we are surrounded by dinosaurs -- 3/27/16

Today's selection -- from Birdology by Sy Montgomery. Birds, which are more different from us than any other class of creatures we commonly see, can see polarized and ultraviolet light, can experience colors we can never know, can sense the earth's magnetic field, and can navigate using subtle changes in odor and barometric pressure.

"Birds are the only wild animals most people see every day. No matter where we live, birds live with us. Too many of us take them for granted. We don't appreciate how very strange they are, how different. We don't realize what otherworldly creatures birds are.
Their hearts look like those of crocodiles. Birds are covered with modi­fied scales -- we call them feathers. Their bones are hollow, permeated with extensive air sacs. They have no hands. They give birth to eggs.

"No other scientific classification of living creature we commonly see is so different from us as is the class Aves. We don't even think of birds as 'ani­mals' (although they are -- as are humans, of course). We consider 'animals' to be our fellow mammals, with whom our kinship is obvious. ... We shared a common ancestor with even the most distant of our fellow placen­tal mammals as recently as 100 million years ago. The last ancestor we shared with the birds, however, traces back 325 to 350 million years ago.

"A bird is as distant from us as a dinosaur. But unlike the extinct mon­sters of the Jurassic and Cretaceous, birds today are everywhere among us -- on our sidewalks, at our bird feeders, on our dinner plates. Yet despite our disparate evolutionary paths, scientists are now beginning to reveal the extent to which birds' emotional and intellectual abilities are remarkably like ours.

"[T]he first thing you need to know about birds is that Birds Are Individuals. ... Although a flock of hens is all about community, each chicken is quite distinctive, and the personality of each individual is extremely important to the flock dynamic. People who don't know chickens are always astonished to learn this, but when you are in the company of birds, you must be prepared to be surprised.

"A second fundamental truth of birds is that Birds Are Dinosaurs. That may be difficult to see when you're watching a fluffy chickadee at the feeder, but it is abundantly clear when you are crashing through the rain forest of Queensland, Australia, pursuing a 150-pound cassowary, a bird as tall as a man, crowned with a helmet of bone on its head and a killer claw on each foot. ... The dinosaurian lineage that became the birds left the earth for the skies. And in doing this, they utterly reshaped their bodies inside and out. ... Their bones are hollow; their feathers weigh more than the skeleton. Their bodies are full of air sacs; their feathers, also hollow shafted, are sculpted to capture and move air. Birds are essentially feather-fringed bubbles. ...

"Birds are able to apprehend the world in ways that we cannot. They can see polarized and ultraviolet light. They experience colors we can never know. They sense the earth's magnetic field, navigate using subtle changes in odor and barometric pressure. They imbibe realities of this world that we cannot fathom and use them to circumnavigate the globe. We are only now starting to understand how birds accomplish these extraordinary feats, by way of one of our most ordinary and unappreciated birds, the pigeon. ...

"Though gifted with instincts and senses that we lack, birds' intellectual capacities are shockingly similar to our own. Some birds appreciate human art to the extent that they can learn to tell the difference between the paint­ings of Monet and those of Manet. Some birds love to dance. ... Birds' capacity for song is of course so legendary that many cultures tell us the birds taught music to humans. There are birds who can even speak to us meaning­fully in our own language -- something that, many scientists believe, even our close hominid cousins, the Neanderthals, probably could not do. ...


author:

Sy Montgomery

title:

Birdology: Adventures with Hip Hop Parrots, Cantankerous Cassowaries, Crabby Crows, Peripatetic Pigeons, Hens, Hawks, and Hummingbirds

publisher:

Free Press a division of Simon and Schuster

date:

Copyright 2010 by Sy Montgomery

pages:

3-5

All delanceyplace profits are donated to charity and support children’s literacy projects.


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WE ARE SURROUNDED BY DINOSAURS

"...Today's selection -- from Birdology by Sy Montgomery. Birds, which are more different from us than any other class of creatures we commonly see, can see polarized and ultraviolet light, can experience colors we can never know, can sense the earth's magnetic field, and can navigate using subtle changes in odor and barometric pressure..."

BIRDS ARE EXTRAORDINARY, AMONG EXTRAORDINARY CREATURES - from The Old Mountain Goat!


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