How American nuthatches and chickadees communicate


This 2015 video from the USA is called Red-breasted Nuthatch Mini Documentary.

From the University of Montana in the USA:

Researchers study how birds retweet news

February 14, 2020

Every social network has its fake news. And in animal communication networks, even birds discern the trustworthiness of their neighbors, a study from the University of Montana suggests.

The study, recently published in the top science journal Nature, is the culmination of decades’ worth of research from UM alumni Nora Carlson and Chris Templeton and UM Professor Erick Greene in the College of Humanities and Sciences. It sheds a new light on bird social networks.

“This is the first time people have shown that nuthatches are paying attention to the source of information, and that influences the signal they produce and send along,” Greene said.

Carlson, Templeton and Greene shared an interest in trying to crack the Rosetta Stone of how birds communicate and collected bird calls over the years.

Each bird species has a song, usually sung by the males, for “letting the babes know ‘here I am,'” Greene said, as well as staking out real estate. Their loud and complex calls usually ring out during breeding season.

But for warning calls, each sound stands for a specific threat, such as “snake on the ground”, “flying hawk” and “perched hawk.” The calls convey the present danger level and specific information. They also are heard by all species in the woods in a vast communication network that sets them on high alert.

“Everybody is listening to everybody else in the woods,” Greene said.

In the study, Greene and his researchers wanted to determine how black-capped chickadees and red-breasted nuthatches encode information in their calls.

In bird communication, a high-pitched “seet” from a chickadee indicates a flying hawk and causes a strong reaction — other birds go silent, look up and then dive in the bushes. Alarm calls can travel quickly through the woods. Greene said in previous experiments they clocked the speed of the calls at 100 miles per hour, which he likens to the bow wave on a ship.

“Sometimes birds in the woods know five minutes before a hawk gets there,” Greene said.

A harsh, intensified “mobbing call” drives birds from all species to flock together to harass the predator. When the predator hears the mobbing call, it usually has to fly a lot farther to hunt, so the call is very effective.

“The owl is sitting in the tree, going, ‘Oh crap!” Greene said.

Greene calls it “social media networks — the original tweeting.”

For the study with chickadees and nuthatches, the researchers focused on direct information — something a bird sees or hears firsthand — versus indirect information, which is gained through the bird social network and could be a false alarm.

“In a way, it kind of has to do with fake news, because if you get information through social media, but you haven’t verified it, and you retweet it or pass it along, that’s how fake news starts,” Greene said.

Nuthatches and chickadees share the same predators: the great horned owl and the pygmy owl. To the small birds, the pygmy owl is more dangerous than a great horned owl due to its smaller turning radius, which allows it to chase prey better.

“If you are eating something that’s almost as big as you are, it’s worth it to go after it,” Greene said.

Using speakers in the woods, the researchers played the chickadee’s warning call for the low-threat great-horned owl and the higher-threat pygmy owl to nuthatches. The calls varied by threat level — great-horned owl versus pygmy owl — and whether they were direct (from the predators themselves) or indirect (from the chickadees).

What they discovered about the nuthatches was surprising.

Direct information caused the nuthatches to vary their calls according to the high threat and the low threat. But the chickadee’s alarm call about both predators elicited only a generic, intermediate call from the nuthatch, regardless of the threat level.

Greene said the research points to the nuthatch’s ability to make sophisticated decisions about stimuli in their environment and avoid spreading “fake news” before they confirm a predator for themselves.

“You gotta take your hat off to them,” Greene said. “There’s a lot of intelligence there.”

The research, conducted by Carlson, Templeton and Greene around Montana and Washington throughout the years, wasn’t without challenges.

Most of the set up happened during winter, and nuthatches had to be isolated from chickadees to ensure the warning calls were not a response to witnessing chickadees going crazy. Often a chickadee would appear after everything was set up, and the researchers had to take everything down and try a new location.

“It’s quite hard to find nuthatches without chickadees somewhere in the area,” Greene said. “That was the most difficult part — to find these conditions out in the wild.”

But the results were worth the work.

Greene said the nuthatch study ultimately helps researchers better understand how animal communication networks work and how different species decode information, encode info and pass it along.

“We kind of wish people behaved like nuthatches,” Greene said.

Northen flicker in Montana, USA


This video from the USA says about itself:

Northern Flicker Poses In Missoula, Montana – Feb. 5, 2020

This handsome male Northern Flicker puts his black bib, red whisker, and spotted belly on display for the Hellgate Ospreys cam.

Birds of prey in Yellowstone National Park, USA


This 24 June 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

LIVE with Raptors in West Yellowstone | Yellowstone Live

Meet an owl named Acadia and see bald eagles in action LIVE from West Yellowstone, Montana. Naturalist Leanne Schuh from the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center and National Geographic Explorer Rae Wynn Grant are here to take your questions!

House finch sings at osprey nest, video


This video from Montana in the USA says about itself:

Male House Finch Sings Songs At Hellgate Osprey Nest – June 14, 2019

The Hellgate Osprey cam welcomed a beautiful male house finch at the nest today. Enjoy his long, jumbled songs composed of short notes before he departs out of view.

Watch live with updates, tweets, and highlights at http://AllAboutBirds.org/ospreys.

A female house finch landed famously at a 2016 Bernie Sanders presidential election campaign rally.

Grizzly bears eating huckleberries, new research


This 1 August 2013 video from Montana in the USA says about itself:

Grizzly bear was eating huckleberry in Glacier National Park.

