RESEARCH: City birds are braver after pandemic lockdowns

During the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns in 2020, humans stayed inside. This period was called the ‘anthropause period.’ This gave researchers an opportunity to study the behaviour of urban (city) birds when humans were not around. 

During the anthropause, in cities, there were fewer people, fewer vehicles, less pollution, and less noise. In a study published in the Science journal in September 2020 by researchers in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee in America, it was found that White-Crowned Sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys) changed their songs – with less noise to compete with, their songs became louder. 

When lockdown finished, researchers were interested in how birds behaved when humans resumed their usual acitivities.

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RESEARCH: Parrots love video chats 

Parrots love video chats, say scientists conducting research on parrot intelligence.  

Scientists have found that parrots need social connection and mental stimulation. They then wondered whether parrots would welcome video chats to satisfy their need for sociability.

Rebecca Kleinberger, a researcher at the Northeastern University in Boston, America, enrolled 18 parrots and their human owners in an unusual experiment to see if the parrots would connect with their owners and other parrots over video calls.

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Dreamy Duskywing Butterfly

The Dreamy Duskywing Butterfly (Erynnis icelus) is a small insect in the Hesperiidae family of Skipper butterflies. It is also known as the Aspen Dusky Wing.

The Dreamy Duskywing Butterfly is dark-brown and light-brown with silvery-grey. The male and female look similar, but the male tends to be darker. The thick, brushed abdomen is dark-brown to black with grey rings. It has long antennae and long palps. 

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CREATURE FEATURE: Linear Cobalt Crayfish

The Linear Cobalt Crayfish (Cambarus gentryi) is a freshwater decapod (10-legged) crustacean in the Cambaridae family of crayfish. 

The Linear Cobalt Crayfish has a cobalt blue shell with orange or yellow markings. It has 10 appendages – two of them are large pincers. Its other legs have a small claw at the end. It has 20 body segments grouped into two main parts: the cephalothorax and the abdomen.

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Anna’s Hummingbird

The Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) is a medium-sized bird in the Trochilidae family of hummingbirds.

The Anna’s Hummingbird has iridescent bronze-green feathers on its back, with a pale-grey chest and belly, and green sides. The adult male has an iridescent crimson-red to reddish-pink crown. Its tail is dark and slightly forked. It has a long, thin, straight beak. The female is also iridescent, but not as brilliant as the male. She has a dull-green crown. 

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Red Wood Ant

The Red Wood Ant (Formica rufa) is an insect in the Formicidae family of ants. It is also known as the Southern Wood Ant and Horse Ant.

The Red Wood Ant has a head, thorax, and abdomen. It is reddish, except for its brownish-black abdomen and dark patch on the back of its head. Its 6 legs are reddish-black. Its antennae are long. It has large jaws called mandibles. It has smoky-brown wings during the mating season – only the fertile female and adult male have wings.

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Common Raccoon

The Common Raccoon (Procyon lotor) is a mammal in the Procyonidae family of raccoons. It is a procyonid. It is also known as the Northern Raccoon.

The Common Raccoon has peppery-grey fur with long hair. It also has underfur, which acts as an insulator to keep it warm in winter. It has a black face mask, a ringed tail, short rounded ears, black rounded eyes, and a dog-like nose. Its front claws are sharp.

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RESEARCH: Do American households have more cats or more dogs as pets?

Do American households have more cats or more dogs as pets? A recent 2022 research in America studied the types of pets in a household and whether dogs or cats were more popular as pets.

Studies show that, globally, dogs outnumber cats. The study showed that, in America, cats outnumber dogs. There are about 86.1 million cats and 79.7 million dogs in America. 

However, dogs are more popular as pets than cats in America – 36.6% of households own one or more dogs, whereas 30.4% of households own one or more cats. 

Why did more American households choose a dog instead of a cat? 

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Downy Woodpecker

The Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) is a bird in the Picidae famiy of woodpeckers.

The Downy Woodpecker is mainly black on the upperparts and wings, with a white back, throat, and belly. It has white spots on its wings. There is one white bar above the eye and one white bar below the eye. It has a black tail with white outer feathers that have black bars. It has a strong, grey beak. The adult male has a red patch on the back of its head. The male and female juveniles have a red cap. 

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American Robin

The American Robin (Turdus migratorius) is a bird in the Turdidae family of thrushes. It is a songbird.

The American Robin has a reddish-orange chest with a black to greyish head. It has white eye arcs that look like eyebrows. Its throat is white with black streaks and its belly and undertail are white. It has a brown back. Its beak is yellowish with a dark tip. Its legs and feet are brown.

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Brown Thrasher

The Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) is a bird in the Mimidae family of passerine (songbirds) such as mockingbirds, that mimic other birds. 

The Brown Thrasher is reddish-brown with dark streaks. Its underparts are white or buff-coloured with dark streaks. It has a teardrop shape on its chest. It has a long, rounded rufous (reddish) tail with pale corners. Its eyes are bright yellow. Its beak is brown, long, and curved downward. The male and the female look similar. 

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Do birds hibernate?

Do birds hibernate?

Hibernation is a state when animals sleep during winter, especially where the winters are extremely cold and/or snowy. Not all animals hibernate. Animals such as bears, squirrels, bats, and hedgehogs hibernate. Some lizards and snakes hibernate.

When these animals hibernate, they will eat a lot of food and gain body weight beforehand to enable them to sleep throughout the winter. For example, squirrels can gain 50% of their body weight before hibernating. 

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Resettlement of Burrowing Owls in Southern California

In Southern California, urban developers built over the burrows of the local Western Burrowing Owls, destroying their habitats.

The Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) is a small, long-legged bird in the Strigidae family of owls. It measures 19-28 centimetres (7-11 inches) tall, with a wingspan of 50-61 centimetres (20-24 inches). It is native to North America and South America. It prefers grasslands, rangelands, agricultural areas, deserts and other open dry areas. 

Unlike most nocturnal (night) owls, the Burrowing Owl is diurnal, active during the day. 

It nests in burrows underground that a prairie dog or a squirrel has dug into the soil. It also nests in other shallow, underground structures.

The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance collaborated with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to relocate the Burrowing Owls that had lost their homes when humans began building in the area. 

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Dark-Eyed Junco

The Dark-Eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) is a bird in the Passerellidae family of sparrows. It is a song bird. It was formerly known as the Snowbird and the Slate-Coloured Junco.

The Dark-Eyed Junco is small and greyish. It has a grey head, neck, chest, back, and wings. Its belly is white. Its white outer tail feathers are distinctive. It has a small, pale pinkish beak and dark, round eyes. The male is usually darker than the female. The female has a brownish-grey to reddish-brown side feathers.

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RESEARCH: Pet dogs respond to verbs, nouns, and terms of endearment

Current research demonstrates that pet dogs respond to verbs, nouns, and terms of endearment. Also, pet dogs respond to a range between 15-215 words or phrases – with an average of 89 words, documents New Scientist in December 2021.

Researchers Sophie Jacques and Catherine Reeve at Dalhousie University in Canada conducted a study of dogs and an itinerary of words to determine how many words, on average, dogs respond to. Rather than defining how many words dogs ‘know’ the researchers studied how many they ‘respond to’ – which means that the dog performed a trick or obedience behaviour, or performed an action such as tail wagging, or began looking at something or a direction, or search around for an item.

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