News archive of the MPI for Ornithology

News from the institute until December 2021

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Migratory birds have lighter-colored feathers

As a result, the plumage absorbs less solar energy and thus prevents overheating during long flights. more

Female finches are picky but pragmatic when choosing a mate

Females remain unmated when competition for preferred mates is too big - but then often smuggle their eggs into other nests more

New Marshmallow-Test in parrots

African grey parrots may have better self-control than macaws more

Bird pupils behave unexpectedly different

Pupil size changes in awake and sleeping birds in opposite ways to mammals more

Songbirds like it sweet

Songbird ancestors evolved a new way to taste sugar more

Urban traffic noise causes song learning deficits in birds

Zebra finches also suffer from a suppressed immune function due to the chronic stress more

Top address for life science research

Bavaria invests up to 500 million euros in the competitive development of the Martinsried Max Planck Campus into an outstanding international research hub more

Female snowy plovers are no bad mothers

However, their parental care depends on the survival prospects of the chicks more

Global study on bird song frequency

Competition for mates leads to a deeper voice than expected based on size more

Childlessness by circumstance

Why zebra finches have problems with reproduction more

Avian tree of life better resolved

Max Planck researchers clarify relationships between bird families more

Wading birds: shorebirds with unusual social structures

Waders display fascinating behaviour patterns, but are also exemplary for the loss of biodiversity more

Social networks reveal dating in blue tits

Blue tits that are already associated in winter are more likely to have young together in spring more

Blowing in the wind

A polygynous shorebird decides where to breed based on the prevailing wind conditions more

First come, first bred

Arriving early in the breeding area is crucial for successful reproduction also in non-migratory birds more

How a Bird Brain Times Tweets

Inhibitory neurons in the zebra finch brain control coordinated vocal interactions more

Prosocial and tolerant parrots help others to obtain food

African grey parrots spontaneously help conspecifics without obvious benefits to themselves more

Traffic noise affects normal stress reactions in zebra finches and delays offspring growth

Noise pollution is one of the leading environmental health risks in humans. In zebra finches, noise affects their health and the growth of their offspring: Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen found that traffic noise suppresses normal glucocorticoid profiles in the blood, probably to prevent negative effects of chronically elevated levels on the organism. In addition, the young chicks of noise-exposed parents were smaller than chicks from quiet nests. more

Birds in serious decline at Lake Constance

Over the last 30 years, the region has lost 120,000 breeding pairs more

Icarus is switched on

After a test phase lasting several months, the animal observation system is to commence operation at the end of the year more

Each moth escapes its own way

Species-specific escape strategies of moths make hunting difficult for bats more

Female power: Lise Meitner Group Leaders

A portrait of the first nine Lise Meitner Group Leaders more

The brains of birds synchronize when they sing duets

Vocal control areas in the brain of weaver birds fire in time when they sing together more

Every bat travels differently

Noctule bats follow individual routes to their nursery roosts more

Hunting fruit bats also harms humans

Straw-coloured fruit bats provide valuable ecological services for humans more

New Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior

Scientists will investigate collective behaviour and movement patterns of animals more

Hearing in 3D

Hearing in 3D

April 23, 2019

In order to recognize spatial structures, bat echolocation uses similar cues as our sense of sight more

'We can't simply lock up animals in protected areas'

Interview with Martin Wikelski about how humans continue to restrict the range of motion of animals. more

Attention skills in a nonhuman cooperative breeding species

Songbirds that cooperate to raise their young coordinate their attention and intentionally communicate with each other more

Does parenting hamper the sex life of male black coucals?

Although the raising of the young is a matter for men in these birds, parenthood is less expensive for the fathers than thought more

Seal hunting with the Great White Shark

Researchers record the behaviour of these threatened hunters with underwater cameras and motion sensors more

Fruit bats are reforesting African woodlands

800 hectares of new forest per year could grow from the seeds disseminated by the bats more

The rules of colour: rainfall and temperature predict bird colouration on a global scale

Precipitation and temperature can be used to predict the colouring of birds more

A deeper look inside the sleeping bird brain

Similarities and differences between avian and mammalian sleep and possibly memory consolidation more

Are fish aware of themselves?

