Birds & Words #8

Culling birds for research, our friendly house sparrows, stunning art, and more

How our friendly house sparrows got so friendly
The ubiquitous house sparrow’s association with humans dates back to 11,000 years ago when agriculture was invented. The sparrows wound up not only sharing our homes with us but also a gene that helps them digest starch-rich grains.

A detective story involving birds
This month’s longform is about a scientist’s lifelong devotion to save a bird whose numbers crashed as he watched in despair – and one that became the focus of his research career.

We’re miserably failing our grassland birds
The great Indian bustard is already on its way to extinction. Not far behind is another bustard species – the lesser florican. Both the birds are doomed due to a lack of protection for their grassland home, which is often mistaken for a wasteland that doesn’t support wildlife. Quite the contrary, as this article illustrates.

Is culling wildlife for scientific experiments justified?
The University of Florida’s agricultural division killed over 150 birds, including 47 threatened sandhill cranes, to save its research land from hungry birds. Since this came to light, the university has moved on to other, non-lethal means to get rid of the birds. But was the cull justified in the first place?

Speaking of culling…
Fifty ravens were shot over three years in Wales to protect farm animals from ravenous ravens. Again, these were licensed shootings but experts are divided over the decision to grant the right to cull.

Birds in all their glory
A must-see collection of photographs from the Bird Photographer of the Year 2018 competition showcasing birds in their habitat. Watch them hunt, fly, swim, sing and pose.

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