NEWSLETTER FOR TASC PUBLISHED BI-MONTHLY
J A N U A R Y - F E B R U A R Y 2
0 0 5
I S S U E 1 7
It's a new year. TASC was thrilled to see the biggest turn-out to
any meeting or event by our membership at our January meeting. We
had over 70 people attend with over 50 voting members! We are
growing by leaps and bounds and have a great year planned for
In addition to our regular monthly programs, we
are planning a "behind-the-scenes" tour for our members to the
bird exhibits at Brookfield Zoo. Due to our much appreciated
support, the zoo has extended a very gracious invitation. We have
also been invited to Milwaukee Zoo for a "behind-the-scenes" tour
there as well! So we're hoping to give our membership a peak at
some of the groundbreaking research each zoo is doing to maintain
their bird collections and improve the lives of our feathered
friends... both here and in the wild!
We are also planning the first annual MIDWEST
BIRD EXPO on Saturday, May 21st at the DuPage County Fairgrounds.
This is going to be a HUGE event, with a bigger, more improved
fair, lectures, seminars, and much more. We are really looking
forward to TASC becoming bigger and better and we have really
appreciated all of the encouragement for this idea.
We also want to work more closely with the
other bird clubs in the Chicagoland area and encourage all of you
to let us know about other events planned for 2005. NIPS has an
election coming up In March as well and we encourage all of our
members who are also members of NIPS to vote! We're all in it for
Thanks for your ongoing support! Feel free to
email us at any time for more information on any of our events!
Jason J. Crean
THE BEAK SPEAKS
This was provided by someone who developed the
recipe for a conure who was missing its lower mandible from an
injury and the birds love it.
2 boxes Jiffy Corn Bread Mix
2 eggs (shell included) - Separate egg from shell (wash and grind
1 jar each baby food Sweet Potato, Green Beans
1 cup crushed pellets (Rowdybush or Lafebers work best, put in a
plastic bag and roll with rolling pin to crush)
1 large carrot
1/2 cup fresh raw broccoli ground and/or diced
1/3 cup mixed nuts (no peanuts) crushed
Mix Jiffy, nuts, fruit, pellets, broccoli and egg shell. Add eggs
and other ingredients, mix well with wooden spoon. Spray a large
baking dish with Pam. Mixture will be lumpy and sticky. If it is
too thick add a little fruit juice or applesauce. Spread to about
3/4 " thick and bake until golden and knife comes out clean when
inserted in center (about 20 minutes to 1/2 hour).
Cut into squares while still hot. When cool,
freeze squares in serving portions in plastic sandwich bags. You
may defrost small sections overnight and then warm it in microwave
for 10-15 seconds.
WEBSITE OF THE MONTH
Minds of Their Own: Birds Gain Respect
By SANDRA BLAKESLEE
Published: February 1, 2005
Birdbrain has long been a colloquial term of ridicule. The
common notion is that birds' brains are simple, or so
scientists thought and taught for many years. But that
notion has increasingly been called into question as crows
and parrots, among other birds, have shown what appears to
be behavior as intelligent as that of chimpanzees.
The clash of simple brain and complex behavior has led some
neuroscientists to create a new map of the avian brain.
Today, in the journal Nature Neuroscience Reviews, an
international group of avian experts is issuing what amounts
to a manifesto. Nearly everything written in anatomy
about the brains of birds is wrong, they say. The avian
brain is as complex, flexible and inventive as any mammalian
brain, they argue, and it is time to adopt a more accurate
nomenclature that reflects a new understanding of the
anatomies of bird and mammal brains.
"Names have a powerful influence on the experiments we do
and the way we think," said Dr. Erich D. Jarvis, a
neuroscientist at Duke University and a leader of the Avian
Nomenclature Consortium. "Old terminology has hindered
The consortium of 29 scientists from six countries met for
seven years to develop new, more accurate names for
structures in both avian and mammalian brains. For example,
seat of intelligence or its higher brain is now termed the
"The correction of terms is a great advance," said Dr. Jon
Kaas, a leading expert in neuroanatomy at Vanderbilt
University in Nashville who did not participate in the
consortium. "It's hard to get scientists to agree about
Scientists have come to agree that birds are indeed smart,
but those who study avian intelligence differ on how birds
got that way. Experts, including those in the consortium,
split into two warring camps. One holds that birds' brains
make the same kinds of internal connections as do mammalian
brains and that intelligence in both groups arises from
connections. The other holds that bird intelligence evolved
through expanding an old part of the mammal brain and using
it in new ways, and it questions how developed that
"There are still puzzles to be solved," said Dr. Peter
Marler, a leading authority on bird behavior at the
University of California, Davis, who is not part of the
consortium. But the
realization that one can study mammal brains by using bird
brains, he said, "is a revolution."
