

The concept of bachelor pads isn’t unique to humans. Male bowerbirds are amazing architects, but they reserve theirs skills for just one purpose – finding a mate. They construct such elaborate and dazzling nests to impress females, perhaps they could teach our men a thing or two about home décor.

Male bowerbirds use embellishments such as coins, nails, leaves, shells, seeds, flowers and live insects to weave their nests, called bowers. Bowers are U-shaped nests built with twigs and grass, and carpeted with moss. Each bower is an architectural marvel that stretches out 5 or 6 yards across, complete with a thatched roof and supporting pillars.

Blue is a very important color in the construction process. Male bowerbirds use several blue objects – berries, flowers, bottle caps and string – to attract prospective mates. Research has proven that females are attracted to bowers with the most number of blue decorations. Because blue objects are rare in a bowerbird’s environment, a male who is able to acquire them and protect them is deemed superior.

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The Mind-Boggling Bird Suicide Phenomenon of Jatinga

Jatinga is a small village located in Assam, a state in northeastern India. The village is lush green and scenic, surrounded by serene mountains. But that’s not what it’s famous for. In fact, Jatinga is well-known for an entirely different reason – its Bird Mystery.

The Bird Mystery is a unique phenomenon that occurs at Jatinga between September and November each year. During these late monsoon months, several migratory and local birds commit mass suicide at the village. Just after sunset, between 7 and 10 pm, hundreds of birds descend from the sky, plummeting to their deaths by crashing into buildings and trees. Since birds aren’t known to be suicidal, the phenomenon has baffled villagers, visitors and scientists alike. For many years, locals believed that evil spirits living in the skies were responsible for bringing down the birds .

Of course, this isn’t true. After several scientific studies and experiments, it has been concluded that the birds are generally disoriented by the monsoon fog. So they are attracted by the village lights and fly towards them, sometimes hitting walls and trees during the descent. Some of the birds die, while others are grievously injured, becoming easy prey for the villagers to capture. These birds are often dazed and disheveled, and do not put up any resistance when villagers attack them with catapults or bamboo sticks.

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Over One Million Starlings Leave Rome Covered in Bird Droppings

With nothing to scare them away, starlings are definitely leaving their mark on Rome, this year. The chirping black birds flock from northern Europe to Italy’s capital, which they prefer because of its warm Mediterranean climate. They’ve been spending their winters here for a long time, but until now, authorities have been able to keep them from covering the ancient capital in a disgusting layer of droppings. This year, financial cuts have left locals at the mercy of these tiny but numerous guano bombers.

The first documented time when starlings overwintered in Rome was in 1926. If at first they settled on the outskirts of the city, little by little they moved further into it, drawn by the heat radiating from the buildings. More than 1,5 million starlings are now nesting in Italy’s capital city and doing their business pretty much everywhere. The birds, which arrive in Rome in two waves, one in October and the other in January, have the habit of leaving the city at daybreak to fly over to the olive groves in the city suburbs. After spending the entire day eating olives, they fly back to the city, where they leave their greasy, stinky business on cars, buildings, statues and streets. Because of the heavy bird droppings, the Lungotevere, one of Rome’s greenest boulevards, had to be closed because of the high risk of accidents not only for pedestrians, but also for vehicles.

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Have a Hoot at Japan’s New Owl Cafés!

If you’re a cat person and you’re in Japan, you surely must have heard of the famous cat cafés. The concept is pretty straight forward: most people live in such crowded places that there’s hardly any room for a pet, so whenever you feel like getting a little love from a furry friend, all you have to do is go to one of these cat cafés. It’s almost like going to a domestic safari while having a cup of coffee.

If at first there was this craze with cats, now there’s a craze with owls. Yes, cafés with real live owls watching you with their big eyes as you quietly sip your drink. Of course, the entire theme of these cafés has something to do with owls, so the background and the menu complete the picture. The owl cafés are pretty crowded places. Customers are not allowed to get in the cafés at the same time and scare the birds, so queues are formed outside. Careful! The weekends are especially busy, so you might want to get up early if you want to have coffee with an owl. There are quite a few owl cafés to choose from, each with its own rules, but there are a few general guidelines that should be respected when entering these places. First of all, you have to find the café, because there won’t be any flashy lights, but merely a curtain, protecting these birds of prey. After you’ve pinpointed the location and managed to get inside, make sure you listen carefully to the personnel: don’t pet, touch or hold other owls than those indicated by them, don’t handle the owls by yourself, don’t use your camera flash and don’t record without permission. What happens if you don’t follow the rules? Imagine the racket created by a dozen freaked-out owls! Lastly, make sure you alert the personnel whenever you see an owl pooping. They really don’t give a hoot about you looking at them.

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The Unbelievable Story of Mike the Headless Chicken

According to Mike the chicken, losing your head is not that bad as it’s thought to be. You better believe it since this one of a kind rooster lived headless for two years and became world-famous for it.

