WTF Fun Fact 13379 – Benefits of Listening to Birds

In the quest for improved mental health, one often overlooks the simple pleasures of nature. But a recent study published in Scientific Reports revealed the benefits of listening to birds and the profound impact birds can have on our mental health and well-being.

The benefits of listening to birds

Birds offer a unique connection to the natural world, proving to be a source of solace and rejuvenation. Birdsongs possess a remarkable ability to transport us to serene natural environments, even when we reside in bustling urban landscapes.

Research conducted by the Max Planck Institute for Human Development found that listening to birdsongs, even through headphones, can alleviate negative emotions.

Interacting with birds on a regular basis has been strongly linked to better mental health. A study involving 1,300 participants, who documented their well-being multiple times a day using the Urban Mind smartphone app, revealed a significant positive association between seeing or hearing birds and improved mental well-being. Remarkably, these benefits persisted for hours after the encounter.

Even individuals diagnosed with depression displayed positive effects when exposed to birdsong and birdlife in their surroundings. This highlights the importance of preserving and protecting environments that sustain bird populations, as they can provide a natural remedy for mental health challenges.

No need for real birds

In a separate study, participants who listened to diverse birdsongs reported a decrease in depressive symptoms, anxiety, and paranoia. This effect was even observed with just two species of birdsongs, showcasing the potential of these therapeutic sounds.

In contrast, exposure to traffic noise had adverse effects on mental well-being. The study reinforces the significance of nature’s healing aspects and highlights the negative impact of urban environments on our psychological state.

Nature, including birdsong, has a profound effect on our mental well-being. The attention restoration theory suggests that spending time in nature improves concentration and reduces mental fatigue associated with urban stress.

Furthermore, researchers have linked spending time in green spaces to reduced stress, lower blood pressure, and lower cortisol levels. Engaging with nature also promotes physical activity, adding another layer of mental health benefits. Birdwatching, in particular, has been shown to enhance mental health, with individuals who savor the joy of each bird sighting reporting greater benefits.

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Source: “Why birds and their songs are good for our mental health” — Washington Post

WTF Fun Fact 13366 – Flying Chickens

Contrary to popular belief, chickens can fly. Flying chickens aren’t a common sight, but they do possess the necessary physical adaptations for brief bursts of flight.

What’s the deal with flying chickens?

Chickens are not known for sustained or long-distance flight. However, their wings, consisting of flight feathers, primary feathers, and secondary feathers, are able to provide lift and control during short flights. Strong pectoral muscles aid in wing flapping, facilitating takeoff and maintaining altitude.

Chickens achieve flight by utilizing their wings and pectoral muscles. Flapping their wings generates the necessary lift to become airborne. However, their relatively large body size and heavy frame make any sustained flight nearly impossible.

When chickens fly

Chickens can only achieve short flights, covering distances of a few meters at a time. These flights are often initiated as a response to perceived threats, to navigate obstacles, or to reach higher roosting positions. Flight abilities are more pronounced in certain chicken breeds and younger chickens due to their agility and muscle strength.

The longest recorded flight of a chicken lasted for approximately 13 seconds. While brief compared to other bird species, it is a remarkable feat considering chickens’ general reputation as ground-dwelling birds.

Flight serves various purposes for chickens beyond locomotion. It aids in escaping predators, reaching elevated perches or roosts for safety, exploring new environments, and accessing food sources that may be out of reach on the ground.

Domesticated chickens often have reduced flight capabilities due to selective breeding for specific traits. Firstly, domesticated chicken breeds have been selectively bred over generations for specific traits, such as meat production or egg-laying abilities. This breeding process has resulted in larger body sizes and heavier frames, making sustained flight challenging. Additionally, the typical living environments for domesticated chickens, such as coops or enclosures, often lack the open spaces and elevated perches that would naturally encourage flight. Consequently, chickens tend to rely more on their remarkable ground-dwelling and foraging abilities, which are better suited to their domesticated lifestyles.

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Source: “Can Chickens Fly? (How & Why)” — Farm Animal Report

WTF Fun Fact 13345 – The Australian Emu War

You may have learned about quite a few deadly conflicts in school, but have you ever heard about the Australian Emu War? Also called the Great Emu War in Western Australia, it was exactly what it sounds like – a war against emus. As in the animals.

The origins of the Australian Emu War

The Great Emu War occurred in Western Australia in 1932. It was a conflict between Australian farmers and a large population of emus. Emus are flightless birds native to Australia, in case you didn’t know.

This war was no joke. An uncontrolled emu population began to encroach on farmlands, damaging crops, and creating economic problems for the farmers. In response, the farmers requested military assistance to deal with the emu infestation.

According to Atlas Obscura (cited below):

“Western Australian farmers had been facing hard times with their crops following the Great Depression, and their difficulties increased tenfold with the arrival of some 20,000 emus migrating inland during their breeding season. The birds had been protected as a native species until 1922, but now that they were classified as ‘vermin,’ all bets were off.”