"I think that birds are going to replace the white rat as
the favored subject for studying functional neuroanatomy,"
The reanalysis of avian brains gives new credibility to many
behaviors that seem odd coming from presumably dumb birds.
Crows not only make hooks and spears of small sticks to
on foraging expeditions, some have learned to put walnuts on
roads for cars to crack. African gray parrots not only talk,
they have a sense of humor and make up new words. Baby
songbirds babble like human infants, using the left sides of
Avian brains got their bad reputation a century ago from the
German neurobiologist Ludwig Edinger, known as the father of
comparative anatomy. Edinger believed that evolution was
linear, Dr. Jarvis said. Brains evolved like geologic
strata. Layer upon layer, the brains evolved from old to
new, from fish to amphibians to reptiles to birds to
Edinger's standards, fish were the least intelligent.
Humans, created in God's image, were the most intelligent.
Edinger cut up all kinds of vertebrate brains, noting
differences, Dr. Jarvis said.
In mammals, the bottom third of the brain contained neurons
organized in clusters. The top two-thirds of the brain,
called the neocortex, consisted of a flat sheet of cells
layers. This new brain, the seat of higher intelligence, lay
over the old brain, the seat of instinctual behaviors.
In humans, the neocortex grew so immense that it was forced
to assume folds and fissures, so as to fit inside the skull.
Birds' brains, in contrast, were composed entirely of
clusters. Edinger concluded that without a six-layered
cortex, birds could not possibly be intelligent. Rather,
their brains were fully dedicated to instinctual behaviors.
This view persisted through the 20th century and is still
found in most biology textbooks, said Dr. Harvey Karten, a
neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego,
a member of the consortium, whose research has long
challenged the classic view.
There is a bird way and a mammal way to create intelligence,
Dr. Karten said. One uses clusters. One uses flat sheet cell
in six layers. Each exploits the basic design of having a
lower brain and a higher brain with mutual connections.
In the 1960's, Dr. Karten carried out experiments using new
techniques to trace brain wiring and identify the paths
taken by various brain chemicals. In humans, a chemical
dopamine is found mostly in lower brain areas, called basal
ganglia, which consist of clusters.
Using the same tracing techniques in birds, Dr. Karten found
that dopamine also projected primarily to lower clusters and
no higher. Later studies show numerous similarities between
clusters in the mammalian brain and lower clusters in the
avian brain. Experts now agree that the two regions are
evolutionarily older structures that lie underneath a newer
Where the experts divide is on the question of the upper
clusters in a bird's brain. Agreed, they are not primitive
basal ganglia. But where did they come from? How did they
evolve? What is their function?
Dr. Karten and others in the consortium think these clusters
are directly analogous to layers in the mammalian brain.
They migrate from similar embryonic precursors and perform
For example, in mammals, sensory information - sights,
sounds, touch - flows through a lower brain region called
the thalamus and enters the cortex at the fourth layer in
In birds, sensory information flows through the thalamus and
enters specific clusters that are functionally equivalent to
the fourth layer. In this view, other clusters perform
functions done by different layers in the mammal brain.
A second group, including Dr. Georg Striedter of the
University of California, Irvine, a consortium member,
believes that upper clusters in the avian brain are an
elaboration of two mammalian structures - the claustrum and
the amygdala. In this view, these structures look alike in
bird and mammal embryos. But in birds they grow to enormous
proportions and have evolved entirely new ways to support
In mammals, the amygdala is involved in emotional systems,
Dr. Striedter said. "But birds use it for
integrating information," he said. "It's not emotional
Meanwhile, examples of brilliance in birds continue to flow
from fields and laboratories worldwide.
Dr. Nathan Emery and Dr. Nicola Clayton at the University of
Cambridge in England study comparisons between apes and
corvids - crows, jays, ravens and jackdaws. Relative to its
body size, the crow brain is the same size as the chimpanzee
Everyone knows apes use simple tools like twigs, Dr. Emery
said, selecting different ones for different purposes. But
New Caledonian crows create more complex tools with their
and feet. They trim and sculpture twigs to fashion hooks for
fetching food. They make spears out of barbed leaves,
probing under leaf detritus for prey.