Cleaner wrasse seem to recognize themselves in the mirror more

Max Planck researchers support referendum on species diversity

The scientists believe that the relevant legislative amendments could halt the disappearance of insects and birds in Bavaria more

No egg is like another

No egg is like another

January 04, 2019

Female age and laying order drive variation of egg quality in blue tits more

Great tits detox at the expense of a lower life expectancy

Males that neutralize free radicals with an enzyme are less likely to survive the next winter more

Appearance is deceiving

Appearance is deceiving

November 13, 2018

Bib of house sparrow does not signal its fighting ability more

New Caledonian crows can create compound tools

The birds are able to combine individual parts to form a long-distance reaching aid more

Couples showing off: Songbirds are more passionate in front of an audience

Both sexes of a songbird called the blue-capped cordon-bleu intensify courtship performances in the presence of an audience more

Parrots think in economic terms

Parrots think in economic terms

September 01, 2018

These birds can forgo an immediate reward in favour of a greater reward in the future. more

Spacewalk for Icarus

Antenna for Russian–German experiment installed on International Space Station more

Brood failure in blue tits

Brood failure in blue tits is almost always due to the loss of a parent more

Storks on the wing

Scientists can predict which storks will migrate to Africa in autumn and which will remain in Europe more

Inauguration of centre for research into animal migrations

A new joint research centre of the Max Planck Society and Yale University will promote the study and protection of biodiversity more

Being all ear: Greater Horseshoe bats use multiple streams of acoustic information simultaneously

Bats do not only use the information of their echolocation calls for foraging but may also simultaneously analyse acoustic signals from their potential prey. Researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen found that Greater Horseshoe bats use such combined acoustic stimuli to considerably extend the limited reach of their echolocation calls. more

Demography influences parental care in plovers

In populations with an unbalanced adult sex ratio, male plovers take care of the young more

In monogamous species, a compatible partner is more important than an ornamented one

The colour of bands attached to the legs of birds for individual identification does not have an effect on the birds’ behaviour, physiology, life-history or fitness. This result of a study from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen contradicts long established text-book “knowledge” and questions whether ornaments play a major role in mate choice of monogamous species. more

How barbastelle bats trick moths that are able to hear their echolocation calls

In the evolutionary arms race between bats and their insect prey, some moths have developed ears to detect echolocating bats and avoid being caught. Conversely, barbastelle bats are known to counter moth hearing by using quiet, 'stealthy' calls to search for prey in the dark. Recording the hunting behaviour of this intriguing species, researchers have now found that barbastelle bats sneak up on unsuspecting moths by gradually emitting even fainter calls as they come closer. more

Ears for Icarus

Russian rocket delivers antenna for animal tracking system to the International Space Station more

“In ten years we’ll know which animals are able to predict natural disasters”

Interview with Martin Wikelski on the successful mission to transport the Icarus antennas to the International Space Station more

Humans limit animal movements

Biologists detect reduction in animal movements in areas with a high human footprint more

Migration pays off for songbirds

Blackbirds that spend the winter in the south are more likely to survive the cold season than their conspecifics in central Europe more

Shrews shrink in winter and regrow in spring

The tiny mammals reduce the size of their organs in the winter and can even decrease and rebuild bones more

Icarus lifts off

The Icarus on-board computer, the first component of the global animal observatory system, has gone into space more

Bats anticipate optimal weather conditions

For the common noctule, wind speed, wind direction and air pressure trigger its set off for its summer territories more

Individuality drives collective behaviour of schooling fish

Researchers unravel the role of individual characteristics in the collective behaviour of animal groups more

Glass fronts can be acoustic illusions for bats

Bats fail to detect smooth, vertical surfaces when they are in a rush more

On the hunt: describing group predation across the animal kingdom

Researchers outline a new way to define and classify how groups of animals hunt together more

Mutation speeds up sperm of zebra finches

Gene inversion gives reproductive advantage to zebra finches more

Reptile vocalization is surprisingly flexible

Phenotypic plasticity of gecko calls reveals the complex communication of lizards more

