Birds continue to capture our imagination. These dinosaur descendants have been the subject of much research into the size of their brain (being a ‘bird brain’ might not be so bad after all), the mathematics of flocking together and much more.
Here are some of our favourite stories from this year.
Swans favour shorter rests for higher violence
There’s an old insurance ad where a flock of swans invade a highway and harangue motorists.
Maybe those swans weren’t well-rested.
As scientists at the University of Exeter found, competing swan species at a Scottish reserve prime themselves for aggressive territorial protection by trading sleep for attack energy.
Read more about the fight (or flight) club.
Clever cockies can open wheelie bins
Move over ibises, there’s a new king of the bin in Australian suburbia.
Sulphur-crested cockatoos have been spotted across Sydney and southern New South Wales opening roadside wheelie bins and teaching their comrades to do the same.
In response, residents have taken up arms in a suburban war against cockatoos by placing bricks and sticks to dissuade them. But that, as it turns out, doesn’t always work out either…
Read more about the battle for the bin.
Woodpecker myth debunked
Woodpeckers have special cushioning in their skull that prevents them getting concussions when they slam their head against a hard trunk.
Read more about these ‘bird brained’ critter.
The ethics of making crows clean roads
Should highly-intelligent crows be ‘paid’ to work?
It’s a question that was asked early in 2022 when a Swedish start-up decided to train birds to pick cigarette butts off local roads for a food reward.
It’s not the first time that crows have been ‘employed’ by humans either.
But while training animals to perform labour might have dollar-sign appeal, there are very real ethical concerns about these practices.
Read more here.
Keeping the gloss on the mainland
A South Australian glossy black cockatoo has been spotted for the first time since the 1970s.
A single male was sighted by avid birdwatcher, Julie Thompson, in a park near Adelaide in late July and another observation has been confirmed in the same location more recently.
Previously, it was thought this subspecies only existed on Kangaroo Island.
Read more about their hide and seek.
In more good news, the western grasswren was reintroduced to Dirk Hartog Island in Western Australia after going locally extinct.
Read more about the fabulous grasswren.
Citizens trying to save penguins
Little penguins – endemic to the Australian mainland – are big revenue raisers for the Victorian economy where they’re a crucial part of the state’s ecotourism sector.
There, its abundant colony at Phillip Island enthrals audiences with their nocturnal parade every night of the year.
But elsewhere in Australia, the species appears to be going backwards, in some cases, declining by over 98%.
South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula is one such place. Read more about why here.
Matthew Agius is a science writer for Cosmos Magazine.
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