Sometimes a species is so endangered their numbers can only be increased by raising some of them in captivity. Birds raised this way never learn to migrate right.
Operation Migration is a project to help endangered birds learn to migrate by leading them along the right path with an ultralight aircraft they’ve been taught to follow.
They’re in the middle of a flight right now and you can watch them in action:
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The common starling is everywhere in America and Europe. I’ve seen them zillions of times in Wichita, but I never realized they can talk.
Starlings are native to Europe, but are now found in all hemispheres because of a weird British society dedicated to helping invasive species spread around the world. The Acclimatization Societies devoted themselves to exporting European plants and animals to European colonies around the world, thinking that native species weren’t as good as European species. In America, they made a special point of bringing in every type of bird mentioned in the works of Shakespeare. (Why? It was a lark.) They’re everywhere now.
I always thought a talking bird had to be something exotic, but it turns out they’ve been pooping on my windshield all this time.
Anyway, a captured wild starling apparently makes a surprisingly good pet. In the first link of this post, a New Zealand preschool teacher rescued a baby starling and it grew up learning phrases from her. Now she uses it in class with her preschoolers.
Ravens, which are also found in North America, can also speak. I always thought Edgar Allen Poe’s poem The Raven was just about a guy hallucinating as he descended into madness, but ravens actually can talk.
Who needs parrots?
(Hat tip to Jerry Coyne for the first link.)