In what seems like a highly inefficient food procurement process, the majestic cormorant, a variety of seabird, dives to the sea floor in search of food.
Scientists with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the National Research Council of Argentina attached a camera to the back of a cormorant to track its dietary regimen. And they followed it for or nearly two minutes before it finds something suitable — 150 feet below the surface of the ocean. The birds typically eat fish and other marine life, and this cormorant is thought to have grabbed a snake-like swimmer. Continue reading →
Did you think humans invented inebriation? Guess again!
Frugivores (animals that eat fruit) and nectarivores (animals that eat nectar) are limited to food sources that last a relatively short time before they ripen, then ferment, then completely rot. So you would think that a fruit-eating animal would be much more successful at feeding itself if it could eat foods in various stages of fermentation, right? Not only would the ability to eat fermented fruits increase food abundance, but alcohol also has high caloric content (ehem: beer bellies), and makes the food easier to find by that distinctive alchy-smell. So rock on, little frugivores! It’s all good!
Or is it? Imagine you’re drunk: kinda happy, stumbling occasionally, saying things you’ll likely regret in the morning, and getting lost on the way to the bathroom. Now imagine you’re being chased by a mountain lion. Crikey! You were so busy getting blitzed on fermented fruit, you forgot that you are a prey animal… and it’s a dangerous world out there!
If frugivores, such as fruit-eating bats, consumed a lot of fermented fruit, you would think they would be drunk all the time and would fly wonky and get lost and generally be less likely to survive… unless they had developed an ability to tolerate alcohol. Dara Orbach, Nina Veselka, Louis Lazure and Brock Fenton at the University of Western Ontario and Yvonne Dzal at the University of Regina decided to test the ability of several fruit-eating bats to hold their liquor. The researchers went to Belize and caught bats from six different fruit-eating species. They fed them either sugar-water or sugar-water with 1.5% alcohol in it (that’s less than a Molson Light) and later measured their blood alcohol level (BAC) in their saliva.
Then the researchers put the bats in an obstacle course. That’s right, an obstacle course! They timed how long it took each bat to traverse the obstacle course (if they completed it) and counted how many times they ran into something or went in a circle. Afterwards, they gave them time to sober up before they released them back into the wild… presumably to go tell their friends about the crazy night they had. Ooohhh, was this gonna be funny!
To the researchers’ surprise, despite the fact that several bats had a BAC over 0.3% (the equivalent to a 150 pound person after 10 drinks), the bats on alcohol did not seem to be impaired in any way! They traversed the obstacle course just as fast and completed the course just as often as their kiddie-cocktail sugar-water drinking counterparts. They never even ran into anything.
So, I guess we’re not going to be entertained by drunken bat antics. But this is good news for the fruit-eating bats – Somehow, they are able to metabolize fermented fruit to get the caloric benefit without the risks of impairment. Now, if we could just figure out how they do that…
The moral of this story: Don’t drink alcohol when there are predators around unless you are a fruit-eating bat. And don’t challenge a fruit-eating bat to a drinking contest. He will drink you under the table!
Want to know more? Check this out:
Orbach DN, Veselka N, Dzal Y, Lazure L, & Fenton MB (2010). Drinking and flying: does alcohol consumption affect the flight and echolocation performance of phyllostomid bats? PloS one, 5 (2) PMID: 20126552
The Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative is one component of the new vision for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Entitled “Conserving the Future”, the new plan lays out specific recommendations for change in Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation including creation of an urban refuge initiative that defines excellence in our existing urban refuges, establishment of framework for creating new urban refuge partnerships and implemention of a refuge presence in ten demographically and geographically varied cities across America by 2015.
Please watch this short video to see their new vision, or visit the website, www.AmericasWildlife.org!
CLICK ON PHOTO BELOW TO WATCH VIDEO:
This is part of a growing trend towards increasing awareness and understanding of the link between wildlife and urban areas including everything from greeening of our urban areas to increasing awareness among those living within urban environments and helping people understand the relationship between humans and nature.
The Urban Bird Treaty also works towards some of these same fundamental goals. They continue to work in targeted urban environments to reduce bird hazards, increase bird-friendly habitats in urban environments and foster environemntal educaiton in our youth.
You’ve put out seed and a bath, and the birds are having a blast. The only thing missing from this scene is a house, where they can nest. But what kind of house?
Many birds are happy to build nests in a home you provide for them, provided it has a few key features (something we humans can relate to!). Air movement, entry size, cleanability—these are important considerations for you and the birds.
Watch this short video to learn the secrets to a birdhouse that will actually get used. You’ll even learn a few tips on how to maintain it.
Once you provide proper shelter, the birds will thank you with a show only Mother Nature could produce: Babies!
Thanks Dad and Happy Father’s Day! That’s what the fledgling Great Blue Herons are saying today to the male Heron that spent many snowy hours sitting on the eggs to keep them warm. A fluke snowstorm on April 23rd covered the Great Blue Heron nest in Sapsucker Woods with snow, but daddy Heron took up the slack and keep things toasty warm. The result: FIVE baby mouths to feed!
We have the folks at Cornell to thank for this time lapsed video of the many hours in which the male Heron sat on the nest.