Birds & Words #17

Death by olives, new bird game, songbird-eating sharks, and more.

Climate change takes its toll on seabirds
In autumn 2016, when tufted puffins should have ideally migrated south they started washing up in their hundreds on an island in the Bering Sea. Researchers have now solved the mystery of these massive die-offs and climate change is partly responsible.

New bird-themed board game
Bird nerds, rejoice! A game called Wingspan is here and it comes with tokens shaped like eggs and a birdhouse to roll dice. The game, reviewed here, focuses on North American birds with cards depicting 170 species.

Birds with clawed wings
Baby hoatzins (‘wot-seens’) have a pair of claws on each wing that help them climb trees. Adult birds lack these claws. Watch the video to see how a chick uses its claws to climb, albeit a bit clumsily, and how efficiently it swims—both skills that come in handy when faced with predators.

Death by Olives
What do robins, thrushes, finches, wagtails and warblers have in common? They are some of the species that die during the Mediterranean olive harvest, which takes place every winter. In Andalusia alone, 2.6 million birds get killed by olive harvesting machines, which are operated at night to preserve the olive aroma.

How songbirds end up as shark food
Tiger sharks, apex predators in the ocean, eat not seabirds but an array of land-based birds, including wrens, swallows and coots. These migratory birds accidentally drop into the ocean due to bad weather conditions or simply exhaustion and then can’t take off because their feathers get soaked, thus becoming food for sharks.

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