If you’re not active on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter or Google+, you may be missing out on the joy of Internet memes. A meme (rhymes with cream) is “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.” An Internet meme can be as short as a catch-phrase or as complex as a video clip. A lot of memes are simple graphics which are altered to suit different topics. When a meme is hot, you can be sure there will be variants related to birds or birding.
In February 2013, the music track “Harlem Shake” by artist Baauer spawned a series of funny, short dance videos. The typical Harlem Shake clip is usually about a half minute long. The standard video format is to begin with a single person dancing to the song, surrounded by others who are ignoring the dancing person. This is followed by a rough cut to lots of people dancing to the song, often wearing funny or strange costumes and brandishing odd props. An early parody video went viral in the first week of February, earning over 7 million hits on YouTube in a week’s time. By the middle of February, there were about 12K Harlem Shake videos posted on YouTube.
With this level of virality, of course there are Harlem Shake clips featuring birds. There are a good number of videos featuring parrots. Many bird clips don’t follow the standard format — a single bird is shown dancing, as in this clip featuring a Black-crowned Night-Heron, or the venue changes completely from one scene to the next, as in this European Starling murmuration video (which is pretty funny, anyway). Another clip, called Harlem shake (duck edition) uses this original video set to the music. I had seen the original clip before so I knew what was going to happen but it still made me giggle — especially since I knew the birds would all end up alright (and upright!).
I thought the following Harlem Shake video was just about the only bird-type one worth sharing here. The timing is pretty good in this clip, which begins with a single pigeon feasting on some seed. As the bass is about to drop, more pigeons arrive and a feeding frenzy takes the place of crazy dancing. The video runs too long as the meme goes, but if you watch to the end you’ll see how fast a flock of pigeons can devout a big pile of seed. Impressive!
A homeowner in Surrey, England discovered a bird skeleton in his fireplace during renovations. The skeleton of hero war pigeon 40TW194 still carried its coded message, which experts are trying to break.
Using animals for our own amusement is wrong, absolutely. So the sight of dyed pigeons first gives me a feeling of dismay. But hand feeding beautiful, sweet, hungry birds — the lure is too much for me.
A mixed flock of dyed Fantail Pigeons (a domestic breed) and Rock Doves hangs out in one of the Efteling‘s beautiful open areas. A vendor sells seed in small packages and I cannot resist.
From what I have been able to find out online, the birds are colored using pigeon-safe dye. They are all fully flighted, and mix freely with non-dyed pigeons as well as Jackdaws, House Sparrows, and even a Wood Pigeon or two.
The first time I saw the dyed birds was on my first visit to the Efteling back in 2000. On a much later visit, perhaps in 2008, the flock of pigeons was in the same place, but there were no dyed birds. I thought, Joy! They stopped dying them, but we can still feed them, now that’s some progress. I was surprised to see the dyed birds again on this latest visit, August 2010.
If you’ve ever seen dyed pigeons, or know more about the process, or even if you have an opinion about the practice you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
One of the places we visited in Paris back in August was the Eiffel Tower.
It was partly overcast, and would rain later in the day, but the view was still splendid. Here Sacre Coeur is in the distance.
It was the first time I was able to go all the way to the top (the sommet was sold out on earlier trips). The lines to the top floor were incredible; we waited about an hour on the second level before we could board elevators to the third (top). While crowded with tourists, some Paris residents appeared to seek relative solitude on the Tour Eiffel.
On the third level, I was surprised to find a paper diorama depicting the use of the tower in carrier pigeon experiments.
I’m pretty sure I was the only one there taking photos in this direction. 😉
Today we visited the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. During our visit, we learned that the next launch attempt for Endeavour will be early Wednesday morning, which means we need to get there late Tuesday night. We’re still melting here with temperatures (upper 80’s to mid 90’s) and high humidity that we’re just not used to. This Rock Pigeon we saw yesterday at the Intracoastal Waterway Park under the Merritt Island Causeway was pretty hot, too. From a distance we saw it swimming in the Indian River. At least, it looked like it was swimming. It was probably standing on a rock in the river but whatever it was doing, it was getting pretty wet. You can see the wet, disheveled feathers in this photo I took shortly after it left the water for a sunbath on the railing. I wish I could have jumped in the water, too.
Doves that have ‘affairs’ with different species of dove don’t have to worry about their posterity. Dutch Biologiest Paula den Hartog showed that descendants of two different species of dove had no special health issues and were able to reproduce. Den Hartog presented her research last Thursday at the University of Leiden.
Descendants of two different animal species are frequently infertile or they die while an embryo. Examples of this are the mule, a cross between a horse and a donkey, which is infertile; offspring between goats and sheep usually die before birth.
Den Hartog discovered that offspring from two different species of dove have a different call than either parent species. Because of their exotic voice they attract mates and are able to reproduce.
Later in the week, guards at the Marilia prison in Brazil noticed an increase in contraband like cellphones and drugs inside the prison. Inmates had been training carrier pigeons to smuggle the goods to them! Read about prison pigeons in Brazil.
pigeon cage 2 by ryanovineyards, Creative Commons on Flickr
A pigeon fancier from the Dutch province of Gelderland has been questioned in connection with illegal vaccinations performed on racing and hobby pigeons. The man was caught red-handed by agents from the Dutch Agriculture Ministry last week.
The man presented himself as a veterinarian to fellow pigeon fanciers and told the authorities that he performed over 12,000 vaccinations per year at a cost of EUR 0.55 per bird.
The birds, belonging to more than fifty different owners, were vaccinated against the paramyxovirus. Pigeons are required to have this injection annually, but it must be done by a trained veterinarian.
The man has been charged with violating animal medicine statutes and with forgery for providing documents to the pigeon owners proving their birds had been vaccinated. A veterinary practice, which may have provided supplies to the accused man, is also being investigated in connection with the case.
Venice is getting serious about ridding St. Mark’s Square of pigeons. The stands selling pigeon food to tourists are gone. And anyone caught feeding pigeons on the square now faces a €500 fine.
A spokesperson from the city says that pigeon excrement is a hygienic catastrophe. Marble architectural fittings in the square are also damaged from repeated blasts of pigeon poop.
One of the most popular tourist activities in Venice has been posing with the pigeons in the square. But the problem has been known for a long time. Ten years ago a proposal was introduced to use birth control methods on the birds to reduce the population.
The Marquette Tower in downtown Marquette, Missouri used to be home to dozens of roosting pigeons. Their waste and noise was becoming a nuisance to pedestrians in the area so authorities are now employing two non-traditional methods to get rid of the birds.
A large device broadcasts the sound of birds in distress over the rooftops. And ‘spiders’, metal poles that move in the wind or when pigeons touch them, have been installed. Since installation, the number of pigeons roosting in the area has dramatically dropped.