The Australian government actually deployed soldiers armed with machine guns to combat the emus. , They saw the animals as a threat to agriculture. However, emus are also fast and agile. That makes them difficult to eradicate with weapons.

A war of futility

One might think the mismatch was the result of humans having the advantage of deadly weapons. But it was really the emus who had the upper hand.

To top it off, emus don’t want to fight. So when they hear gunfire, they run. That makes them much harder to target. It also had the effect of separating the battalions into smaller and smaller groups to go after the scattering emus. That’s just bad military planning.

In the end, the army realized that using precision weapons was ineffective and called off the operation. The emus won.

The Emu War has become symbolic of human struggles against the forces of nature and the limitations of technology in dealing with wildlife. It was no doubt a humbling experience for the military.

Eventually, the government turned to other – less violent – measures. They erected fences to protect farmlands from emu intrusion.

So, it turns out violence wasn’t the answer.

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Source: “In 1932, Australia Started an ‘Emu War’—And Lost” — Atlas Obscura

WTF Fun Fact 13111 – The Most Common Wild Bird

You may see sparrows, cardinals, and pigeons non-stop. But the most common wild bird in the world actually lives in Africa. Now, it won’t be common for all of us to see, but it’s the most abundant wild bird, meaning there are more of these birds than any other birds.

What is the most common wild bird?

The most common wild bird in the world, in terms of its sheer abundance, is the Red-billed Quelea.

These birds live in sub-Saharan Africa (south of the Sarahan Desert). And they don’t just fly in flocks, they fly in massive hordes. In fact, if you see a group of these birds, you’re probably looking at 2 million or more in one flock.

According to the Audobon Society (cited below): “They fly in such tightly synchronized masses they can be mistaken at a distance for clouds of smoke.”

How many Red-billed Quelea are there?

It’s estimated that there are around 1.5 billion Red-billed Quelea out there. That makes them the most abundant wild bird in the world. Of course, they’re not common in North America, but if you took all the birds in the world and put them together, the number of Red-billed Quelea would dwarf the populations of most other wild birds.

The Red-billed Quelea is the size of a sparrow and is brown for the most part. Like most birds, the males are more colorful. They often have red and black feathers on their heads.

These birds eat seeds, which they crack open with their beaks. But unfortunately for farmers, they are drawn to crops like millet. And as you can imagine, having 2 million birds descend on your field for a meal can easily strip you of your income.

At times, “Single colonies can cover hundreds of acres, totaling tens of millions of birds,” according to Audobon.

Unfortunately, their tastes include cultivated crops, like millet. But the enormous growth of cereal crops in sub-Saharan Africa has likely led to the birds’ proliferation.  WTF fun facts

Source: “What Is the Most Abundant Wild Bird in the World?” — Audobon Society

WTF Fun Fact 12612 – The Cowbird’s Secret Password

Cowbirds (Molothrus ater) have an interesting way of parenting.

Females (known as “brood parasites”) use all their energy to produce eggs and can even lay around three dozen each summer. It seems like a lot of babies, right? But they’d never know because they abandon them all to whatever feathery foster parents they can find. They lay their eggs in the nest of other birds and expect those birds to raise their young. They’ll even lay their eggs in a nest with other chicks already in it and expect the resident birds to evict their own young in favor of the newcomers!

Even more interesting is that they don’t choose other cowbirds – the babies are raised by completely different species of birds. There are at least 220 other species of bird that could find cowbird eggs in their nest one day, but individual females tend to choose one species with which to leave all of their eggs.

Cowbirds have been a challenge for scientists to understand because it’s hard to follow and get to know birds that don’t build nests. But we’ve had more luck in recent years as their habitats have become smaller, and they’ve moved closer to humans (although that’s not really a good thing for the birds).

So, you may wonder how cowbirds learn to become cowbirds if they are raised by other species. And that’s where the really interesting fact comes in.

Cowbirds eventually find their own kind and spend the rest of their lives associating with other cowbirds. They reunite with their species as juveniles, even though there’s no reason they should have the skills to recognize that they aren’t like their foster parents. (Bird brains aren’t that big.)

So how do cowbirds come to recognize one another? They have a password or “secret handshake” deal going on. Technically, it’s a very specialized chatter call. No matter their age, they can take to the trees, make their calls, and other cowbirds will come and find them. – WTF fun facts

Source: “Neural basis for parasitic cowbird’s secret password identified by researchers” — Science Daily

WTF Fun Fact – Feral Cats Can Eat

WTF Fun Fact - Feral Cats Gotta Eat

The feral cat population in Australia was so large that they killed an estimated 75 million native animals every night across Australia, including birds, frogs, mammals, and reptiles. Australian authorities planned to kill 2 million feral cats by 2020. WTF Fun Facts