Bustin’ bird myths- a Moment of Science

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For as common as birds are, there are many myths about them that are partially or completely false! Storm Team 2 Meteorologist David Dickson debunks some of those aviary assumptions with Stephen Schabel, the Director of Education for the Center for Birds of Prey up in Awendaw.

“I think the one most familiar to folks is bird brain. It’s meant as an insult when in reality a bird’s brain is gigantic in terms of its body mass, comparable to some of the higher thinking mammals! It’s just they’re using their brain for different things. Like, this little kestrel can see light in the ultraviolet spectrum- that’s a big brain processing information that ours cannot. Bird brain… take it as a complement!”

“Circling vultures does not mean there’s something dead on the ground. That circling behavior is (the vultures) using hot air to gain altitude, they’re riding up on thermals to gain a better vantage point to then locate that food. Once they find dead things they go to the dead thing on the ground.”

“One of the things people think of when they think about owls is their amazing ability to move their heads. It’s not unique to owls… that’s an adaptation we see in other birds, and no they can not turn their head all the way around.”

“They can turn their heads about 270 degrees in either direction…and they got some pretty amazing anatomy that allows for it. If we could turn our head 270 degrees, we’d pass out pretty quickly because it would constrict blood flow- but the way their arteries and veins too and from their brain, they don’t constrict when they move their heads.”

“In most cases not true at all. Most birds we think don’t have that prominent sense of smell anyway. It’s not because she can smell me, it’s because I’m there interfering. So get the bird back into the nest and leave it alone.”

“And finding a young bird on the ground isn’t necessarily a problem. Turkey vultures lay their eggs on the ground, lots of birds do…we want to make sure that the birds get the help they need but we don’t want people to kidnap the bird so to speak.”

“Our operations depend on people in the community wanting to help, and we just don’t want to make an issue when there wasn’t one- and that’s a matter of education.”

Which the center provides through up-close encounters- teaching visitors lessons they learn from treating various birds of prey injured in the Lowcountry. They’re open for visitors Thursday through Saturday, you can find and purchase tickets on their website.

Storm Team 2 Meteorologist David Dickson

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