Here at The Edge of the Wood we remember our cheery school crossing guard with her blue uniform, white sash and bright red stop sign. Katie Sieving, a professor of wildlife ecology and conservation at the University of Florida, has found that tufted titmice act like “crossing guards” and that other birds hold back from entering hazardous open areas in a forest if the titmice sound an alarm. Here a little titmouse is sizing up our camera to see if it’s kosher. We hope she gives us the thumbs up so we can look forward to more of our bird friends stopping by.
It could be. Biologist Con Slobodchikoff endeavored to understand what prairie dogs say to one another and discovered just how eloquent they can be. “They’re able to describe the color of clothes the humans are wearing, they’re able to describe the size and shape of humans, even, amazingly, whether a human once appeared with a gun,” Slobodchikoff said. “When people realize that prairie dogs and other animals as well can talk … suddenly they see these animals with a new perspective,” he said. “They’re actually thinking, breathing things not that much different from us.” Just don’t let them help you with your English homework.
Yes, we admit it, we love our Woody Woodpecker cartoons, even though he is nothing like his quiet, hard working cousin the Red-Bellied Woodpecker. In spring a breeding couple select a nest site together. They visit potential locales, and communicate by mutual tapping. One member of the pair taps softly on the wood from inside a cavity, and the other taps back from the outside, not unlike an open house on a sunday in hipster Brooklyn. These birds also communicate and sing through drumming or hammering against a loud or resonant object. Male Red-Bellied Woodpeckers drum steadily at about 19 beats per second. Here is a Red-Bellied Woodpecker and a Grackle passing the time of day.
The European Starling were first brought to America during the spring of 1890 and 1891 in New York City. They’ve garnered a bad reputation as an invasive, non-native species but their intelligence and mimicry abilities, are astounding. This video shows tool using capabilities also. What to do about non-native species? We at the edge of the wood think America is a nation of immigrants where the brightest and the hardest working come to make their fortune. Starlings have clearly used our fine public education system to better themselves. They epitomize the American dream.
All over the globe elephants are known to mourn their dead with utmost reverence and emotion. Scientists are now finding out that Western Scrub Jays also perform a ceremony, screeching over the body of the deceased for as long as half an hour. Dr Teresa Iglesias, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Davis, states that this research does not confirm whether the jays are having an emotional reaction but it is not out of the question. “If it works for us, why not other animals?” she said. Thank you Dr Iglesias for the scientific common sense.
Here at the edge of the wood we notice our crows really do talk up a storm. But what are they saying? University Researchers in Seattle, while wearing masks, captured seven crows, tagged them, then let them go. Whenever the scientists walked around campus with the masks on, the crows would “scold” and dive-bomb them. The researches learned that along with the ability to recognize individuals, the crows could also harbor a grudge. Soon their crow family members were doing the same thing. It seems that crows take the golden rule very seriously. So when you see a crow, a person, or any animal, treat that creature the way you would liked to be treated. No one wants to be embarrassed by a crow.
Here at the edge of the wood we notice the word goes out across the forest when we fill up the feeder. The Blue Jays are the first to call out, then the squirrels can be heard chirping with excitement. Is this the origins of the flash mob? We need to research. In the meantime, thank you Chloe Jo for the shout out this morning, and welcome to all our fellow GirlieGirl Army readers. The squirrels are enjoying the lush New York ferns, and the rich yellow goldenrod.
Here at the feeder we love to watch everyone interact. We find these encounters quite complex, and we wonder what is truly going on. It has been found that squirrels can communicate via ultrasound on a frequency higher than human hearing just like bats. So while the squirrels, chipmunk and grackle look as if they are having an awkward social moment, they might actually discussing the upcoming Warhol retrospective at the Met surrounded by newly flowering phlox.
Here at the edge of the wood we notice individuals seem to recognize each other. The shy ones know the bold ones and seem to steer clear. The social ones belly up to the feeder together. The very cautious ones skip along the perimeter, and sniff the camera with interest. It turns out squirrels can identify each other through five distinct body scents. According to the research of Dr. Jill M. Mateo new scents get more attention than old. So to answer the question, no squirrels do not need photo id to participate in their society.
We set up some mirrors today to see what the squirrels would do. The first reaction was to run away. The next was a cautious curiosity. The next seemed to be “Who is that handsome devil in the mirror?” Are animals self-aware? We here at edge of the wood think so. But it’s just nowhere near as important as a good peanut.