A deceptive oasis—and how birds deal with it

September 29, 2023 • 1:15 pm

We’ll finish off the “work” week with another Attenborough video, featuring a remarkable oasis in the Sahara that isn’t what it seems. Fortunately, the swallows have evolved an adaptation to the oasis’s trick.  I wonder if the birds’ ingestion of flies is an evolved rather than a learned trait (I suspect it’s the former given the mortality produced by drinking the saline water).

6 thoughts on “A deceptive oasis—and how birds deal with it

  1. I’m having a problem with the video, which plays for about 10 seconds of introduction and then claims it played for 3:20.

    1. I think you may be getting the intro at the end of the video. Drag the line back to the beginning. That is what worked for me.

  2. I suspect it is a learned trait. Dead birds pass on no genes. But — our English sparrow population (about 20-25 birds) started to come to our bird feeders en masse. Sunflower seeds are dispensed in a green boxy feeder. At first they had a hard time figuring out how to eat a sunflower seed and dropped them for the chipmunks to scavenge, but figured out the process and now several (but not all) eat sunflowers. The other feeder is vertical and has less expensive mixed grains (like cracked corn and millet). The sparrows have learned how to exploit this, which is why it has cheaper food in it. There is also water in a flat galvanized pan which requires a certain amount of agility to access from the rim. There is a brick in the center. Many of the birds (all species) prefer the brick because it does not require attention to balance. My point is that the sparrows have picked up behaviors other birds had mastered and now most of them have learned the easiest ways of getting food and drink. Oh yes, they have also learned how to eat suet and suet dropped by the woodpeckers, chickadees, and nut hatches.

  3. Maybe sooner than thought, the salt water moving up the Mississippi will cause something similar there. It is getting closer to New Orleans all the time.

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