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Submission + - The enemy of my enemy is my friend (

grrlscientist writes: Tiny hummingbird eggs and babies are a favourite snack for nest-robbing jays, so what’s a mother hummingbird to do to protect her family? According to a study published recently in the journal, Science Advances, the hummingbird cleverly builds her nest near or under a hawk nest. The reason for this seemingly risky behaviour? When hawks are nesting nearby, jays forage higher above the ground to avoid being attacked from above by the hungry hawk parents. This elevation in the jays’ foraging height creates a cone-shaped jay-free safe area under the hawk nests where mother hummingbirds, their babies and nests, enjoy dramatically increased survival rates.

Submission + - Life history trade-offs: why tropical songbirds have fewer chicks (

grrlscientist writes: Tropical songbirds produce fewer, high-quality nestlings per breeding effort than do songbirds that breed in temperate zones, according to a study published today. This study reports that tropical songbirds’ nestlings grow longer wings, and faster, which means they spend less time in the nest where they are vulnerable to predators

Submission + - Are hurricanes more deadly than himmicanes? (

grrlscientist writes: A recently published paper claims that the gender of the name given to individual hurricanes is linked to the public's perception of the risk posed by that storm. In short, this study claims that hurricanes given female-sounding names are perceived to be less dangerous than those given male-sounding names (which we refer to here as "himmicanes"). This public underestimation of risk apparently results in hurricanes causing significantly more deaths than himmicanes. We reanalyse the data and find there is no relationship between hurricane name-gender and deaths caused.

Submission + - Open and shut: These brainy birds open their own doors (

grrlscientist writes: When the University of Victoria in Canada opened a new campus bike centre in the parkade located under the University Centre last November, motion-activated doors were installed to discourage swallows from nesting in the new facility. But when the swallows returned to their familiar nest sites a few weeks ago, they were undeterred by this peculiar impediment: they quickly learned how to open the doors by flying in front of the infrared motion detector.

Submission + - PCBs cause birds to sing a different tune (

An anonymous reader writes: Songbirds living along the Hudson River in New York state are exposed to levels of PCBs that don't kill them but do disrupt the songs they sing, reports a team of researchers from Cornell University. Their study reveals that birds residing in regions with higher environmental PCB contamination levels have higher total blood PCBs, which affects their singing behaviour: the team found these species' songs varied predictably based on their PCB load, and also based upon the type of PCBs. Thus, the scientists suggest that another of the many toxic effects of sublethal environmental PCB pollution are neurological effects that translate into observable behaviour changes that disrupt song quality used by birds to communicate.

"The most important thing in a man is not what he knows, but what he is." -- Narciso Yepes