Questions relating to the study of birds.

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Do homing pigeons fly straight home or follow certain “highways”?

Homing pigeons (Columba livia) have been prized for their navigational abilities for thousands of years. They’ve served as messengers during war, as a means of long-distance communication, and as ...
26
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2answers
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Where do migratory birds go when it rains?

I was reading a comic from XKCD which inspired me to ask this question: "well, where do they go when it rains?" I know that when it rains you usually don't see any birds flying through the sky. I ...
20
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3answers
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Were there any flying dinosaurs?

I've seen some articles which came in contradiction with each other. The first article was talking about flying dinosaurs, dinosaurs with feathers and so on. A couple of other articles are talking ...
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2answers
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How do birds deal with their eyes drying out at high speeds?

My eyes tear up when cycling at 15 mph, which is nothing compared to bird airspeeds. Do birds continuously produce lots of tears and blink a lot, or do the eyes self-moisturize from the inside ...
13
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2answers
395 views

What kind of bird species is this?

Every now and then I got a glimpse of this bird which I'm pretty sure is not native to Northern Germany where I live. There are at least three of these birds around but I usually only see something ...
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1answer
873 views

Are there birds with knees instead of elbows?

Are there any birds whose legs fold the same way human legs do, in a knee, instead of an elbow which is what all the birds I know have?
13
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How does a woodpecker not give itself concussions?

How does a woodpecker go about smacking it's head into a tree without killing itself?
13
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2answers
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Do birds emit infra-red radiation?

I'm an electronics engineering student and I am going to use a sensor that detects infra-red emitted by birds that invade rice paddies. Do birds emit infra-red radiation?
12
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2answers
291 views

Did we first have swimming birds or flying birds?

Looking at the swimming birds building nests just across my garden, I suddenly wondered how evolution came to swimming birds and whether flying birds started swimming or whether swimming bird like ...
12
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1answer
784 views

If dinosaurs could have feathers, would they still be reptiles?

I just finished watching a video where it was mentioned that nowadays birds are dinosaurs and non-avians dinosaurs could have feathers. I confirmed this from wikipedia: Birds are highly advanced ...
12
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1answer
344 views

Can anyone identify this bird?

Can anyone identify this bird: it looks like a zebra finch but they are not native to UK are they? Photo taken from my garden in Shoreham, West Sussex on 16/8/2014.
11
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1answer
144 views

Is it painful for the hen to lay eggs?

My little son just asked me this question. His mother used to complain about the excruciating pain she suffered when she gave birth to him. He is a compassionate kid and wonders whether the hen goes ...
11
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1answer
956 views

Can you identify this bird?

Can somebody please identify this bird for me? I spotted this in July 2012 while birding in Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary.
11
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1answer
1k views

Why do chickens not try to get up if laid on their backs?

I've seen a few videos about chickens being laid on their backs for a few seconds after which the chickens stay in that position until they are turned over. Comments around the video suggested that ...
11
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1answer
439 views

How can an albatross stay airborne for months?

Albatrosses, of the biological family Diomedeidae, are large seabirds allied to the procellariids, storm-petrels and diving-petrels in the order Procellariiformes. They range widely in the Southern ...
10
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3answers
968 views

The evolutionary process in bird wings, especially with regard to winglets

In this answer on aviation.SE a comparison is made between the shapes of airplanes wings and the shapes of birds wings. It concludes with the following remark: After all, no bird has winglets. Not ...
10
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1answer
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What is the mass of a pigeon tail feather?

There is question at Space.SE If I drop a feather from orbit, would it burn up or “hit” the ground? there is an attempt to answer the question, but the mass of pigeon tail feather and possibly the ...
10
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3answers
465 views

What's the name of this bird?

This morning I saw a bird that I have never seen before. Since it was quite big, I'm very interested in knowing its name. The bird was quite big, at least 2-3 times of a common blackbird. The wings ...
9
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1answer
914 views

Do mantises stalk cicadas?

The Chinese Idiom The mantis stalks the cicada, unaware of the oriole behind (螳螂捕蝉,黄雀在后), which the story behind the idiom comes from Shuo Yuan(说苑), refers to those who are attracted by immediate ...
9
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2answers
595 views

Why do birds move their heads abruptly?

When we humans look around, we pan smoothly from one side to the other. Birds on the other hand seem to point their head in one direction for a while, then abruptly point their head in another ...
9
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2answers
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Are there grass or fiber eating birds?

My understanding, that may be wrong, is that cellulose/fibre has little nutritional value to many animals because it's hard to break down thus making consumption inefficient. However, Ruminating ...
9
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1answer
337 views

Chicken Genome what are the LGE 'chromosomes'?

The chicken genome identifies two "LGE" sequences in the chicken genome. Are these distinct chromosomes or some highly variable sequence from the genome that is put in a separate sequence? I'm ...
9
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3answers
156 views

What triggers the migration of robins?

I live in central Massachusetts, and have begun seeing robins, as we generally do in early March. The temperature is well below normal, though, and three feet of snow are covering the still-frozen ...
9
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1answer
266 views

Identify a bird

I have taken this picture of a bird in university zoo in Tel Aviv. It was approximately 25 cm high and seemed to be a flightless species. Can somebody help me identify it?
9
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1answer
139 views

Plumage as indicator of health in birds

Anybody know which traits of bird plumage are accurate indicators of a birds health? For example feather coloration, feather brightness, amount of feather wear, number of feathers, moult timing, moult ...
9
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2answers
217 views

Birds placing sticks on train tracks?

I live in a semi-rural area in Germany, close to a park which trains go through every 20 minutes. Today, I saw something that left me perplexed. There is a large population of birds that look like ...
8
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1answer
514 views

What is this crow eating, and is it a common part of the corvid diet?

