Category Archives: birds

owls.

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 Meet the owls that lived in the Smithsonian Castle

These barn owls used to live in the Smithsonian Institution Building, AKA the Castle, in the 1970s.

The Smithsonian Secretary in the 70s, S. Dillon Ripley, was an ornithologist and thought the owls could hunt the rats attracted to the new garbage cans on the National Mall. He named them Increase and Diffusion—a nod to the Smithsonian’s mission of “the increase and diffusion of knowledge”—and they lived in the building’s west tower.

The pair hatched three owlets in the spring of 1977. One of those new owlets fell out of the tower, but was recaptured and brought safely inside by a staff member. After raising their family, the owls departed and never returned.

This Smithsonian Institution Archives photo shows one of the pair refusing to take a message.

(Not to be confused with the previous Castle owl residents, who were known to crash into windows and swoop down on guards on the National Mall at night, and whose extensive droppings caused the collapse of the floor of a tower. They remain nameless.)

In honor of International Owl Awareness Day

The clamorous owl that nightly hoots and wonders at our quaint spirits.
-William Shakespeare

Read the full history of Smithsonian Castle owls from Smithsonian Institution Archives

Credits: Hannah S. Ostroff, Smithosonian

something to crow about.

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Crows help rid city streets of cigarette butts

A startup in the Swedish city of Södertälje, has recruited local crows to pick up discarded cigarette butts from the city’s streets and public spaces. In fact, there’s a movement afoot in places as varied as California and the Netherlands to ban the sale of filtered cigarettes to help tamp down on their prevalence in our environment.

According to the Keep Sweden Tidy Foundation, more than one billion cigarette butts are left on Sweden’s streets each year, which represents 62 percent of all litter. To clear the streets, Södertälje spends around 20m Swedish kronor (over $2,200,000), so the hope is that the birds can help cut these costs.

“They are wild birds taking part on a voluntary basis,” the founder of the Corvid Cleaning startup Christian Günther-Hanssen reveals. Each time the wild birds deposit a cigarette butt into a bespoke machine specially designed by Corvid Cleaning, they receive a little snack.

Günther-Hanssen estimates that, with the crows’ help, the city could save at least 75 percent of the costs associated with picking up cigarette butts in the city. For now, Södertälje is trialing the project before setting the operation in motion across the city, paying close attention to the health of the birds, considering the kind of waste they’re being rewarded to pick up.

Research suggests that New Caledonian crows, a member of the corvid family of birds, have the reasoning ability of a human seven-year-old, making them the best bird for the job. “They are easier to teach and there is also a higher chance of them learning from each other,” says Günther-Hanssen. “At the same time, there’s a lower risk of them mistakenly eating any rubbish.” Unfortunately, they have not yet been able to train humans not to throw their butts on the ground. 

“if men had wings and bore black feathers, few of them would be clever enough to be crows.”

-henry ward beecher

woodpecker.

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today at the toledo zoo

 so many beautiful animals

the birds – stunning

even

the very curious and friendly woodpecker

hanging on the screen following us around

staring and blinking

so cute and cheery

 reaching over to touch it

quickly reminded me

how it got its name

when it pecked my finger

 with the memorable touch of

a sewing machine needle/jack hammer

decided right there and then

to just admire each other from afar in the future.

“all bad jazz sounds like woody woodpecker.”

-leo kottke – musician

 

 

image credit: Woody Woodpecker – Walter Lantz Studio, Universal Studios