Birds & Words #5

The afterlife of seabirds, plastic-rich diet, extinction, and more.

1. Data from death

In this month’s longform, read about citizen scientists that walk the shores in search of dead seabirds, collecting data the dead have to offer.

2. How are the world’s 11,000 bird species faring?

About 1,500 of the world’s 11,000 species of birds are close to extinction. Find out what’s being done to protect them and how you can help.

3. Death by plastic

Young, fledgling seabirds are dropping dead with stomachs full of plastic off the coast of Australia. A single flesh-footed shearwater had over 270 bits of plastic inside.

4. Remote island finally free of introduced rodents

South Georgia, an island home to 33 species of breeding birds, has been declared rat-free. The eradication, which took off in 2011 after years of planning, has helped stabilize populations of endemic species such as the South Georgia pipit and the South Georgia pintail.

5. The science of murmuration

There are several ideas behind why starlings come together in their thousands and murmurate at dusk. But the one that has stood the test of time is the anti-predatory one. When I saw rosy starlings, a migrant species, murmurate in my backyard I set off in search of answers to the how and why of starling murmurations.

6. How birds got their beaks

Ancient toothed bird fossil discovered in 2014 is beginning to offer key insights into the evolution of bird beaks, thanks to 3D-scanning technology that doesn’t require paleontologists to prise apart a fossil.

7. The asteroid that wiped out dinosaurs killed most birds too

Most bird groups went extinct in the aftermath of the asteroid that wiped out dinosaurs 66 million years ago. The diversity we see today likely evolved from the few ground-dwelling birds that did manage to survive.

8. Chicken portraits

Photographs show the personalities of chickens—from shy to cocky.

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