You ever see a bird clutching onto a branch high in a tree and wonder, “What happens if it falls asleep? How could it hold on?”
The avian talon works through a “pulley system of tendons,” according to the animal morphology blog Ars Anatomica, and it can lock into place.
"The bird’s foot closes and grasps automatically as the ankle and knee joints are bent," we read. "This grasp cannot be released until the limb is straightened again."
So, instead of expending precious energy holding the muscles tight—as you would if you were hanging onto a branch with your fists/arms—the system simply physically locks in place.
Read more. [Image: Ars Anatomica]
Do you ever wonder about those flocks of computer-generated birds flitting across the screens of so many of your favorite shows and films? I do. I’ll be watching your average contemporary Hollywood film or TV show, but when I’m supposed to be gazing at the planet-destroying starship, giant robot, mythical behemoth, or fantastical cityscape, my attention always gets pulled elsewhere, focusing instead on much smaller things within the frame — usually, those confounded digital birds flying around.
Read more. [Image: AMC]
[…] A bird strike — sometimes also called a Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard, or BASH — remains a rare but destructive phenomenon. Which makes it one of those ironies that speak to the frailty of human technology: All the knowledge embedded in an aircraft — all the physical prowess, all the digital nuance — can still be thwarted by a coincidental collusion with birds. To the extent, per one estimate, that our feathered friends can cause more than a billion — billion, with a b — dollars’ worth of damage to aircraft in a single year.
But that could be changing: Bird strikes could soon become a thing of the past. Researchers in South Korea have developed a mobile device that uses a combination of tracking software, microphones, and lasers — yes, lasers — to detect birds and then scare them away from airport runways.
Read more. [Image: AP]
Well it turns out city-dwellers aren’t the only ones miffed by urban noise pollution. Research has long suggested that wildlife – and birds in particular – may be impacted by the man-made sounds of the city, from car horns to traffic congestion. A new study confirms that sparrows in the Presidio District of San Francisco appear to have changed their tune and raised their voices to be heard over the increasingly noisy racket of the Golden Gate Bridge.
The researchers, George Mason’s David Luther and Louisiana State’s Elizabeth Derryberry, compared modern birdsong in the city to recordings of sparrows in the area taken in 1969. They also looked at historic noise-level data from the Environmental Protection Agency and San Francisco Department of Health, as well as traffic volumes over the Golden Gate Bridge across this time period.
They found that as noise in the city increased, so too did the pitch, or frequency, of the male white-crowned sparrow song. Higher frequencies of song allow the birds to keep twittering at each other over the low-frequency ambient noise of rumbling cars. Even more surprising, the authors write in the journal Animal Behaviour, the birds also seem in the last four decades to have literally changed their repertoire. […]
It’s probably good news for these sparrows that they’ve figured out how to adapt (and good news for urban bird-lovers that this wildlife isn’t simply fleeing the city all together). But there’s also something sort of disturbing about the implication that cities can distort the natural environment right down to birdsong. In some ways, noise matters even more for birds than it does for humans: Birds sing to defend their territory and to attract mates (life’s two most important goals!), and excessive noise threatens that.
Read more. [Image: Shutterstock]