From the University of Washington in the USA:

New tool maps a key food source for grizzly bears: huckleberries

March 26, 2019

Summary: Researchers have developed a new approach to map huckleberry distribution across Glacier National Park that uses publicly available satellite imagery. Tracking where huckleberry plants live can help biologists predict where grizzly bears will also be found.

Grizzly bears depend on huckleberries as a critical food source to fatten up before winter hibernation. When berries reach peak ripeness in mid-July, they make up about half of the diet for the hundreds of grizzly bears that live in and around Montana’s Glacier National Park.

Despite the importance of huckleberries to grizzly bears, listed as threatened in the lower 48 states, there is no comprehensive way to know where the shrubs are located across the park’s vast terrain. Tracking where huckleberry plants live now — and where they may move under climate change — would help biologists predict where grizzly bears will also be found.

The University of Washington and U.S. Geological Survey have developed an approach to map huckleberry distribution across Glacier National Park that uses publicly available satellite imagery. Their new method is described in a recent paper in the International Journal of Remote Sensing.

“The inspiration behind the research was to map huckleberry patches to identify and protect areas of prime grizzly bear habitat. Grizzlies depend on huckleberries as a main source of food in late summer, and huckleberry distribution may be shifting with climate change”, said lead author Carolyn Shores, a doctoral student in the UW School of Environmental and Forest Sciences who also works as a caribou biologist for British Columbia’s fish and wildlife agency.

Huckleberry plants are an important cultural and economic resource for people, as well, particularly indigenous communities in the U.S. and Canada. Given the significance this plant plays in the life history of people, bears and dozens of other species, biologists need to be able to map and assess changes to the distribution of huckleberries to learn how to conserve them, said senior author Tabitha Graves, a research ecologist with U.S. Geological Survey who is based in the national park.

“This tool will be combined with future models of the timing and productivity of berries to inform managers of options for protecting food for bears, birds, pollinators, small mammals and humans,” Graves said.

While Glacier National Park was used as a test site for mapping huckleberries, this approach could be used around the world to map other important shrub and tree communities, or track the progression of disease or insect outbreaks, the authors said.

The research team used satellite and aerial imagery from two different sources — NASA’s Landsat images and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Imagery Program — to examine patterns in huckleberry plants that turn a brilliant red color each fall. Those plants’ bright, distinguishable color makes it possible to pick it out seasonally among other plants in the landscape.

Landsat satellites have taken regular photos of the Earth’s surface down to 30 meters (100 feet) resolution for more than four decades. These aerial images helped the research team pick out the unique visual patterns of huckleberries in areas where the plants are known to live, then use modeling to predict their distribution across the entire park.

The National Agriculture Imagery Program images were taken less frequently, but at a higher resolution of 1 meter (3 feet). Researchers used these images to train a computer to recognize huckleberries, then map the entire park with that learned information. Both methods rely on the bright red color in autumn that distinguishes huckleberries from most other plants.

The team tested the accuracy of each approach by hiking to areas in Glacier National Park where huckleberries live, making sure that the plants were in fact living where the aerial photos showed they were. In total, their mapping techniques were about 80 percent accurate, they found. The methods worked less well for mapping huckleberry plants that are under tree cover, but the plants are often in open areas.

This technique will also help to answer questions about the impacts of wildfire or other disturbances on huckleberry distribution, the researchers said.

“Our approach is the first we know of that attempts to distinguish an individual understory species based on color change”, Shores said. She noted that satellite imagery has been used to identify taller species, such as trees killed by beetles in Canada.

During the mapping project, they found that most huckleberry plants in Glacier National Park are more than 100 meters (328 feet) away from hiking trails, which bodes well for grizzly bears to be able to feed with little disturbance from humans, Shores said.

While this study focused on mapping the distribution of huckleberry shrubs in the national park, the next step is to complete several other studies aiming to understand the huckleberry lifecycle and predict the timing of berries. That information will help grizzly bear managers consider where human-bear conflicts might occur and work to minimize them.

“My vision is to have a real-time prediction of potential human-bear conflict areas,” Graves said.

Grizzly bears spend many months in hibernation, but their muscles do not suffer from the lack of movement. Researchers report on how they manage to do this. The grizzly bears’ strategy could help prevent muscle atrophy in humans as well: here.

Yellowstone, USA wildlife videos


This 20 August 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

5 Iconic Animals of Yellowstone | Nat Geo Wild

Yellowstone National Park may be best known for Old Faithful geyser and other unique geothermal features, but it’s also home to the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 states. Learn about wolves, elk, grizzly bears, bison, and river otters that call Yellowstone home.

This 8 August 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

See Foxes LIVE in Yellowstone | Yellowstone Live

We’re LIVE in West Yellowstone, MT with an adorable fox.

This 6 August 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

Snakes and Salamanders, LIVE in Yellowstone | Yellowstone Live

We’re LIVE in West Yellowstone, MT with a snake and a salamander.

This 5 August 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

We’re LIVE in Yellowstone with a bald eagle.

A Montana State University study of Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding area shows that increased population and density, as well as a changing climate, are affecting the overall ecological health of the region: here.

More than 10 miles into the backcountry of Yellowstone National Park, on the edge of the caldera, lives a high-elevation community so diverse that Montana State University scientists call it “incredible, unique and truly weird.” The community of microorganisms lives in a sapphire blue hot spring 8,600 feet above sea level on the Continental Divide. It’s a pool where volcanic gases rise to mix with snowmelt and rainwater, a phenomenon that allows for exceptionally high levels of diversity, said Dan Colman, assistant research professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the College of Agriculture and the College of Letters and Science: here.