Facts about birds

by on August 9, 2014 at 12:50 am in Books, Science | Permalink

…despite the putrid menu vultures favor, their excrement is sterile. In fact, letting the waste run down their legs can clean off germs from the gore; it’s their version of freshening up with a moist towelette after a barbecue. Tiny bee hummingbirds are so small you could mail 16 of them for the price of a single stamp. Robins can navigate with the right eye alone, but not the left. Albatrosses, who spend 95 percent of their lives over open ocean, are thought to be able to shut down half their brains while continuing to fly at 40 m.p.h. For blackcap warblers, the direction of migration is clearly innate, so crossbreeding a group of blackcaps who flew south for fall migration with a group that oriented westward resulted in offspring who flew in a southwesterly direction.

That is from this Vicki Constantine Croke review of two new bird books.

1 Socially Extinct August 9, 2014 at 1:04 am

Wow, does this mean ‘albatross’ has become the metaphor of choice to characterize Americans?

2 dearieme August 9, 2014 at 5:38 am

The Otago Peninsula, Dunedin, NZ: albatross heaven. The funny wee parrots in the NZ Alps are pretty fine too.

For puffins I recommend the islands of the Firth of Forth; for migrating geese in Autumn, the shores of the Solway Firth; for pheasants, woodpeckers, and herons, our back garden; for kingfishers, the “Paradise” reserve on the River Cam. There endeth my knowledge, save for the birds of Australia, which seem to be beautiful and colourful everywhere.

3 andrew' August 9, 2014 at 6:11 am

We are not familiar with your sexual slang verbiage.

4 anon August 9, 2014 at 8:32 am

But +1 for “puffins”

5 Brian Donohue August 9, 2014 at 1:55 pm


6 Ray Lopez August 9, 2014 at 1:51 am

I was going to say this sounds like Noah Strycker’s Thing With Feathers. Another good birding book is The Big Year, which was made into a movie a few years ago. Trivia: Australian/UK slang for girl is “bird”.

7 carlospln August 9, 2014 at 8:55 pm

Australian/UK slang for girl was “bird”.

Two decades ago.

8 sam August 9, 2014 at 2:10 am

Reproduction is a very inefficient way to do vector addition.

9 david August 9, 2014 at 4:50 am

might be an efficient way to track the slow movement of ideal migration territory along a riverbed, perhaps

cheaper than trying to bundle complex terrain-desirability- recognition wetware

10 andrew' August 9, 2014 at 4:55 am

Never, ever, ever call a birder a bird watcher. It is like calling a cyclist a biker. You don’t want that. Trust me.

11 anon August 9, 2014 at 8:33 am

It is like calling a cyclist a biker

Here we call them a**holes.

12 dearieme August 9, 2014 at 9:56 am

They, birdwatchers that is, are called “twitchers” in Britain. I don’t know why.

13 andrew' August 9, 2014 at 8:48 pm

Do they also do meth while spying on birds?

14 andrew' August 9, 2014 at 5:00 am

Dammit, I have to mail 17 bee humming birds. Do I risk it? I really really don’t want them returned.

What if half if them are flapping their wings at any one time? Maybe I can use a box small enough only half can sit down at once.

15 andrew' August 9, 2014 at 6:27 am

Why did the vulture cross the road?

To get away from the restaurant with too many hot chickens.

16 Axa August 9, 2014 at 8:02 am

Any relationship between the endurance of albatross and (winning) marathon runners?

17 TMC August 9, 2014 at 9:29 am

Not much, albatrosses can turn it back on.

18 Sanjay August 9, 2014 at 10:08 am

More bird posts, please.

19 James Graham August 11, 2014 at 10:25 am

When a vulture dies is it eaten by other vultures?

20 Turkey Vulture August 11, 2014 at 11:19 am

When I behave like my namesake it is far less hygienic.

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