Here's a picture (by Rob Curtis) of a crow carrying and eating the corpse of what looks a bit like a small hawk or falcon: Other pictures clearly show the crow is eating the dead bird. This image ...
8
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1answer
365 views

Why don't birds in flocks fly into each other?

I've seen videos of hundreds of birds flying in the same general direction but creating incredible patterns in the sky seemingly instantaneously! How do they all know in what direction to turn at the ...
7
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3answers
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What exactly does adaptive mean?

This is a quote from Dey et al 2014: Hatching asynchrony is thought to be adaptive because... What exactly does adaptive mean here? Does it mean hatching asynchrony has fitness benefits? Or does ...
7
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1answer
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Why is the Kakapo more attracted to humans than its own kind?

The Kakapo can be seen in this video by BBC. It is said that the species is strongly sexually attracted to humans. Why could this be the case?
7
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1answer
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Do birds have navels?

This picture shows the development inside a bird egg: This shows the connection of the embryo to the yolk sac. Does this mean birds have navels? And if so, what happens to the umbilical cord once ...
7
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1answer
439 views

How do birds influence brood sex ratios?

This paper concludes that birds can adaptively modulate brood sex ratios. How do birds modulate brood sex ratios? Are they somehow able to influence the sex of their young? Or once young are born, do ...
7
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1answer
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Why do pigeons kill their chicks when touched by a human?

I used to have many pigeons around the house. If by chance one of the chicks fell out of the nest, we used to put it back using gloves. Usually, if we would touch the chicks with our bare hands, ...
7
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1answer
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Why does ostrich meat look and taste more like beef than chicken?

Some time ago I tasted ostrich meat, and what was amazing to me was that the meat very much resembled beef, much more than it resembled chicken, turkey or duck meat. And even more than lamb and pork ...
7
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1answer
81 views

Why do crows sit on treetops even when it is cold?

It is cold outside: -1 degrees Celsius, wind 14 km/h and snow from time to time. I was wondering why crows (maybe birds in general in Northern Europe) are calmly sitting in relatively windy places ...
7
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1answer
204 views

How did birds survive the KT impact?

As I understand it, the ejecta resulting from the K-T impact (also known as the end-Cretaceous or Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event) re-entered the atmosphere all over the world; the heat from ...
6
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2answers
42 views

Why was the cackling goose split off as a distinct species from the Canada goose in 2004?

According to Wikipedia, in 2004 the American Ornithologists' Union made the cackling goose a new species, splitting it away from the Canada goose. The British followed suit in 2005. What was the ...
6
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2answers
83 views

What is this bird of prey with white belly?

This bird was around the house in northern Switzerland (altitude approximately 700 metres) on January 17th 2016, and I am just wondering what kind of species it is. The legs are yellow and the ...
6
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1answer
59 views

A website for identifying birds

I am not sure if this is the right place to ask this question, but I guess that ornithology enthusiasts (or ornithologists) will have the best knowledge about it. I am wondering if there is a website ...
6
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2answers
232 views

Do diurnal birds of prey recognize each other by their appearance?

Just what the title states. I recognize people around me by their facial appearance to begin with, then by their little idiosyncracies; this applies perhaps to most other humans too. We rely pretty ...
6
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1answer
11k views

What species of eagle pushes their young to teach them flying?

There are many references to eagle pushing their young off the nest to make them know how to fly, for example this motivational video. It is also described in this website: Let me show you "the ...
6
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1answer
168 views

Help Needed Identifying Corvids

I'd appreciate some help identifying these three corvids I photographed in Austria during the Summer: I know identifying corvids can be difficult, I'm not an ornithologist, just an amateur bird ...
6
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1answer
106 views

Can you “spam” bird sounds so that birds no longer interpret them right?

Is it possible to make birds confused by repeating recorded chirping or singing? Or do they always perceive them as usual, even if the situation is clearly not as described by those sounds? For ...
5
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1answer
405 views

Do any birds beside the family Columbidae (or any reptile or mammal) feed their young “Crop Milk”

Birds from the family Columbidae (e.g., doves and pigeons) produce a fatty, milk-like substance in their crop. The secretion is often referred to as "crop milk." They feed crop milk to their young ...
5
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1answer
128 views

How can this bird be identified? Can someone please identify this bird?

These photographs have been taken in Warora, India. Could someone please help identify this bird?
5
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1answer
206 views

Identify this large exotic bird spotted in Taipei, Taiwan

A few months ago while backpacking in Taipei I found this very intriguing large bird facing off a curious puppy in a fairly busy pedestrian area. The bird did not attempt to fly. None of the ...
5
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4answers
163 views

What bird species is this? (Heron-like waterfowl from China)

I need help identifying this bird. (Some sort of heron?) It was seen in Wuhan, Hubei, China, in September. It is very common there. It can also swim like a duck, but I've only seen it do this once ...
5
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1answer
113 views

Do any birds have established “poke a predator's eyes out” behavior?

Is there a pattern/tactics of behavior in any birds species that consists of attacking a predator's eyes with its beak? I'm looking for established tactics, not 1 or 2 anecdotal examples.
5
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1answer
300 views

hummingbird feeders - is sugar water healthy for them?

The top results on google for DIY hummingbird feeder suggest a white-sugar solution for the feed. In humans we make a big deal about processed sugar vs. the sugar you get from, say, eating a piece of ...
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1answer
391 views

Is sexual selection evolutionarily advantageous?

Our biology teacher says that peacocks will soon become extinct because of bigger and bigger (and heavier and heavier) tails. Why natural selection did not eliminate sexual selection?