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Science

Bird Feeders Might Be Changing Bird Beaks (axios.com) 116

An anonymous reader shares a report: Bird beaks might be evolving to better fit bird feeders. A study of great tits in the UK, where feeders are common, found the bird's beaks have grown over the last 26 years, that British birds had longer beaks than those in the Netherlands, and that birds with genes for longer beaks were more likely to visit feeders, per Science News. Scientists have known that environmental changes, like El Nino, can influence the evolution of animals. Now, it appears something as simple as bird feeders can do the same. The scientists looked at the beaks of 2,322 great tits from the UK and the Netherlands, and also examined their genes. They tagged birds with gene variants for short and long beaks and tracked their feeding habits. What they found: The British birds had longer beaks and were more likely to have genes associated with beak length.
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Bird Feeders Might Be Changing Bird Beaks

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  • That's evolution (Score:5, Informative)

    by Martin S. ( 98249 ) <Martin DOT Spamer AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday October 24, 2017 @04:38AM (#55422357) Homepage Journal

    This is exactly how evolution is expected to work and originally documented by Darwin' study of Galapagos Finches.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    u wot m8

  • by Smidge204 ( 605297 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2017 @04:39AM (#55422371) Journal

    I can imagine that conversation....

    "So, you're a field researcher? What do you study?"

    "Great tits!"

    "Ah, you're an ornithologist?"

    "What? Oh, uh... yeah, sure..."
    =Smidge=

    • "So, you're a field researcher? What do you study?"

      "Great tits!"

      . . . so don't worry about this thread getting labeled "Godwined" . . . with statements like those above, this thread has officiously been labeled "Weinsteined" . . .

    • by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2017 @05:38AM (#55422545)

      I can imagine that conversation....

      "So, you're a field researcher? What do you study?"

      "Great tits!"

      "Ah, you're an ornithologist?"

      "No, I study birds in the UK..."

    • I can imagine that conversation....

      "So, you're a field researcher? What do you study?"

      "Great tits!"

      "Ah, you're an ornithologist?"

      "What? Oh, uh... yeah, sure..."
      =Smidge=

      I have ehmm... found that the more I have studied great tits, the longer the uhm.. beak has grown.

    • I can imagine that conversation....

      "So, you're a field researcher? What do you study?"

      "Great tits!"

      "Ah, you're an ornithologist?"

      "No... I'm Harvey Weinstein, you insensitive clod."

  • First they grab my attention...

    2,322 great tits from the UK and the Netherlands

    and then they show me some birds? Is the internet broken today? ;)

    • This is a moral dilemma, and there are strong arguments both ways, but I lean towards feeding them for a number of reasons for this. Firstly, human activity is having a very negative impact on bird populations, and populations are declining rapidly. It seems morally correct to compensate for the damage by help the animals, and feeding them to maintain their population is one way of doing that.

      Feeding does seem to have a beneficial effect. For example if we look at tits, a family of birds that are very ad

    • They're not truly wild. They live in the managed ecosystems of our towns and villages.

      Whilst feeding animal in the true wild is bad, feeding back garden birds that would otherwise fail to find sufficient food in bird-unfriendly gardens (lacking the correct plants and enough prey) is necessary to prevent further decline.

      For example:
      "House sparrow numbers were not monitored adequately before the mid-1970s. Since then, numbers in rural England have nearly halved while numbers in towns and cities have declined

      • They're not truly wild. They live in the managed ecosystems of our towns and villages.

        Whilst feeding animal in the true wild is bad, feeding back garden birds that would otherwise fail to find sufficient food in bird-unfriendly gardens (lacking the correct plants and enough prey) is necessary to prevent further decline.

        We feed a number of species in our back yard. Aside from educational and entertainment value, it is nice to be of some help to some of the birds. We now have a couple families of pileated woodpeckers along with downy, hairy and redheaded peckers, lots of goldfinches, cardinals, grosbeaks. and wood thrushes, winter wrens, as well as bluejays. Sparrows and we have some Cooper Hawks, one who seems to really like my wife.Those are just the regulars.

        "House sparrow numbers were not monitored adequately before the mid-1970s. Since then, numbers in rural England have nearly halved while numbers in towns and cities have declined by 60 per cent.

        I wonder if the numbers have declined in part because of increa

  • by Pollux ( 102520 ) <speter@tedat a . n e t . eg> on Tuesday October 24, 2017 @05:58AM (#55422577) Journal

    I've not heard of that bird species before. No worries. Google to the rescue!

