Bird flight, new research


This video says about itself:

5 December 2016

Using a high-speed camera, scientists captured the swirling vortices produced by a slowly flying bird. Surprisingly, they found that the vortices rapidly dissipated. The unexpected effect suggests that scientists need to rethink methods for calculating the lift produced under such conditions.

From Science News:

Bird plus goggles equals new insight into flight physics

Unexpected vortices form in parrotlet’s wing wake

By Emily Conover

6:21pm, December 5, 2016

A bird in laser goggles has helped scientists discover a new phenomenon in the physics of flight.

Swirling vortices appear in the flow of air that follows a bird’s wingbeat. But for slowly flying birds, these vortices were unexpectedly short-lived, researchers from Stanford University report December 6 in Bioinspiration and Biomimetics. The results could help scientists better understand how animals fly, and could be important for designing flying robots (SN: 2/7/15, p. 18).

To study the complex air currents produced by birds’ flapping wings, the researchers trained a Pacific parrotlet, a small species of parrot, to fly through laser light — with the appropriate eye protection, of course. Study coauthor Eric Gutierrez, who recently graduated from Stanford, built tiny, 3-D‒printed laser goggles for the bird, named Obi.

Gutierrez and colleagues tracked the air currents left in Obi’s wake by spraying a fine liquid mist in the air, and illuminating it with a laser spread out into a two-dimensional sheet. High-speed cameras recorded the action at 1,000 frames per second.

The vortex produced by the bird “explosively breaks up,” says mechanical engineer David Lentink, a coauthor of the study. “The flow becomes very complex, much more turbulent.” Comparing three standard methods for calculating the lift produced by flapping wings showed that predictions didn’t match reality, thanks to the unexpected vortex breakup.

Ring-necked parakeets eat apple


This 29 November 2016 video is about female ring-necked parakeets eating an apple.

Rob van Veen in the Netherlands made this video.

Save African grey parrots


This video says about itself:

African Grey Parrot: Species in Decline (English)

14 September 2016

The African Grey Parrot – a highly intelligent bird that is popular as a pet – has been eliminated from much of its west African range and the largest populations are now only found in central Africa. In the fall of 2016, delegates from around the globe will meet for the world’s leading forum to debate and discuss issues related to international wildlife trade – the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP17) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES. Parties will consider a proposal to transfer the African Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus) from Appendix II to Appendix I, effectively banning international commercial trade in the species.

Read the full proposal here.

The Cornell Lab or Ornithology in the USA writes about this:

Increased Protection for a Bird Being Loved to Death

The Gray Parrot, also known as African Grey Parrot, is one of the world’s most popular pet birds—but that popularity has fueled the capture of millions of parrots from the wild in Africa. Earlier this month, an international wildlife trade conference granted this declining species increased protections under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The Cornell Lab’s Multimedia Productions program produced this video summary about the plight of the Gray Parrot for the government of Gabon and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

The video is also available in FrenchSpanish and Portuguese.

Yellow-chevroned parakeet eats fruit


This video says about itself:

13 July 2016

Yellow-chevroned Parakeets such as this one feed primarily on fruits and seeds. After selecting the ripest fruit, parakeets use their highly skilled feet to perch on one foot while using the other to clean the fruit from the pit. Once finished, the birds often use branches to wipe excess food off their bills.

This species lives in both North and South America.

Budgerigars and linguistics, new research


This video says about itself:

Budgies are grammar pedants too

20 June 2016

Just like us, these parrots use the grammatical structure of unfamiliar phrases to work out what they mean.

From New Scientist:

20 June 2016

Budgies use grammar to find meaning in unfamiliar phrases

By Colin Barras

Budgerigars are grammar pedants too. Just like us, these parrots use the grammatical structure of unfamiliar phrases to work out what they mean.

There is evidence that some birds pay attention to the order of sounds in a song, but this grammatical behaviour has not been well studied.

Michelle Spierings and Carel ten Cate at Leiden University in the Netherlands made new songs by piecing together three different snippets of recorded bird melodies. They played budgies and zebra finches certain patterns – such as AAB or ABA – and trained them to peck only when they heard AAB.

Order of play

The researchers then played new combinations to the birds. Because the zebra finches had learned not to peck for ABA, they also did not peck for CCA – apparently focusing on the fact the A snippet was in the final position in both cases.

But the budgies were different, focusing instead on the structure of the song. They pecked when they heard CCA, recognising that this is the same pattern as AAB. “They followed the structure and were not distracted by the positional changes,” says Spierings – the budgerigars are structural learners when it comes to grammar, like humans.

The results provide more evidence for convergent evolution of vocal learning in humans and birds, say the researchers. For instance, a study in 2014 found that dozens of genes involved in human vocal learning are active in a similar way in the brains of birds including both the zebra finch and the budgerigar.

