Flying into turbulence

Wind farms are not the bird killer of popular imagination, but as more and more towers rise over the Australian landscape and as the country’s first offshore wind farm inches towards an end date, avian death counts are an easy headline. Experts such as Emma Bennett, whose company Elmoby Ecology specialises in the effects of … Continue reading Flying into turbulence

Feeling twitchy? Get ready for the Aussie Backyard Bird Count

On Monday 18 October, the 2021 Aussie Backyard Bird Count begins! This annual outbreak of citizen bird-geekery involves observing and counting the birds that live near you – whether that’s in a backyard, local park, or even a town-centre green space. Participants record observations within a 20-minute period, and the data goes to BirdLife Australia, … Continue reading Feeling twitchy? Get ready for the Aussie Backyard Bird Count

Kea can use touchscreens but think the virtual is real

Clever Kea (Nestor notabilis) can use touchscreens with their tongues and perceive the virtual world as real, according to New Zealand (Aotearoa) research, published in Biology Letters. Kea are an incredibly intelligent parrot that live in the alpine regions of the Te Wai Pounamu (South Island). Now, researchers from the University of Auckland have tested … Continue reading Kea can use touchscreens but think the virtual is real

The story of bird migration is written in poop

The story of bird migration is written in poop, according to a study published in Molecular Ecology. Bird poop is filled with gut bacteria – called the microbiome – that help digest food and fight off disease. There are trillions of types of bacteria unique to each animal and region of the world. Based on … Continue reading The story of bird migration is written in poop

The night parrot rangers

A few weeks ago, a group of Martu rangers working with Indigenous organisation Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa caught sight of the elusive night parrot. Fewer than 30 people have seen a live night parrot this century, making this sighting – on Martu country, in northern Western Australia – a rare and exciting event. One of the rangers … Continue reading The night parrot rangers

Bruce the beakless kea uses tools to spruce himself up

In a world-first, researchers from the University of Auckland in New Zealand have observed a disabled kea use tools for self-care. Bruce the kea is missing the top half of his beak from a suspected pest trap accident, but he has learned to carefully select and use pebbles to help preen his feathers. We’ve known … Continue reading Bruce the beakless kea uses tools to spruce himself up

After 10,000 years of inbreeding, the kākāpō is hanging on

The kākāpō (Strigops habroptila), the world’s heaviest and arguably dumbest parrot, doesn’t seem to suffer from a history of inbreeding, according to a study published in Cell Genomics. The critically endangered bird is native to Aotearoa/New Zealand, and is known for clumsily falling out of trees (it is flightless), freezing in the face of impending … Continue reading After 10,000 years of inbreeding, the kākāpō is hanging on

Animals are ‘shapeshifting’ because of climate change

Some warm-blooded animals are “shapeshifting” in response to a warming climate, growing larger legs, beaks and ears at extremely fast rates to better regulate their body temperatures. “There are these bio-geographical rules that describe trends in body shape, and one of these is called Allen’s rule,” says Sara Ryding, a bird researcher at Deakin University … Continue reading Animals are ‘shapeshifting’ because of climate change

Wired for sound: The observatory that’s always listening

The Australian Acoustic Observatory (A2O) is a continental-scale acoustic sensor network, designed to collect data over five years from 90 sites across seven different Australian ecoregions. The A2O is futuristic and… well, kind of hard to explain. “It’s not actually the traditional sort of scientific project where you say, ‘hey, we’ve got a question – … Continue reading Wired for sound: The observatory that’s always listening

How young do baby birds recognise family?

When do baby birds learn to sing? According to new research, the birds begin to take notes while still shell-bound. A group of researchers based at Flinders University have found that even inside the egg, the heartbeats of baby birds change when their parents’ calls are played to them. “This research will hopefully inspire more … Continue reading How young do baby birds recognise family?

“You bloody fool!” The musk duck that learnt to swear

A small number of animals, particularly birds, can learn to mimic other animals – including humans. The Australian musk duck can now be added to these ranks: a paper in Philosophical Transactions B has shown that the ducks can imitate other bird sounds and human sounds – like doors slamming, and one truly Australian phrase … Continue reading “You bloody fool!” The musk duck that learnt to swear

A glimpse of the night parrot in the Great Sandy Desert

This century, fewer than 30 people have seen the night parrot alive. The bird is notoriously difficult to spot, but a group of Martu rangers in northern Western Australia have just been able to catch another glimpse – and snap a photograph. “We got lucky!” says ranger Neil Lane. “He flew right past me – … Continue reading A glimpse of the night parrot in the Great Sandy Desert