birds

Not Exactly Rocket Science

Tag archives for birds

I’ve just flown from London to North Carolina, a trip of around 6,200km. As flights go, it’s a pathetic one, a mere jaunt in the park compared to the epic voyage of the Arctic tern. Every year, this greatest of animal travellers makes a 70,000 km round-trip, in a relentless, globe-trotting pursuit of daylight. In…

The feather is an extraordinary biological invention and the key to the success of modern birds. It has to be light and flexible to give birds fine control over their airborne movements, but tough and strong enough to withstand the massive forces generated by high-speed flight. It achieves this through a complicated internal structure that…

Revisiting FOXP2 and the origins of language

Today, a new paper published in Nature adds another chapter to the story of FOXP2, a gene with important roles in speech and language. The FOXP2 story is a fascinating tale that I covered in New Scientist last year. It’s one of the pieces I’m proudest of so I’m reprinting it here with kind permission…

Walks through a forest are often made all the more enjoyable by the chance to watch brightly coloured birds flit between the trees. But birds are not just mere inhabitants of forests – in some parts of the world, they are the key to the trees’ survival. The Serengeti is one such place. Since 1950,…

In 1995, a palaeontologist called Mark Norrell reported an amazing discovery – the fossilised remains of a dinosaur called Troodon, sitting on top of a large clutch of eggs. The fossil was so well-preserved and its posture so unmistakeable that it provided strong proof that some dinosaurs incubated their eggs just as modern birds do.…