BIRDS | EDUCATION

Okay, folks, I get it — pigeons are kinda gross. They dig about in trash cans, hang out in gutters, poop all over everything, and if you’ve ever had one nest outside your window, you know what a bad time that is.

Photo by Zep Nurdiman on Unsplash

The poor, old Rock Dove has a bad reputation. Even so, I love them. Controversial opinion, I know. But they’re unique birds that have their own cool attributes. Did you know they’re one of the few birds that produce milk for their babies? Yep, pigeons lactate like mammals … except they excrete it from their crop and regurgitate it for their chicks. Okay, maybe that wasn’t the best fact to lead with.

It could be a tall order to sell you on back-alley flying rats. But the family Columbidae has more than just one bird in it. There are over…


EDUCATION | BIRDS

In Australia, if you call someone a ‘drongo’ they’re being a bit of stupid fool. But let me tell you, the Fork-tailed Drongo(Dicrurus adsimilis) is anything but.

Unsplash

These are an African bird, and they hang out in the savannah where they hunt for food. But finding your own meal can be hard work. Wouldn’t be easier if some obliging Meerkat could serve you up a juicy grub instead? Well, say no more, because these birds have worked how to get Meerkats to do exactly that.


EDUCATION | BIRDS

Once they’ve latched onto a snail, the kites are equipped with unique tools to dispatch them.

Eagles are impressive creatures. They’re majestic, high soaring, cold-blooded killers that strike fear into the heart of any animal smaller than them, be they mammal, reptile or fish. But there is one eagle that has made the rather odd choice of having an all-escargot diet, and no, it isn’t even French.

Meet the Snail Kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis).

“Female Snail Kite” by Andy Morffew

Just from looking at its lethal beak and long talons, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking they were a fearsome predator. But no, it doesn’t want a bar of chasing anything down that can move faster than a metre an hour. …


I’m sure back in school you learned about all the important conflicts of the 20th Century: World War I and II, Vietnam, Korea. But did you ever hear tell of the Great Emu War of 1932?

“File:Emu mob set free.jpg” by Chudditch, edit MPF

It was the one and only time a standing army declared war on a bird … and then lost. The Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) is giant flightless bird from the ratite family; they’re the slightly smaller cousin of the Ostrich. They stand 1.5 metres tall, weigh 60Kg, and can run at a top speed of 50Km/h.

During the Great Depression 20,000 of these big birds…


Education | Birds

This has been a wren rant for your reading pleasure…

Everybody loves a Wren, am I right? They’re adorable little things, and in Australia we got a whole swag of them. From the Superb and Splendid Fairywrens to the Emu-wren, each one packing a pocket full of brilliant plumes that just won’t quit.

“Superb Fairywren — Victoria — Australia_S4E5208” by fveronesi1

But hang on a tick. If we pop over the pond, we find another bird called the New Zealand Rock Wren, and if we head north we find another bird that is simply known as The Wren. So what’s going on here?


History | Animals

The pigeons lost their jobs to computers. Although, I think in this case, they weren’t complaining.

Pigeon_(project).jpg by Milos Stevanovic~srwiki

Today I would like to bring you the story of Project Pigeon. Picture this: it’s the 1940s and war is ranging across most of the world for the second time. Some historians have dubbed this period World War Two. As the United States Air Force started to get serious about dropping high explosives on people they didn’t like, they found they had a problem. You see, having something that blows up is a rather fine thing, but an even finer thing is having it blow up on the enemy. …


Birding | Education

A while back, I was perusing the internet, you know how one does, and I stumbled on a Twitter flame war centred on a bird. Oh yes, the birding community is nothing if not a passionate bunch. This particular stoush was focused on a little-known North American bird called McCown’s Longspur.

“McCown’s Longspur (male), Scott Somershoe”

As you can see, it is a rather unremarkable looking bird. If I didn’t know any better, I’d probably think it was a run-of-the-mill Sparrow. To the trained eye, though, you will see they are more of a slate grey with a black bib. …


Education | Birds

She has beaten a lot of odds

It may have escaped your notice, but last month there was been exciting news in the birding world. Before I go on, though, I need to introduce you to the Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabills).

“Laysan albatross, Alaska Maritime Refuge” by USFWS Headquarters

These giant birds of the sea live in the norther Pacific Ocean. They spend almost all their time on the open water, hunting squid and other cephalopod type things. When they do come to land, they choose the Hawaiian Islands as their breeding ground of choice. The former US naval base on the Midway Atoll is one of their favourite go to places. Millions flock to…


Education | Birds and Beyond

Would you check out this stunner. That is some top shelf, high-grade, shimmering blue feathers right there.

Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash

But the thing that’s even more jaw-droppingly stunning than this little guy’s electric-blue plumes, is the fact that there isn’t a single speck of blue pigment anywhere in them. But wait, it gets crazier. Not only is there no blue pigment anywhere on this bird, but the same is true of every blue feather you’ve ever seen. It turns out blue is one of the rarest pigments in nature. So, what’s going on here?

Well, there are two ways you can make a colour. The first is to use a pigment. Here a chemical will absorb every wavelength of light…


Education | History

Ah, the Wild Turkey (Megeagris gallopavo), that old Thanksgiving favourite (the bird not the bourbon).

“Wild Turkey” by Debarshi Ray

They’re one of the heaviest birds getting around that can still drag its sorry butt into the sky; and they’ve got no qualms about attacking people that get all up in their grill.

Yes, the Turkey is pretty fun. But did you ever stop to wonder how a North American bird ended up with the same name as a Middle Eastern country? You know … it’s probably a coincidence, right. I mean, there are plenty of words that are spelt the same but have different meanings and different linguistic origins.

Like a baseball bat and the disgusting, nocturnal flying rodent…

Nathan Finger

Just birds, hey

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