Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mockers, Sat night misc.

This season of the year the mockingbirds are in full throat. One on the southeast corner of the yard is a particularly talented singer, running out long, sweet riffs on themes only heard in the mockingbird repertoire. He could appear with any jazz combo that ever played. Unfortunately, like a jazz artist, he does his best work after midnight.
There was a little piece in the Vicad today about mockers being able to recognize people who had messed about with the birds' nests and taking aggressive action against those people. It was pretty neat, but anyone who's ever studied on mockers would not doubt their intelligence. Scientific types have observed that mockers with complex songs have better luck hustling the chicks.
A team of US scientists has found that mockingbirds living in variable climates sing more elaborate songs.
Complex tunes, sung by males to impress females, are likely to signal the birds' intelligence.

All of that story can be found in the BBC Website.
In similar, sorta, vein, scientists have found that rooks, a crow cousin, use tools in ways thought beyond bird brains.
Rooks have a remarkable aptitude for using tools, scientists have found.
Tests on captive birds revealed that they could craft and employ tools to solve a number of different problems.
The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, came as a surprise as rooks do not use tools in the wild.

Read all that story here. It's cool; go read it.
You no doubt remember the stories about crows being able to count the number of people in a small group and to know when a human was carrying a gun.
Sometimes I will briefly misread a shrike for a mockingbird. There seem to be lot of shrikes this year. Shrikes are fascinating. A songbird, they have developed as raptors, birds that prey on small mammals and lizards and like that. As their claws are weak, shrikes impale their small victims on thorns or even the barbs on a fence. I have to admire a creature that has learned to do things not natural to their race. It's sort of like French heavyweight boxers. They're seldom any good, and it's amazing that they even exist.
The Pilot reports that someone has nominated Little Me as one of the most fascinating people in the Coastal Bend. I cringed at first and then remembered how many TV shows are devoted to the narcissistic maunderings of vapid but nubile young women and their moronic consorts. Anyone who liked those shows would see her as fascinating.
After all the hoohah about the readers selecting coverage at the paper, someone wrote in and complained about the interminable Fatal Funnel series, and Vicad editor Chris Cobler told the correspondent too bad. The same thing happened with the comic-strip vote, when the readers threw the silly Baldo strip off the page and the editors picked it up regardless. They even give it privileged spot on top of the page. Don't be too taken in by the idea that readers select content.


chats said...

The workingman rooks remind me of Sam, the German shephard, who would worry pecans to death, crunching and spitting, over and again, till the shuck lay in pieces on the sidewalk and she happily chewed the meat... Or Chuck, the yellow lab, who, if you ventured your finger too close to the electrified fence, would grab your wrist in his mouth and yank you back. "No, you fool. That hurts."

The Loon said...

They're smarter than people credit them with being.