In a laboratory, when a crow named Betty was given metal
wires of various lengths and a four-inch vertical pipe with
food at the bottom, she chose a four-inch wire, made a hook
retrieved the food.
Apes and corvids are highly social. One explanation for
intelligence is that it evolved to process and use social
information - who is allied with whom, who is related to
and how to use this information for deception. They also
Clark nutcrackers can hide up to 30,000 seeds and recover
them up to six months later.
Nutcrackers also hide and steal. If they see another bird
watching them as they cache food, they return later, alone,
to hide the food again. Some scientists believe this shows a
rudimentary theory of mind - understanding that another bird
has intentions and beliefs.
Magpies, at an earlier age than any other creature tested,
develop an understanding of the fact that when an object
disappears behind a curtain, it has not vanished.
At a university campus in Japan, carrion crows line up
patiently at the curb waiting for a traffic light to turn
red. When cars stop, they hop into the crosswalk, place
from nearby trees onto the road and hop back to the curb.
After the light changes and cars run over the nuts, the
crows wait until it is safe and hop back out for the food.
Pigeons can memorize up to 725 different visual patterns,
and are capable of what looks like deception. Pigeons will
pretend to have found a food source, lead other birds to it
sneak back to the true source.
Parrots, some researchers report, can converse with humans,
invent syntax and teach other parrots what they know.
Researchers have claimed that Alex, an African gray, can
important aspects of number, color concepts, the difference
between presence and absence, and physical properties of
objects like their shapes and materials. He can sound out
letters the same way a child does.
Like mammals, some birds are naturally smarter than others,
Dr. Jarvis said. But given their range of behaviors, birds
are extraordinarily flexible in their intelligence
"They're right up there with hominids," he said.
Tracking reveals albatross
By Richard Black
BBC environment correspondent
The albatross is one of the most endangered bird groups
in the world
Research by UK scientists may prove vital in protecting
Survey researchers followed more than 40 grey-headed
albatrosses as they flew around the world, identifying where
All the birds which
made a circumnavigation stopped for food in the same places.
fishing methods from those areas of the ocean could help
halt the decline of what is one of the world's most
endangered group of birds.
They are being
killed in large numbers by becoming snared on the hooks of
long-line fishing boats.
Five years ago
scientists from the British Antarctic Survey attached tiny
tags to grey-headed albatrosses as they reared chicks on the
Atlantic island of South Georgia.
They were able to
follow the birds for 18 months until they returned to South
Georgia to breed again.
The tags are simple
devices weighing just a few grams.
hope it's the beginning of a process of dialogue
with the fishing industry
They record the
timing of sunrise and sunset, enabling scientists to work
out their position on each day; researchers retrieved the
tags when the birds returned to South Georgia.
Many of the tagged
albatrosses flew around the world, some more than once, and
some completing a circumnavigation in just six weeks.
Others stayed close
to home, and a third group went to winter habitats in the
"It's the first
time we've managed to achieve coverage for an entire
breeding interval," the British Antarctic Survey's director
of conservation biology Dr John Croxall told BBC News.
"We were absolutely
staggered to find how stable these three patterns are.
"Birds that went round the world twice went back to the same
locations, which is pretty amazing, because these are just
about the most spectacular migrations of any albatross."
The reason why
birds should stop off at the same places is not clear, but
the implication for conservation is.
Scientists have been tracking the birds using
In principle, it
should be possible to protect albatrosses simply by making
sure that boats in the crucial areas use safe fishing gear.
"We hope it's the
beginning of a process of dialogue with the fishing
industry," said Dr Croxall.
"We and other
groups are now carrying out the same kind of research with
other species of albatross; and as one year follows the next
we can have more of these species on line."
fishing south of a latitude of 60 degrees are obliged to use
techniques which are "albatross-safe", which can reduce the
number of birds snared by about 90%.
include using heavier weights on the fishing lines, which
make them sink faster, giving the birds less time to eat the
bait, and hanging streamers from the back of the boat which
move in the wind, scaring the birds away.
Dr Croxall believes
that this sort of measure should be extended to latitudes
between 30 and 60 degrees south.
Shedding feathers early may
enhance sex appeal, new songbird study shows
Birds that migrate early in the season
may have a distinct advantage when it comes to attracting
the opposite sex, say researchers from Queen's University
and the Smithsonian Institution.
And it's all about the feathers.
