As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Big-billed birds spend more time snuggling in against the cold, study shows

 Date: January 4, 2017
Source: British Ecological Society (BES)

Bigger isn't always better -- at least not in the bird kingdom, with new Deakin University research finding that the larger a bird's bill the longer they spend trying to snuggle it in against the cold.

Ecologist Matthew Symonds, Deputy Director at the Centre for Integrative Ecology in Deakin's School of Life and Environmental Sciences, and team leader on the research, said the study examined the "backrest" behaviour of birds -- where they turn their heads to the back and tuck their beaks underneath their feathers when they are resting.

"While people have long assumed that birds exhibited this behaviour to protect themselves against the cold, no one had actually rigorously studied it. We found that they were indeed using backrest to try to keep warm, because they do it more when it gets colder," Dr Symonds said.

"But the surprising thing we discovered was that the birds with bigger bills used this behaviour more, and over noticeably longer periods. In fact, they continued to use the behaviour more even as the weather warmed."

The study looked at nine species of shorebirds ranging from the largest comparative beak size, 9.2cm, found on the red-necked avocet, to the smallest, 3.4cm, found on the masked lapwing.

The field research was carried out by a Deakin honours student, Julia Ryeland, who observed the birds roosting over a six month period along the coastal flats around Port Phillip and Westernport Bays near Melbourne in southern Victoria.


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