Cockatoo eating apple

Clever Bird Feet Evolved 20 Times

Some birds are very adept at using their feet to grasp, lift and manipulate objects.  This ability to use the feet in a hand-like way is called ‘pedal dexterity.’  To find out how this ability came about researchers at University of Alberta have sifted through thousands of photos of birds using their feet to handle […]

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Chicken Scales Turned to Feathers

Chicken scales turned to feathers (again).  Two scientists at University of Geneva have used a gene stimulating technique to get chicken embryos to develop feathers on their feet and legs instead of scales.  The method involved stimulating genes named Sonic Hedgehog (Shh), which have an important role in organising and developing body organs and structures […]

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Regent Whistler

A Pair of Poisonous Birds

Researchers in New Guinea have identified two new bird species that have toxic feathers. The regent whistler and the rufous-naped bellbird were found to contain a toxic substance named Batrachotoxin (BTX) in their feathers and bodies. This substance is better known from the skin of poison dart frogs.  Poison dart frogs do not produce this […]

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Penguin Swimming

How Penguins Turn Underwater

Penguins are very agile swimmers and able to turn within one body length.  Scientists from Tokyo Institute of Technology filmed Gentoo penguins swimming in an enclosure at Nagasaki Penguin Aquarium to see how they manoeuvre underwater.  The researchers analysed the movement of the penguin wings and body and worked out the hydrodynamic forces involved.  They […]

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Hummingbirds Have Most Colours

A team of scientists at Yale University have carried out an extensive study of the wavelengths of light reflected by feathers of from 114 species of hummingbirds.  They then compared these with feathers of 111 other bird species, including penguins and parrots.  They found the range of colours in hummingbirds exceeded to range of colours […]

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Rosy-Faced Lovebird

Parrots Defy “Forbidden Phenotype”

Because no vertebrate has an odd number of limbs, having three limbs is considered a “forbidden phenotype”, i.e. a body structure that cannot happen.  However, some animals can use other body parts as well as their limbs to help them move around.  Researchers at noted that some parrots use their beaks to help them climb […]

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Woodpeckers Don’t Get Stuck

If you have ever banged a nail into wood and then tried to extract it you will know how hard it is to overcome the friction that holds the nail into the wood.  Woodpeckers are well known for banging their beaks into tree trunks and branches and extracting them at an incredibly rapid rate.  Scientists […]

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Forest Floor

Birds Go Truffling

Truffles are underground fruiting bodies, i.e. reproductive structures, of fungi that live in a symbiotic relationship with trees. They have been described as underground mushrooms. They produce spores, but unlike mushrooms and toadstools they cannot release them into the air in order to be dispersed to a new location, where they can grow. Therefore, truffles […]

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Bats Flying

New Zealand Goes Batty

Each year the conservation organisation Forest and Bird asks people to vote for New Zealand’s Bird of Year.  This year the organisers included the long tailed bat in the list of candidates.  The bat received 7,031 out of 56,733 votes, putting it almost 3,000 votes ahead of the next most popular choice, the kakapo.  The […]

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Penguins Antarctica

Climate Pushes Antarctic Penguins Farther South

Climate pushes Antarctic penguins farther south says National Geographic 26 October 2021. But Antarctica is about as south as you can get folks. Then we also find that the Antarctic penguins named in the article – Chinstrap Penguins, Gentoo Penguins and Adelie Penguins, are actually all doing well, (Australian Antarctic Program). Since Antarctica is a […]

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