Researchers were surprised to discover that the timing of a
male songbird's reproduction cycle affects the colour of his
feathers and may have important implications for his success
in attracting mates. When migratory songbirds raise their
young extremely late in the summer, many don't have time to
molt (shed their feathers and replace with new growth)
before heading south, the new study shows.
"This means they must molt at stopover sites on their
journey to tropical winter habitats," explains Ryan Norris,
who conducted the research as part of his PhD in biology at
Queen's, supervised by Professors Laurene Ratcliffe (Queen's
Biology) and Peter Marra (Smithsonian Environmental Research
"Their replacement feathers, grown en route, are less
colourful than those of birds that had time to molt before
migration, which may put them at a disadvantage in
attracting females the following breeding season," says Dr.
Norris. "Both findings - that molting in some songbirds
occurs after migration has begun, and that their new
feathers are duller in colour - were surprising."
The study will be published Dec. 24 in the journal Science.
Until now scientists have assumed that most species of
migratory birds molt before they migrate. The team
discovered that in fact some begin their migration, molt at
a "stopover" site, then continue to their winter habitat.
Forty per cent of the male American Redstarts in the study
molted in their tail feathers at areas up to 2000 kilometers
south of their breeding grounds.
By measuring stable hydrogen isotopes in the newly grown
feathers when birds returned the following spring to breed
at the Queen's University Biology Station north of Kingston,
the researchers were able to determine the approximate
region where molting had occurred. And when the feathers
were analyzed with a spectrometer measuring how much light
of different wavelengths is reflected, significant
differences in colour were also detected.
A key indicator of the songbirds' health and quality is the
concentration of carotenoid in the feathers, which causes
orange-red light to be reflected in their feathers.
Physiological stress during molting can reduce carotenoid
deposits in the feathers.
"Studies of other bird species have shown that females
prefer males with higher concentrations of carotenoids, and
thus brighter, more intense colours," says Queen's biologist
Bob Montgomerie, who did the colour analysis of feathers for
this project. "What we didn't know until now is that birds'
colours in any given year may be affected by what happened
to them in the previous breeding season.
"That's exciting because 'cost of reproduction' is a
general, organism-wide problem of many species, not just
The other member of the research team from Queen's is
geology professor Kurt Kyser, director of the university's
Facility for Isotope Research, where the stable isotope
measurements were conducted.
The study was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering
Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Canada Foundation for
Innovation (CFI), Ontario Innovation Trust (OIT), National
Science Foundation (NSF), the Smithsonian Institution, and
the American Museum of Natural History.
Environmental Enrichment for Captive Animals
Rob J. Young
For the first
time, science and practice have been integrated in a text
that will appeal to academics and practitioners. In this
comprehensive book, Young covers scientific principles on
environmental enrichment as it relates to animal welfare.
The text presents scientific evidence that environmental
enrichment improves animal welfare and describes practical
ways to implement environmental enrichment. By bringing
theory and practice together, Young aims to advance the
understanding of environmental enrichment and improve animal
welfare. This text will appeal to animal welfare experts,
laboratory animal technicians, veterinarians, farmers, and
animal behavior specialists, as well as students of these
As written in our election
proceedings, here are the results of the election that was held on
Friday, January 28, 2005:
TOTAL BALLOTS: 57
Jason Crean 55
Brigitte Schmidt WITHDRAWN
Gary Vaickus 56
Linda Murray WITHDRAWN
Patricia Touhey 55
Linda Banek 5
Sharon Wendt 52
TASC CORPORATE MEMBERS
Current TASC Members receive special offers from many of our Corporate
Members. These offers and special codes/requirements are posted below.
If you are a Corporate Member and wish to participate in this program
firstname.lastname@example.org or call us
at (630) 985-8146.
note: If the Corporate Member requires you to have your TASC ID
then you MUST present your card at time of purchase along with
your drivers license or valid ID. Absolutely NO exceptions will
be made. If you have lost or misplaced your TASC ID card please let us
know ASAP. There is a $3.00 replacement fee for all duplicate ID's.
Jo's Exotic Birds, Ltd.
Kenosha, WI USA
TASC Special Offer:
$35.00 Discount on the purchase of any California Cage sized 20x24
Enter Code: TASC ID required
Love on the Wing
Elko, MN USA
Natural Pet Animal Hospital and Apawthecary
Tinley Park, IL USA
TASC Special Offer: 10% off apawthecary purchases to members who
carry a TASC card
Enter Code: TASC ID required
Aurora, IL USA
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THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!