Spix’s macaw is back in Brazil


This video says about itself:

15 June 2015

Watch our movie on the blue spix macaw and help us to save this beautiful bird from extinction!

From BirdLife:

Spix’s Macaw reappears in Brazil

By Shaun Hurrell, 24 June 2016

It was Grandpa Pinpin’s dream: to see his favourite bird, Spix’s Macaw, fly again over the skies of Curaçá, small town of about 20,000, in the dry Caatinga area in Bahia, Brazil, where goat herding is the main activity. Pinpin Oliveira passed away last year, age 94, his wish unfulfilled. But the baton was passed to his 16 year old grand-daughter, Damily, who not only saw the macaw, not seen in the wild since 2000, but also managed to film it with her mobile phone.

This video says about itself:

24 June 2016

BREAKING. Extinct in the wild? Maybe not. 16-year old Damily has filmed a Spix’s Macaw in the wild! BLU IS BACK.

The BirdLife article continues:

Spix’s Macaw Cyanopsitta spixii is Critically Endangered and possibly extinct in the wild, primarily as a result of trapping for trade plus habitat loss. This famous vibrant blue bird also became the star of the animated film ‘Rio’, as main characters ‘Blu’ and ‘Jewel’.

The bird was first sighted last Saturday. The first person to see the bird was local farmer Nauto Sergio de Oliveira who, as soon as confirmed that is was indeed a Spix’s Macaw, told his neighbours. On the following day, his wife Lourdes Oliveira and her daughter Damilys Oliveira woke up before dawn to look for the macaw in Barra Grande creek’s riparian forest. At 6:20 AM they were able to not only see the bird, but also take a video on Damilys’ mobile phone.

With the video Lourdes contacted the biologists from the Society for the Conservation of Birds in Brazil (SAVE Brasil, BirdLife Partner), one of the organisations that integrate Projeto Ararinha na Natureza (Spix’s Macaw in the Wild Project). The video and the distinctive vocal calls killed all doubts: it was indeed a Spix’s Macaw. Pedro Develey, SAVE Brasil’s Director, immediately told other project members and organised an emergency trip to Curaçá to locate the bird.

“The local people were euphoric,” said Develey. “They set up groups to locate the bird and control any potential dealers from entering.”

“After two years of us with them they are really proud and hopeful for a reintroduction to save the species.”

This individual’s origin is uncertain, quite possibly [it] came from captivity. Since Sunday there have been no more news concerning the macaw, but the project’s biologists and local residents of Curaçá are now mobilised. The area is very large and some stretches have difficult access, which makes it harder to locate the macaw.

According to Ugo Vercillo, Director of Biodiversity of the Ministry of the Environment, another partner organisation of Ararinha na Natureza project, the fact that a Spix’s Macaw appeared in Curaçá’s region reinforces the necessity of protecting this area. Since 2014, Ararinha na Natureza project has been working to create a 44,000 hectares protected area in the municipality to protect the Caatinga and riparian forests.

There has always been a great expectation of the local community regarding the Spix’s Macaw’s return. This macaw’s sighting relights the population’s hope of seeing one of their greatest prides back in the Caatinga.

Next week, an expedition led by Instituto Chico Mendes para a Conservação da Biodiversidade (ICMBio, federal government’s environmental agency responsible for biodiversity conservation) will join the local residents’ efforts on the attempts to locate the bird and obtain the more information as possible.  The expedition is one of the actions of Ararinha na Natureza project, sponsored by Vale, through Fundo Brasileiro para a Biodiversidade (Funbio – Brazilian Fund for Biodiversity).

In parallel to the field efforts, breeding the species in captivity for future reintroduction in the wild is crucial for the project’s success, and counts with the participation of the breeders AWWP (Qatar), ACTP (Germany) and Fazenda Cachoeira (Brazil). Together they maintain 130 Spix’s Macaws and throughout the following years they will provide the first individuals to be reintroduced in Curaçá.

Until the next sighting many questions remain concerning this bird’s origin. How did it reappear in the region? For how long has it been roaming free? How is it adapting to living in the wild? Answers will come in due time. For now just one, thrillingly pleasant thought: a Spix’s Macaw is soaring free, again, in Curaçá’s Caatinga.

“There’s hope again,” said Develey.

Parrots in the Netherlands


This video shows an Alexandrine parakeet in Spain.

Dutch Vroege Vogels TV reported on 24 June 2016 about parrots in the Netherlands.

37 feral parrot species have been seen flying freely in the Netherlands at various times.

Three of them breed now in the Netherlands: ring-necked parakeets, thousands of them in the western Netherlands.

Larger Alexandrine parakeets breed in Amsterdam and Haarlem cities: nine couples in 2012.

Monk parakeets, the smallest of the three species, nest in the eastern Netherlands.

Feral cockatiels, Senegal parrots, and scarlet macaws have nested in the Netherlands as well, but not any more.