Canada geese

All about birds

Friday, 18 April, 2014

Today, it’s all about bird behavior. Interested? Read on!

Beautiful birds

Don’t we all enjoy the variety and intensity of bird colors? Male birds have perhaps the most impressive color display in nature. Those with bright colors are generally healthier and have access to good food which contains pigments. Therefore, in general, female birds prefer males with the most conspicuous colors. Unlike humans, birds are able to see light in the ultraviolet color range. Some bird species have structures in their feathers that reflect UV light. A well-known example of structural coloration is peacock feathers which are pigmented brown, but appear blue, turquoise and green because of reflection by a microscopically structured surface [1]. Most research on the role of colors in the UV range on mating preference is done with species with such structural coloration. But pigments themselves can also contain components that are visible in the UV range and these may affect mating preference. Investigating this will increase our knowledge on sexual selection in bird species. A group of researchers from the University of Coimbra and the University of Porto, Portugal investigated whether pigments in the UV range play a role in preference of the European serin females (Serinus serinus) for their males. European serin males have a very conspicuous carotenoid-based yellow color. The authors divided wild captured birds into a high-pigment and low-pigment group. Interested? Read this blog article.

E-Track – tracking geese

In the summer of 2013, Andrea Kölzsch presented the tests with E-Track tags to classify the behavior of geese. The abstract and poster are available here. In general, the E-Track project concerns the development of a system for measurement and analysis of movement, behavior and interactions of wildlife. This consortium tested the E-Track system in field studies with mammals and large birds. At the final review meeting held in Prague in December 2013, E-Track was well evaluated by the GSA and their external reviewers. Positive comments were given on the project's achievements. In particular it was well appreciated how the consortium was able to make use of EGNOS (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service) to improve animal tracking for behavioral monitoring. Also, the new behavioral analysis software allows ecologists and other track-analysists to make use of the highly accurate animal tracks to monitor behavioral patterns. The many experiments conducted in E-Track have lead to these improved products. The E-Track project will conclude with a final newsletter end of April 2014. So stay tuned! You can easily register for the newsletter (free) to get first-hand information on the results of the project. 

Does laboratory rearing affect starlings?

Rearing animals specifically for behavioral research is a very common practice. However, the results from behavioral studies with laboratory animals should be interpreted with care. There is much evidence indicating that the behavior of laboratory animals differs from that of animals caught in the wild. Laboratory animals are likely to be tamer than wild animals, but they can also be impaired in some behaviors. Some mammals have impairments in learning and memory when reared in a laboratory. They can also develop abnormal behaviors, called stereotypies, such as route-tracing. Similar effects of rearing in laboratories can be found in some bird species. Recently, Gesa Feenders and Melissa Bateson compared the behavior of wild-caught starlings with the behavior of starlings that were taken from nest boxes when they were approximately 10 days old and hand-reared. They hypothesized that the hand-reared birds would have less cognitive abilities than the wild-caught birds and would be more likely to develop the stereotypies of route-tracing and somersaulting. The researchers carried out a large number of different learning tests with both groups of birds. Learn more about this behavioral research!

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