We’ve deployed some interesting bowerbird behavioral experiments in the bush over the last couple of days. One involves a simple test to determine whether or not a bowerbird can sense a weak magnetic field and, if so, adjust their behavior in some fashion that makes it clear to us. Birds do use the magnetic field of the earth for migratory purposes and so it does make sense that they might somehow distinguish between a magnetic and non-magnetic object. Another experiment is aiming to understand if bowerbirds prefer curtain shaped decorations over others. For this experiment we give them three types of decorations, all flat and made from blue tape. One is about the size of a soda straw, one is about the size of a parrot tail feather, and the third is a square. All three decorations have the same surface area, just different aspect ratios. We think that a bowerbird would prefer the shape that mimics the feather of a parrot for that would have been a natural choice a hundred years ago before people littered the landscape with plastic.
But just as interesting is a recent deployment of an experiment I designed yesterday that involves a three foot rubber snake and a brush turkey! The Australian brush turkey is a common ground inhabitant of the coast and they just love to get into everybody’s trash at a caravan park. We have had our trash bucket scattered about on more than one occasion. So I decided to train the brush turkeys to stay away from our trash bag by having a rubber snake pop out of the bag when they scratch at it with their giant, chicken-like claws. Hopefully, you can see the movie from YouTube that I am linking to this post :-)