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Fascinating Amazonian Bird Mimics Toxic Caterpillar to Fend Off Predators

While most young birds rely on their parents for protection, the chicks of the Amazonian Cinereous Mourner have their own survival tactic. In order to avoid being eaten by predators, they actually mimic poisonous caterpillars!

On hatching, the chicks are covered with bright orange, spiky feathers that make them look like massive caterpillars that use bright colors to warn predators of their toxicity. And to make their camouflage even more effective, they even writhe about much like caterpillars.

“These traits give it a resemblance to a hairy, aposematic caterpillar,” said Dr. Gustavo Londoño, a biologist at the University of California. “Because predation is the main cause of avian nest failure, selection should favor strategies that reduce the probability of nest predation. The caterpillar we encountered measured 12 cm, which closely matches the size of the L. hypopyrra nesting. The striking morphological similarity is the caterpillars’ orange ‘hairs’ with white tips, which match almost exactly the nestling’s elongated orange downy feather barbs with bright white tips.”

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This Adorable Bird Is Apparently a Vicious Brain-Eating Zombie in Disguise

The Great tit might seem like just a cute little bird, but don’t let its appearance fool you for. In reality, it is one of the most vicious creatures in the world. Also known as ‘The Zombie tit’, this chirping ball of feathers is a killing machine with an insatiable hunger for brains.

Scientists generally agree that modern birds are direct descendants of fierce dinosaurs like the T-Rex and Velociraptor. Of course, most of them are so small and their feathers so pretty that it’s hard for people to actually associate them with the monstrous creatures depicted in films like Jurassic Park. However, their predatory instincts have definitely passed the test of time, and this holds true for the tiny Great tit, as well. So what’s so scary about this seemingly harmless bird? Well, just that it is known to routinely seek out other birds and bats, crush their heads and feast on their brains!

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Hatebeak – A Death Metal Band Whose Lead Vocalist Was a Parrot

I suppose nothing complements the loudness of heavy metal better than ear-bleeding screeches. And when those sounds come from a bird instead of a human, it’s bound to make an impression. Meet Waldo, a Congo African Grey Parrot, a heavy metal prodigy and the lead vocalist of a Baltimore-based band, ‘Hatebeak’.

The band was formed in 2004, by audio engineers Blake Harrison and Mark Sloan, who played the guitar and drums respectively. Hatebeak was a strictly studio project with unintelligible lyrics and no real melody. They never toured so as to not torture the bird. “We don’t play live,” Blake once explained. “It would be absolute torture for the bird to experience decibels at those levels. Waldo is the only vocalist for Hatebeak. He does parrot noises and also says some words.”

In the years they were active, Blake and Mark never revealed their last names on their releases in order to maintain the mystery surrounding Hatebeak. They were signed by Reptilian Records (which is now on hiatus), and most of their discography had an avian theme with titles like ‘Number of the Beak’, ‘Beak of Putrefaction’, and ‘The Thing That Should Not Beak’.

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California Town Is Home to Hundreds of Free-Roaming Wild Peacocks

The residents of Rolling Hills Estates, a small community on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, in southwestern Los Angeles, have been sharing their home with dozens of beautiful wild peacocks for almost 100 years. The exotic birds have always added a rustic charm to the upscale suburb, but as their population continues to grow uncontrollably, many residents now view them as a terrible nuisance.

For several decades, the people of the Peninsula have tried to keep their peace with the birds. The peacocks were actually an added attraction at one point, with buyers choosing homes specifically because they fell in love with the beautiful creatures. There were regulations, education programs and behavior modification in place, all in order to accommodate the lovely peacocks.

“Palos Verdes Peninsula has many sights to see – crashing waves, rolling hills and peacocks in the trees,” said Mary Jo Hazard, an author who lives in the Peninsula. “What fascinates me is – they’re so beautiful, they’re so exotic and I don’t think there’s anything more fascinating than seeing peacocks on the roofs, peacocks walking across the street.”

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Meet the Jacobin Pigeons, Probably the Most Fashionable Birds in the World

Jacobins aren’t your average, everyday pigeons that flock on your terrace and mess it up with droppings. Take one look at them and you’ll know they are a cut above the rest. How can they not be, with a royal hood of feathers that covers them from the neck up, almost entirely hiding their pretty little heads. I like to think of them as pigeons-in-parkas, which is really high fashion as far as birds are concerned.

Jacobins are one of the oldest domestic pigeon breeds in the world – an excellent exhibition breed with relatively unknown origins. Some believe that that the original breed came from India, while others think they’re natives of Cyprus. They arrived in Europe around the 16th century, where they were put through four stages of development, by breeders, until they evolved into their current state.

Although they have been bred for centuries, Jacobin pigeons have undergone remarkable changes in the past 80 years. They started off rather small, which was popular back in the day. But the current breed of Jacobins are slender and of medium size, with long flight feathers, long legs and slim tails. The most remarkable feature, the ‘rosette’, makes up the hood that completely covers the top and sides of their tiny head. In fact, the bird’s face is only visible from the front. The bigger the hood, the higher the quality of the specimen. And they always maintain an upright posture, adding to their ‘royal airs’.

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Amazing Lyrebirds Can Mimic Any Sound They Hear, from Other Birds to Chainsaws, Car Alarms or Camera Shutters

Male Lyrebirds, native to Australia, are considered the rock stars of the aviary world. These amazing creatures can imitate the sounds of at least 20 different species of birds almost to perfection as well as any other sounds they hear in their environment, from camera shutters to car alarms and chainsaws. And just like human rock stars, the lyrebirds use their best sounds to attract and impress the females.

Although beautiful in their own way, female lyrebirds aren’t exactly spectacular. They don’t take part in the imitating, nor are they particularly attractive. But the males put up an elaborate show, singing a medley of mimicry to attract the females during mating season. They even set the stage beforehand, by clearing a space on the forest floor and building a mound of earth to serve as a concert platform.

Later, they assume their positions on these mounds and the mimicry begins. As they sing, they spread out their handsome 28-inch long tail feathers, enhancing the performance a great deal. But the song is the most important part. The more varied the repertoire, the more attractive the male lyrebirds seem to their potential mates. This is important, because the females need to be persuaded to come closer to admire the pretty plumage. And what better way to do it than with a great song?

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Recycling Tokyo Crows Build Their Nests Out of Coat Hangers

Crows are known to be highly intelligent birds, and it looks like they can now teach us a thing or two about recycling and stealing. The Asian Jungle Crow, a large-billed crow, actually builds its nest out of coat hangers that it steals from people’s homes!

Crows make use of pretty much anything they find lying around to build their hardy nests. House Crows generally build crude structures, made of interlocking twigs gathered from surrounding trees and shrubs. They weave the twigs together with little pieces of metallic wire that strengthen the nest structure. In some nests, the clever crows incorporate knotted lengths of thick plastic instead.

But perhaps the most amazing crow nests are the ones built around Tokyo, Japan. Twigs and other natural materials are hard to come by in the busy metropolis, so the birds settle for the next best thing, and that seems to be coat hangers. You have got to see pictures to believe it! A blogger had posted some of these images way back in 2005, after solving the mystery of the missing hangers from her back yard. But it isn’t just the one nest – it seems that Japanese Jungle Crows are compulsive collectors of hangers!

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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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