Okay, we’re in a pandemic, and we need to self-isolate at home as much as possible to protect ourselves and each other. But nature all around us goes on and can provide some peace of mind. Who doesn’t like to listen to the songs of birds? Funny, tonight, the Perpetual Notion Machine welcomes back to the program science writer and bird lover Jennifer Ackerman. In June 2016, Jennifer talked about her book The Genius of Birds. Now, she has a new book just released called The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think. Jennifer describes to PNM’er Dennis Shaffer how intelligent and innovative birds are through their extraordinary, and sometimes unusual, behavior. For instance, many bird species have what Jennifer describes as a mobbing call. It’s not like the usual danger or warning calls. Mobbing calls attract birds of all species in a kind’ve call to arms, to gather “forces” to harass a potential threat. This is an example of cooperation not usually seen in the animal world. Also unusual is brood parasitism, the practice of laying eggs in other bird’s nests, among other similar behaviors. But, according to Jennifer, this may have a healthy long-term effect. Each, that is the brood parasite birds and the host birds, have to learn and then adapt to each other’s counter moves. It’s kind’ve an intellectual arms race!
To learn more about the book, check out this link from Penguin Random House.
One of the best places that study birds is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. To see some birds in the wild, here is a link to their bird cams.
Jennifer mentions the amazing calls and songs of a few birds. Here is a YouTube video of the lyrebird.
Another bird with an extraordinary range of different calls is the New Holland honeyeater.