Mike became “the Headless Chicken” on September 10th, 1945 after being decapitated by his owner, Lloyd Olsen from Fruita, Colorado, who wanted to cook him for dinner. During Mike’s attempted decapitation, Llyod hit all the wrong (or right) spots, leaving Mike headless but still alive. Baffled, the owner had a change of heart and decided to nurse the rooster back to health. Mike shook off the upsetting incident and shortly after, started pecking around and grooming his feathers as if nothing had happened. Well, he couldn’t really do all those things because without a head the bird couldn’t eat, drink or see but that didn’t stop him from trying! After feeding him grains and quenching his thirst, Olsen took Mike to the University of Utah where flabbergasted scientists took a close look at the death-defying chicken. According to them, a blood clot prevented Mike from bleeding to death after Olsen’s ax had missed the jugular. As if by miracle, Mike was still left with his left ear and most of his brain stem intact which was enough to keep this feathered critter healthy for the following two years of his life. Apparently chicken’s reflexes lie in their brain stem which explains why Mike still attempted to peck and even sing – gurgle rather, despite his handicap.  Olsen swore to take care of him for the rest of his life, feeding him milk and water with syringes. Mike was doing so well, he even gained weight determining Lloyd to call him a “robust chicken – a fine specimen of a chicken except for not having a head.” Read More »

Artist Creates Incredibly Realistic Papercraft Birds

Dutch artist Johan Schreft creates three-dimensional lifesize models of birds from pieces of paper. To make his works even more realistic he paints each one by hand with watercolors and gouache. The results are simply mind-blowing.

Leiden-based Johan Schreft showed an interest in drawing as well as animals and nature at a very young age. Inspired by the artworks designed by the english artist Malcolm Topp, he started making paper bird models when he was only 14 years old. Over the years the Dutch artist honed his skills, and today his papercraft models look so realistic it’s almost impossible to tell them apart from the real birds that inspired them. Johan takes anywhere from two days to a full month to complete just one of his stunning masterpieces, and although he uses some computer software for the basic design, he does most of the work by hand. Because each bird species has its own specific features, he can’t use a standard design, so every model goes through a complex process that requires several steps and involves a lot of trial and error.

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Schoolgirl Falconer Solves Town’s Crow Problem

Sometimes kids can solve problems that adults have no idea how to tackle. 17-year-old Misato Isibashi is a fine example of this. The third year student at Takeo High School, Takeo City, has come to be known as Japan’s only ‘schoolgirl falconer’.  Takeo city is located in the Saga Prefecture, a place plagued by flocks of crows that attack farms and trash around office buildings, and cover everything in bird droppings. Powerless against this flying menace, the government of Saga has hired Misato to solve the problem.

Misato and her 7-year-old pet falcon, Momotaro, form a dream team that has proven pretty effective in getting rid of the pesky crows. When Momotaro is released, the crows simply burst out of trees and fly away to hide elsewhere. And they don’t come back for a long time afterward. A test flight was held on the evening of April 4th at the prefectural headquarters and it was confirmed the crows are quite frightened of the mighty male falcon.

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Man Spends a Year Living as a Turkey to Prove They’re Not Dumb

We’ve all heard the popular myth about turkeys being so stupid that they will look up at the rain and drown. Well, naturalist Joe Hutto’s year-long experiment living as a turkey proved it wrong, along with any other myths that suggest the stupidity of the bird. On the contrary, he says that turkeys are born with an “innate understanding of ecology” and have a complex vocabulary to communicate with each other.

Hutto, an ethologist who lives in Florida, has always been interested in the phenomenon of imprinting – in which young birds and animals identify the first moving object they encounter as a mother or a caregiver. So when a local farmer left a bowl-full of wild turkey eggs at Hutto’s doorstep, it was an opportunity he couldn’t refuse. He began his scientific experiment by choosing to imprint himself as the mother turkey. Hutto placed the eggs in an incubator and waited for them to hatch. When the cracks began to appear, he had to act fast, since imprinting occurs only in the first few moments after hatching. He placed his face close to the eggs and when the first poult came out, there was immediate eye-contact and the establishment of a bond. “Something very unambiguous happened in that moment,” he said

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Indonesia’s Laughing Cock Craze Is No Laughing Matter

Roosters being sold for hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars might sound like a joke to you, but in many parts of Indonesia it’s very serious business.

They look like ordinary cocks, but it’s only when they start crowing that people realize just how special they really are. Instead of the normal “cock-a-doodle-do”, these birds make a sound similar to human laughter, which earned them the name “laughing cocks“. Trained and raised to make this special sounds, laughing cocks are source of pride for their owners, who feed them only the best foods, and pamper them with large, ornate cages. This breed of chicken originated in South Sulawesi, where it was known as ayam raja (king chicken), because only Burgis kings were allowed to breed them.

