Month: June 2016

The Flamingo and Their Young

Posted on June 28, 2016 in Main

The flamingo is an animal that is well known for their long, stilt-like legs, their bright pink plumes, and their long, S-shaped necks.  Their beautiful colors, as well as their unique features, tends to make the flamingo a popular animal at both the zoo and in rescues.  The favored foods of the flamingo are snails, shrimp, and algae (a plantlike water microorganism).  When the flamingo sees it’s potential dinner, it sticks its head all the way into the water, turns it upside down, and then will use its top beak like a scoop to pick up the fish.  Thanks to their webbed feet, they are also able to “run” on top of the water so they can get up to top speed before lifting off in flight.

755f3ea756b8d82d1d97883d2dfebc9cWhen a flamingo builds a next, it looks like a mound of mud on the side of the river.  Within a shallow hole on top of the mound, the female will lay a single egg.  The egg is kept warm by both parents, taking turns sitting on it.  After almost a month of sitting, the egg will finally hatch.  The baby flamingo will hatch out with a bill that is straight and soft, white downy feathers.  As the baby flamingo grows older, the color of the feathers will change and the bill will begin to contour downward slowly. The male and female will both take care of the young flamingo.  They feed the young one by providing a fluid that their digestive system produces

After about five days, the young flamingo will wander from the nest to join many other baby flamingos in small teams.  They will only return to their parents when they want food.  The parents use the chicks voice to identify which one belongs to them.  At around three weeks of age, the adult flamingos will herd their young ones into large groups called creches where the young ones start learning how to find food on their own.




The Communication of Baby Barn Owls

Posted on June 25, 2016 in Main

A young barn owl is known for calling out to negotiate for its food rather than boldly contending for it.  In Switzerland, a group of researchers have discovered that each owlet has their very own individual sounding call.  The researchers believe that this is a way for the owlets to confirm their identity within the nest and to connect to each bird’s needs.

Barn owls are found on every continent other than Antarctica and are considered to be one of the most prevalent kinds of birds.  Their nest will typically contain a clutch of around four to six eggs, but, on some occasions, have been known to have as many as twelve.

p1306563122-3Past research of the nestlings, also know as owlets, have highlighted just how they bargain for the food within the nest rather than fighting.  The owlets will share their hunger with their siblings through calling out while their parents are out looking for food for them.  Doing so will keep their siblings from competing for the food once the parents return with it.  The vocalizations will rise in intensity little by little, but with no physical aggression, if their is a disagreement, until other owlets that are not as hungry withdraw from the match.

Scientists began examining wild owls that resided in Switzerland in nest boxes to learn more about this interaction between owlets.  They recorded the interactions of the owlets at night while the parents were out of the nest and determined that a single owlet makes up to five thousand calls in one night.  Since the calls take so much energy from the owlets, the probability that incorrect signals are made by the chick is greatly reduced.

Some studies have further shown that the owlets will not interrupt the calls of the other owlets.  Through paying attention to the recorded calls of the owlets, some have been able to discriminate between individual owlet’s calls, thus suggesting that their individual voices help them to be recognized by their nest mates.  Researchers have also noted that their voices and calls were different based on their sex, their age, their family, and just how hungry they are.



Baby Bats and Language

Posted on June 23, 2016 in Main

Doing research on vocal learning animals, such as elephants, whales, and sea lions, is not an easy task, so zoologists began studying the Egyptian fruit bat, a species that is vocal learning and that makes babbling noises before they master communication, in the same way a human child does. This study basically put the bats in a vocal “vacuum” to show just how their communication develops.

6a010535647bf3970b01b8d0a1caff970c-800wiThe researchers put the five bat pups in an isolated environment where they were not able to hear any conversations from the adult bats. Once the five were weaned, they were subjected to adult bat babble by using a speaker system. A separate group of five bats were raised within a colony with adult bats present, allowing them to hear vocalizations with others from birth. The bats in the colony switched over to more grown up interactions from their babbling early in their development, where the ones that were isolated continued to babble way into their adolescence. The isolated ones were able to figure out how to make adult noises, but they could not separate the adult noises from the adolescent babble. Researchers then put both groups of bats together. When that happened, the bats that were originally isolated overtook their peers. The researchers discovered that the interaction between bats is more closely related to human language than it is the songs of birds because the fruit bats seemed to “talk” in conversations rather than singing about their condition in the way birds do.

Researchers hope that their studies on the language of the fruit bats will be able to reveal more information on how humans acquire language. In the meantime, though, the researchers are hoping to learn more about what the bats are actually conversing about, both in the wild and in the lab.

Robin Eggs

Posted on June 15, 2016 in Main

It is well known that most birds will lay their eggs with the sunrise, but this is not the case for robins.  A robin will lay her egg in the middle of the morning instead.  There is a good reason, though.  A robin will eat a whole lot of earthworms when it is the season for breeding, and they will hunt for them in the early hours when the worms are mostly available.  Only after their worm feast will they lay an egg. After a nice hearty breakfast, laying an egg is easier for the robin, whereas other types of birds seem to need a long, quiet period of time in order to lay.

Robins can only lay one egg a day, and that is hard work!  A female bird only has one working ovary.  Mammals, on the other hand, have two.  The ovaries are part of the reproductive organs where the eggs are created.  When looking at a bird’s ovary, it looks like a bunch of grapes that are different sizes.  The “grapes” are the bird’s ova, or the yolks.  The egg that is next in line to be laid is the largest.  The others are smaller, based on when they will be laid.  Once a day, the one that is the largest is ovulated.  That means that it will pop off of the ovary and begin going down a tube, called the oviduct, that goes throughout the robin’s body.

The egg will be fertile if the robin has mated.  If not, it will still go down the oviduct and be laid like any other egg, but it will not become a baby bird.  As the egg makes its way through the oviduct, the surfaces of the wall produce albumen to surround the yolk.  Albumen is a healthy protein that is watery.  As the yolk nears the end over the oviduct, it is surrounded by calcium compounds, thus creating the shell of the egg.  This entire process is very draining on the body of the robin!

Below is a video of hatching robin eggs.  Such a beautiful display of nature at its finest!