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science

How Toucans Stay Cool

The Toco Toucan of South America has evolved to stay cool in the sweltering heat of the tropics. Relative to its body size, the Toco Toucan has the largest bill of any bird in the world, accounting for a third of the body’s entire surface area. It’s also laced with blood vessels and wholly... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Designing a Spider Web to Evade Bird Collision

One of the lesser known hazards of a bird’s life — when flitting from shrub to shrub — is collision with spiders’ webs. And when a bird flies through a web, it’s the spider’s hard work that takes the hit. It can take a spider an hour just to repair the damage and get on with the task of snaring... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, science

Hummingbird Bills and Heliconia Flowers

These Purple-throated Caribs live on many of the Antillean Islands in the Caribbean. The female’s bill is long and deeply curved. The male’s is shorter and straighter. And this one species of bird has a specialized relationship with two different species of flowering Heliconia plants. When... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, evolution, science

The Vulture's Iron Stomach

Circling silently above the earth on broad, black wings, vultures need little introduction. We know them as nature's clean-up crew, dining on dead and decaying animals. A unique range of adaptations allows vultures such as this Black Vulture to feast on food that’s off limits for many other... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Nature's Goggles - Nictitating Membranes

They're there and then they're gone — literally in the blink of an eye!The nictitating membrane is a “third eyelid” that extends from the inner corner of the eye to the outer corner. You may see it when a bird (like this Black Vulture) – or certain other creature – blinks. Thinner and more... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  photography, science

Black-backed Woodpeckers - Pioneers of the Post-Fire Forests

What is it about Black-backed Woodpeckers and fire?Audubon's Alisa Opar wrote in an earlier blog: "Black-backed Woodpeckers are perhaps the most iconic of post-fire species, since they’re wholly reliant on burn zones."Maya Khosla now shares with us her experience of surveying a post-fire area, in... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Emperor Penguins Launch from the Ocean

These Emperor Penguins feed on fish and squid in the icy ocean. Getting into the sea is easy, but getting out is another story. How does a penguin haul its plump, 80-pound body up and over icy ledges that are several feet high, while avoiding nearby predators? Underwater video has revealed an... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

What Kind of Music Is Bird Song?

Composers from Vivaldi to Beethoven have been inspired by birdsong. But how similar is birdsong to the music we create? Two recent studies offer contrasting answers. One analysis used nearly 250 song examples of the Nightingale Wren, pictured here, a tropical bird widely admired for its haunting... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  music, science, vocalization

Jays Identify Good Nuts by Shaking Them

Some birds stash unopened seeds for use later. But how do they know which seeds are worth the trouble, before expending the energy to open them? A team of scientists from South Korea and Poland may have an answer. As part of a series of experiments, the scientists observed the behavior of Mexican... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ornithology, science

How Birds Stay Cool

On a hot summer’s day, watch a bird such as a crow — or this Purple Martin — very carefully. You’ll never see them sweat, because birds don’t have sweat glands. So how do they keep cool? One way is panting. As the bird breathes rapidly, heat is carried out of its body through the lungs and air... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

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