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Archive for March, 2009

I came across two interesting articles recently.   First, in Thailand primatologists have been observing macaques using human hair, coconut fiber, and twigs to floss their teeth.  The monkeys will pull hair right out of the heads of visiting

Credit: National Geographic Society

Credit: National Geographic Society

tourists and then use the hair as floss.  But what makes this a really amazing story is the finding that female macaques teach their young the flossing behavior!  Strands were placed around the monkeys’ habitat and when in front of juveniles, the females flossed slower and repeated the motions in a manner similar to the way a human might teach the same mechanics to a child.  Here is the National Geographic article that includes a video of these hygenic macaques.

While doing research for work, I came across a study that used a statistical technique that I’ve been using for my own analysis.  But the stats isn’t the story here.  This article comes from The Condor, where the authors studied the alarm calls of American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) to predators.  Studies have shown that alarm calls that cause the birds to flee give good information as to the type of threat involved.  However, not a lot of research has gone into the alarm call that cause crows to mob.  These calls signal the extended family group to go toward the predator.  The authors used taxidermic mounts of a great horned owl and a raccoon as stand-ins for common crow predators.  The authors found that crows give the same vocalization for different threats, but change the level of intensity and duration of the calls depending on the immediacy (proximity of the owl) and level of danger (owl vs. raccoon).  There are a number of interesting bits of information in the study – the extended family structure and hypothesis behind some unusual vocalizations to name a few.

Click the image for something a little more anecdotal.

Mobbing crows

Mobbing crows

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This is my house!

This past weekend, Wendy and I went to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens.  Meadowlark has an annual photography expo, and the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia brings education birds for the photographers.  They are canned shots, but at least the birds get to spend some time outdoors.  We went to help, but it turned out they didn’t need much.  So, we spent a little time watching the birds, the handlers, and the photographers.  But the real story was the red-tailed hawk that has staked claim to the park.  As we were walking toward the photo shoot, I saw a few photographers with their cameras aimed up.  I looked up and saw a beautiful red-tail, perched on a limb and observing those below.

Its natural!

It's natural!

She appeared very calm, and I chalked that up to her seeing people in her park all the time.  As it turns out, I think she was more concerned about the saker and merlin falcons being potential resource threats.  About 10 minutes later, we were watching the merlin, and commenting on how great he was doing for only his second program, when I caught something flying out of the corner of my eye.  The hawk had flown near the saker, about 20 feet up in a tree.  She swooped a little low to another branch, then flew a little further away.  A few mintues later, she returned.  This time, she found a spot where she could easily see both falcons.  She stayed nearby for about five more minutes and then she disappeared into denser woods.

Merlin

Merlin

The bald eagle cam is back!  A pair of bald eagles has been nesting in Norfolk, VA for a few years now.  The Norfolk Botanical Garden, along with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, set up this webcam that gives incredible views of the pair.  The latest news is that there are three eggs in the nest!  Last year, the camera caught a great horned owl attack on the nest!  This is a really great educational resource that is available 24 hours a day.

Finally, I have to post a picture of the screechies that were also out last Saturday.  They’re too cute!

Grey & Red Phase Screech Owls

Grey & Red Phase Screech Owls

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