Nowadays, anyone who can afford is allowed to breed laughing cocks, and while they are very valuable, they’re also extremely sensitive. They have to be fed properly and their big cages have to be cleaned twice a day, because these birds tend to become ill very easily. But the high maintenance cost is easily covered by the profit of selling laughing cocks or winning regional laughing contests. A day old chick sells for Rp 100,000 ($12), while a 3-month old bird goes for Rp 300,000 ($36) to Rp 500,000 ($59). But it’s the mature laughing roosters that bring the most profit, as the price of a 9-month bird ranges between Rp 3 million ($354) and Rp 5 million ($590).

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Real Birds Tweet on Twitter

A Latvian magazine thought it wasn’t fair that real twitting birds didn’t have the chance to do it on Twitter so they set up a service that allows them to share their thoughts with the world.

Voldemars Dudum, the founder of BirdsOnTwitter.com, has always been a big bird lover, and while feeding them pork fat one winter, he came up with a brilliant idea to give them the chance to tweet for themselves. By fixating small pieces of unsalted pork on keyboard keys, feasting Tomtits type their own messages on the popular social networking platform.

The fat is attached to the keys with small stainless steel screws which increases the sensitivity of the strokes, since Tomtits are too light to press a real key with their beaks. The bird tweeting station is set up in the small Latvian village of Sarnate, where winter temperatures drop to a whopping -20 degrees Celsius. Eating the pork fat helps the chirping birds survive the harsh temperatures, and now gives them the chance to send messages worldwide.

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City Hires Chicken Chasers to Round Up Feral Fowls

When people are to scared to walk their pets around the city streets because of feral chickens, you know you have a serious problem on your hands. Welcome to Lakeland, Polk County, a city terrorized by chicken.

Now we’re not talking about a small group of rogue chickens causing mayhem around the city, authorities say there are around 600 chickens free running around the streets of northwest Lakeland. You’re probably thinking the only harm they’re capable of is defecating in public places, but it seems some of the locals have actually complained about the birds attacking their children and household pets, forcing local authorities to take desperate measures.

They’ve hired a company called Squeal Deal Animal Control to help catch these feathered villains and are paying them a fee for every bird they bring in. Representatives of the company say the task is a lot harder than it sounds, because the chickens are fast and quick to hide in their surroundings. This is their woods,they go underneath houses and cars and in trees. They know where to escape from you.” ” chicken chaser Clayton Keene said.

Nobody knows exactly how the chickens got on the streets in the first place, but according to urban legends, some locals who raised chickens in the city released them from their cages, allowing them multiply at an alarming rate.

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Carpenter Builds the Most Amazing Birdhouses You’ve Ever Seen

John Looser, a skillful carpenter from Toronto, Canada, builds regular wood mansions for birds.

The 46-year-old carpenter used to work on human houses, but he had to retire after 20 years, due to to a serious car accident that left him with a terrible condition – fibromyalgia. The pain associated with it has no boundaries and most people describe it as deep muscular aching, throbbing, shooting, stabbing and intense burning. The stiffness and pain are worst in the morning and in muscle groups that are used repetitively. Although he had to retire as a house builder for humans, John Looser kept working in residential construction, only his new clients were birds.

“Building birdhouses helps keep my mind busy so that I don’t notice my pain so much,” says John. “As long as I can stay busy, I don’t feel like my muscles are going to seize up and stop moving.” says John, who also suffers from sleeplessness, getting up at 6 am and  working for 8 – 10 hours a day. The small size of his beautiful birdhouses, in comparison with human buildings, allows him to exercise his passion for building houses.

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World’s Most Expensive Book Sold For $11.5 Million

Birds of America“, John James Audubon’s unique sample of nature, art and craftsmanship wrapped in a beautiful album was sold at Sotheby’s last auction for the staggering price of  $11.5 million, making it the most expensive book ever sold. This is one of just 11 copies owned by private collectors.

Audubon, a 19th century French-American naturalist and painter, gathered 500 breeds of birds, all illustrated in 1000 hand-painted life-size images, in his extraordinary book, which took 12 years to complete. A rare book dealer from London, Bernard Shapero , explains:  “His big thing was the one-to-one ratio. Everyone else cropped the birds. If an eagle is 6 foot, he was going to paint it 6 foot.  He scaled back the wings, but it was life size. That was his cachet.” The so-called “father of ornithology” would hunt down the birds, shooting them before propping them on wires to paint. Each drawing took around 60 hours to complete. Sadly, many of the birds in his book are now extinct and exist only in his drawings and as stuffed museum exhibits.

American society wasn’t very interested in his work but that didn’t stop him, and his ambition got him all the way to Britain where his work gained success amongst the aristocracy.

The book is not only beautiful but also very impressive with its 3ft by 2ft pages, and although it wouldn’t fit on most bookshelves, it must be any collectors dream. The previous record was also held by a copy of this unique album, sold in the year 2000 for $8,8 million.

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