    Let's see here...

    images.google.com

    Search for... "Great tit" ...

    Well, guess I should have seen that one coming.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Lots of pictures of birds? That's what I see
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I've not heard of that bird species before. No worries. Google to the rescue!

      Let's see here...

      images.google.com

      Search for... "Great tit" ...

      Well, guess I should have seen that one coming.

      Have you actually tried? Even with "Safe Search" turned off, you get oodles of pages of birds before anything else.

      • Have you actually tried? Even with "Safe Search" turned off, you get oodles of pages of birds before anything else.

        This statement is true no matter which way it goes, once you remember that "bird" is also slang for "chick".

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      Found it. Filed under Tits 'n Ass [postimg.org]

  • Amazing deductions Mr Holmes... I am truly amazed!

    What they found: The British birds had longer beaks and were more likely to have genes associated with beak length.

    How on earth you could connect longer beaks with genes for beak length, Mr Holmes!

    • How on earth you could connect longer beaks with genes for beak length, Mr Holmes!

      Every bird had genes for beak length. Some have genes for short beaks, some have genes for long beaks.

      What appears to be missing is any information that would exclude natural causes for longer beaks in the UK and shorter in The Netherlands. It is almost certain that there are many times as many birds in both places who eat from "the wild" and not from "bird feeders", so the evolutionary pressure to develop longer beaks may have nothing at all to do with feeders to begin with.

  • It seems we have a propensity, as a species, to name bird species after cleavage.

    In the Galapagos you have several species of Boobies.

    Meanwhile, in the UK, you actually have a bird called "great tits"... This is rather creepy to be honest.

    I think the ornithologists need to get out more, but I'm not sure if that would help.

    The awkward conversation:

    "I think that bird looks like a woman's breast, I shall call it Great Tits!"

    "Have you ever seen a woman's breast?"

    "No, but I would expect it to look like a bird."

    • There are tits everywhere. There are yellow tits and blue tits, there are dusky tits and sombre tits, and the Philippines even have "elegant tits". There are also several species that seem somewhat meta, like the red-breasted and stripy-breasted tits.
    • That's nothing. In New Zealand I saw black shags.

    • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 24, 2017 @08:03AM (#55423067) Homepage Journal

      It seems we have a propensity, as a species, to name bird species after cleavage.
      In the Galapagos you have several species of Boobies.
      Meanwhile, in the UK, you actually have a bird called "great tits"... This is rather creepy to be honest.

      "tit" (slang) dates from the 1920s, though "titty" comes from the 1700s. But the use of the word "tit" to mean "anything small" comes from the 1500s or earlier. So tits were just small birds, and tits didn't become boobs until recently-ish.

      • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

        "tit" (slang) dates from the 1920s, though "titty" comes from the 1700s. But the use of the word "tit" to mean "anything small" comes from the 1500s or earlier. So tits were just small birds, and tits didn't become boobs until recently-ish.

        The word you're looking for is "teat". Its origins date back to the 12th century [merriam-webster.com]

  • "A study of great tits in the UK"
    Tee hee

  • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2017 @08:42AM (#55423281)
    Researcher: "I'm an ornithologist"

    Lady: "How interesting! What are you studying?"

    Researcher: "Great Tits."

    Lady: "Um, thanks, but my eyes are up here!"

  • Shifting of the population expression rate of genes already present in the gene pool is such weak tea, I practically have to screen for homeopathy dilution when I read a story submission like this one.

    An actual evolution product worth talking about is the capacity of a population to rapidly shift composition to match local conditions.

    Ideally, the number of short beaks would remain compatible with the food best exacted with short beaks, while the number of long beaks increases to optimally extract the newly

    • by epine ( 68316 )

      s/homologous/homozygous

      Not an everyday typo. My fingers betray me in ever more clever ways.

      About half of my typing errors are full word substitutions which preserve 80% of the desired keystrokes, though not usually involving words this abstract.

  • Evolution generally describes the changing of genes and DANA in animals which leads to changes in them. The changes are then weeded through by natural selection for the best. This article describes a process where birds already have the ability to grow longer beaks meaning that this isn't evolution it's natural selection.
  • Great tits acquire taste for bats. Did the beaks change for them? http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8245165.stm [bbc.co.uk]

  • Scientists paid to look at great tits all day? Where do I sign up???

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