Evolution works very slowly -- except when it doesn't. New research shows that certain British birds appear to be changing quickly as result of bird feeders, evolving longer beaks to help them access the food inside.
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By analysing sooty birds housed in museum collections, scientists have been able to track patterns of US air pollution over the last 135 years. As the new study shows, air at the turn of the 20th century was even dirtier than we thought -- a finding that will now be used to improve our climate models.
Ornithologist Wulf Gatter spent six days a week observing birds in the forest of Liberia, the West African country. He spotted one seen nowhere else, a medium-sized yellow songbird, on nine occasions during the county's annual dry season lasting from November to February. It looked quite similar to another species, but had never-before-seen white markings on its wings. He finally captured a specimen towards the end of his visit in 1984 -- it seemed like he'd found a whole new species, which he named Phyllastrephus leucolepis, the Liberian Greenbul.
In the spring, you might find fragmented blue eggshells sitting on the footpath, a sign that baby robins hatched somewhere up above. Taking the same walk 66 million years ago, you may have found a giant version of those same blue eggs. Except a much larger, sillier-looking dinosaur was probably sitting nearby.
In one of the more notorious dick moves of the animal kingdom, parasitic cuckoo birds lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, forcing them to raise the cuckoo chicks as if they were their own. New research shows that female cuckoos conduct this bait-and-switch while scaring the crap out of their unsuspecting hosts -- which they do by mimicking the call of a predatory bird.
Video: Synesthesia is a rare condition where experiencing one sense (such as sound) triggers an involuntary experience of another sense (such as vision). If you've never experienced this phenomenon yourself, this colourful abstract animation by Andy Thomas simulates what it's like to visualise sounds.
While the flightless dodo has long since died out -- because humans ate the crap out of them -- its memory lives on in our imagination. So much about the quirky birds -- which were endemic only to the island of Mauritius -- remains a mystery, but new research has finally provided some insights into the dodo's reproductive habits and life cycle.
While scouring large swaths of land for prey, predators such as hawks and eagles will often take advantage of rising thermals to stay airborne and glide for extended periods with minimal effort. Humans have copied this approach which allows sailplanes to fly without a motor, but Microsoft is now teaching an AI how to pilot an autonomous plane powered by this natural phenomenon.
New research shows that ravens can plan ahead for different types of events, and even resist the urge to take an immediate reward in favour of getting a better one in the future. These capacities are often considered the exclusive domain of humans and great apes, so their presence in birds comes as a surprise.
Praying mantises are among the most frightening insects on the planet, equipped with powerful front legs which they use to snatch unwary insects, spiders, and even the odd amphibian or reptile. But as new research reveals, praying mantises are also proficient at capturing birds -- which they do more often than we thought.
Where there are landfills there are seagulls. An estimated 1.4 million of these opportunistic feathered critters feed on these vast tracts of waste across North America. And as a new study from Duke University shows, the voluminous amounts of poop from these gulls is compromising the water-quality of nearby lakes and reservoirs.
Some of life's simplest questions get swept under the rug for a long time -- after all, the most widespread phenomena often require the most data to understand. Take the shape of the boring egg, for example. You probably thought eggs are was shaped the way they are so they won't roll out of the nest or something. But a huge analysis shows the real reason eggs have their characteristic shapes may be completely surprising.
Bird enthusiasts will be disappointed to know they were born millions of years too late. Palaeontologists from Flinders University in Australia have discovered five extinct megapode birds -- among them, a giant brush-turkey called Progura gallinacea. The big bird was roughly the size of a kangaroo and weighed about 8kg yet it still managed to fly.
Most city dwellers would agree that pigeons are sentient garbage. They eat pizza off the ground and defecate with abandon, sometimes on pedestrians' heads. Worst of all, they don't seem terribly bothered by humans -- they will flap their filthy wings in our faces and move on as if nothing happened. But June 13 just so happened to be Pigeon Appreciation Day (yes, really) so we're giving them a little extra love. Like a diamond in the rough -- or the French fry at the bottom of the garbage bin -- it's entirely possible these creatures have some kind of hidden goodness. Maybe.