Speed Dating: Promiscuous pectoral sandpipers sample breeding sites along thousands of kilometres

The shorebirds have a huge breeding range across the Arctic more

“We still know far too little about bird flu”

Wolfgang Fiedler, an ornithologist at the Radolfzell Ornithological Station, pleads for more research leading to a better understanding of transmission paths more

How parents divide their duties

Parents need to synchronize the care for their offspring. This leads to extreme and unexpected diversity in how parents attend their nest in shorebirds. Some pairs switched duties 20 times a day, while in others one parent sat on the nest for up to 50 hours. The key factor underlying this variation is risk of predation, not risk of starvation. more

Brazilian free-tailed bat is the fastest flyer in the animal kingdom

Bats are not just skilful aviators, they can also reach record-breaking speeds more

Blackbirds switch abruptly to fly-by-night behaviour at migration time

The normally diurnal birds don't need time to adjust their circadian clocks before departing for their winter habitats more

Snoozing between the skies and Earth

A team of scientists headed by Niels Rattenborg from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen has demonstrated, for the first time that birds can fly in sleep mode more

Lack of opportunities promotes brood care

Female white-browed coucals have to suffice with a single mate more

Singing in the flight lane

Singing in the flight lane

September 08, 2016

Birds adjust their singing activity around airport noise more

The great tit, Parus major, does better in the countryside

In cities birds have fewer and smaller offspring than in rural areas more

First evidence of sleep in flight

Birds engage in all types of sleep in flight, but in remarkably small amounts more

The Max Planck Society met in Saarbrücken

The Max Planck Society's 67th Annual Meeting wrapped up with a panel discussion the "Internet of Things" more

Great apes communicate cooperatively

Gestural communication in bonobos and chimpanzees shows turn-taking and clearly distinguishable communication styles more

Competition favours shy tits

Explorative great tits have fewer chances to survive in high population densities more

Mother-infant communication in chimpanzees

Initiation of joint travel in mother-infant dyads is communicated via gestures and vocalisations more

No silent night

No silent night

January 04, 2016

Bats adapt their echolocation calls to noise more

Lost the beat

Lost the beat

December 29, 2015

Mice suffer from a decrease in biological fitness if their internal clock is mixed up more

Following their noses to Lake Victoria – seagulls use smells to navigate

Without their sense of smell, lesser black-backed gulls are unable to compensate for deviations from their natural migratory corridor more

Are females glamorous because males are?

Explaining variation in plumage colour of male and female birds more

In cordon bleus, song develops independently of sex differences in the brain

Singing developes independent from gender differences in the brain more

Gone with the wind

Migratory birds need less time to travel longer routes when they optimize for wind support. more

Straw-coloured fruit bats: Ecosystem service providers and record-breaking flyers

When searching for food, African straw-coloured fruit bats cover greater distances than any other bat species studied to date more

Harmonic pillow talk

Harmonic pillow talk

October 06, 2015

Zebra finches change their call communication pattern in groups according to their reproductive status more

Could a special immune system help protect bats from Ebola?

Bats frequently come into contact with infectious diseases, but surprisingly rarely suffer from them more

Free mate choice enhances fitness: Zebra finch offspring benefit from love marriages

Zebra finches allowed to breed with their preferred partner achieved a 37 percent higher reproductive success compared to pairs that were forced to mate more

Song learning in a time lapse

Late-hatched canaries learn their songs as well as early-hatched birds more

GPS transmitters can protect animals from poaching

The case of Cecil shows: with the help of satellite transmitter systems, researchers can determine the cause of death of animals almost in real time more

Baboons follow the majority

In a baboon group, any member can set the direction - not just the highest-ranking animal more

Thieving rodents as saviours of tropical trees

Agoutis disperse tree seeds in the rain forest of Latin America more

Bold crickets have a shorter life

Differences in personality influence survival in field crickets more

Artificial night lighting causes birds to sing earlier

Light pollution influences the seasonal start of bird vocalisations more