Avian Expert Articles

Finches Talk To Their Eggs & Other Fascinating Bird News

Blue-fronted Amazon parrotIf you’re like most people and get your news fix online, try going a step beyond the top stories by searching specifically for bird news. You might be treated to some fascinating results. Check out these intriguing bird-centric stories, which range from parrots playing video games to zebra finches telling their eggs when to hatch to how the males of a bird species called the southern pied babble favor their own biological male chicks over their “stepchicks.”

Parrot Gamers?

Most informed bird people know that companion parrots thrive with enrichment, whether that is food enrichment, toy enrichment, social enrichment and everything in between that works a parrot’s senses. Researchers at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Schubot Exotic Bird Health Center are taking parrot enrichment to the digital age by creating video games that appeal to very specific audience — parrots! The prototype game is akin to the classic “Whack-a-mole,” but instead of using a foam mallet to whack moles’ heads back down into their holes, the bird yells at the screen to make pop of images go away. As the project’s lead researcher, Dr. Donald Brightsmith said, ““It would be nice to come home and know that your animal had been exercising during the day,” Brightsmith said. “Video games such as this would allow pet owners to increase the bird’s activity and increase the bird’s mental stimulation, with an interest in improving the physical and mental health of the birds.” Read all about it. 

Contact Calls To The Egg?

Zebra FinchHere’s an interesting fact: Scientists have known for awhile that birds capable of fending for themselves upon hatching (think of the impressionable duck who might imprint on someone, or something, other than its mother), can hear through their eggs. But they weren’t exactly sure what happened inside the eggs of birds that hatch dependent on their parents (parrots for one do!). Thanks to researchers at Deakin University in Australia, we now know that finches for one do communicate with their eggs. Learn — and hear for yourself! — how the finch’s incubation calls changed when nest temperatures rose, and how climate change might influence an egg’s embryonic stage.

 

Where Have You Been?

Zebra_FinchesZebra finches, apparently, make excellent couples. They are monogamous, share parenting duties and, like most strong relationships, they are good at communicating with one another. They also know how to keep schedules, with scientists observing that they rotated nest and foraging duties in 30-minute shifts and had vocal exchanges during the switch over. See what happened when researchers kept the male past his 30-minute foraging time — running late doesn’t go over so well with zebra finch females.

Southern_Pied-babbler,_by_Derek-Keats
Southern Pied-babbler pair by Derek Keats

Birds Can Show Favoritisim

In many ways the southern pied babbler, a black and white bird found in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, follow the “It takes a village to raise a child” mindset. They live in groups ranging from three to 14 birds, and chicks are raised by both parents as well as other adult birds. But researchers have learned that there is a “favored chick” sentiment at play, as the male southern pied babbler appears to play favorites when it comes to the males of his own offspring verses his “stepchicks.” See how this form of birdie nepotism unfolded when researchers took a close look at their family dynamics.

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