Tag Archives | Birds
In recent times, New Year’s seems to always bring with it mystifying mass animal deaths. What an appropriate way to ring in 2012! The New York Daily News writes:
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Thousands of blackbirds dropped dead on New Year’s Eve in Arkansas in an incident eerily similar to one that occurred at the same time a year ago.
The disturbing deaths in Beebe, a city northwest of Little Rock, were sparked after loud fireworks sent flocks of the small birds into a panic, scientists said. This caused them to collide with each other, as well as power lines, houses and cars.
On New Year’s Eve 2010, an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 birds died from “blunt trauma” after they were similarly spooked by fireworks.
Eyewitnesses told authorities “the birds were hitting mailboxes, cars, basketball goals, houses, trees,” Keith Stephens of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission told the Daily News last January. “The trauma shows that they were in flight when they collided with something that killed them.”
The bird deaths, which were followed only days later by hundreds of more bird deaths in Louisiana, sparked conspiracy theories ranging from the Biblical end of the world to government coverups.
Thousands of dead birds will be collected from an Ontario shoreline on Monday as the province's Ministry of Natural Resources tries to determine what killed the waterfowl. Officials estimate as many as 6,000 dead birds have washed up on the Georgian Bay's shoreline. The carcasses are scattered along a nearly three-kilometre stretch near Wasaga Beach. "You just want to cry," resident Faye Ego told CTV Toronto on Saturday. Authorities speculate that the birds may have been killed by a form of botulism after eating dead fish. Locals said they noticed some dead fish on the beach a few weeks ago and a few dead birds earlier in September. During Monday's cleanup, crews will be trying to tally up the total number of dead birds on the shoreline ...
NPR provides more wildlife-plummeting-from-the-heavens oddness to cap off a packed season. Going back at least a hundred years, solitary flamingos occasionally fall from the sky in the brutal Siberian winter, thousands of miles from the birds’ habitat:
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The two boys ran over, called their father, Vasily, who picked up the bird and took it home. It was still alive. “[This is the ] first time I see a bird like this,” he told a TV reporter.
They fed the flamingo fish and buckwheat saturated in water (not normally flamingo food) and pretty soon it was up, active and knocking around the Muravyev’s apartment. Here it is, head in a feeding bucket.
That should be the end of the story. Except that one year later, also in November and also in Siberia, it happened again. Another flamingo flew out of the sky, landed by another Siberian river, was also brought to the greenhouse, then sent to the zoo and the locals began to wonder, “Where are these birds coming from?
Just more evidence that non-human animal species have deeper intelligence than we give them credit for, and communicate in ways to which we are oblivious. Wired Science discusses a secret form of bird-language, which we should probably learn if we hope to foil the coming avian takeover:
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The discovery of messages in raptors’ nests has raised the possibility that many bird species encode signals into these structures, with seemingly decorative flourishes actually full of meaning.
Among black kites, scraps of white plastic are used to signal territorial dominance. To other kites, the scraps are a warning sign. To humans, they hint at an unappreciated world of animal communication.
“It’s probably very common that other bird species decorate their nests in ways compatible with what we found,” said Fabrizio Sergio, a biologist at the Doñana Biological Station in Spain. “And not only birds, but fish and mammals.”
A few species, such black wheateaters and bowerbirds, are already known to use nest design in courtship displays.
At least one of the mysterious mass wildlife deaths of the past month has a (bizarre) explanation. The USDA acknowledged that hundreds of birds in South Dakota were poisoned as part of a massive and longstanding government bird-killing operation, normally kept under wraps, called Bye Bye Blackbird. The Christian Science Monitor sheds some light:
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The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) took responsibility for hundreds of dead starlings that were found on the ground and frozen in trees in a Yankton, S.D., park on Monday.
The USDA’s Wildlife Services Program, which contracts with farmers for bird control, said it used an avicide poison called DRC-1339 to cull a roost of 5,000 birds that were defecating on a farmer’s cattle feed across the state line in Nebraska. But officials said the agency had nothing to do with large and dense recent bird kills in Arkansas and Louisiana.
Nevertheless, the USDA’s role in the South Dakota bird deaths puts a focus on a little-known government bird-control program that began in the 1960s under the name of Bye Bye Blackbird, which eventually became part of the USDA and was housed in the late ’60s at a NASA facility.
The large bird, which was carrying a GPS transmitter and a tag bearing the identification code R65 from Tel Aviv University, strayed into rural Saudi Arabian territory at some point last week, according to a report in the Israeli daily Ma'ariv. Residents and local reporters told Saudi Arabia's Al-Weeam newspaper that the matter seemed to be linked to a "Zionist plot" and swiftly alerted security services. The bird has since been placed under arrest. The accusations went viral, according to the Israeli Ha'aretz newspaper, with hundreds of posts on Arabic-language websites and forums claiming that the "Zionists" had trained the birds for espionage. The incident comes amid growing paranoia among Israel's neighbours over the nation's growing military might.
The deluge of dead red-winged blackbirds, grackles, and starlings that fell out of the skies over Beebe, Ark., on New Year's Eve in all likelihood has a simple scientific explanation. Yet genuine concern spread quickly through the town of about 5,000 on New Year's Eve, and understandably so, as environmental cleanup workers in white jumpsuits descended on Beebe on New Year's Day to pick up thousands of dead birds from roads and walkways. The main worry was that the birds, like the proverbial canary in the coal mine, were an indicator of a toxic threat – a possibility that has largely been ruled out. Yet the event spooked residents near and far as, in the absence of a final explanation, imaginations are running wild. People have tried to link the bird die-off — which is certainly unusual, though not unprecedented — to everything from a sign of biblical end times to chemical conspiracies, shifts in the Earth's magnetic core, and even proof of UFOs.
Has Big Brother begun dabbling in fringe science? No, it's just a mutant street art project by the artist duo Helden. Here's how Helden (a.k.a. Thomas voor 't Hekke and Bas van Oerle) describe their camerabirds: 'panoptICONS' addresses the fact that you are constantly being watched by surveillance cameras in city centres. The surveillance camera seems to have become a real pest that feeds on our privacy. To represent this, camera birds — city birds with cameras instead of heads — were placed throughout the city centre of Utrecht where they feed on our presence. In addition, a camera bird in captivity was displayed to show the feeding process and to make the everyday breach of our privacy more personal and tangible.