September 28, 2022

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Inspired By Pets

Scientists have a new word for birds stealing animal hair

Some tiny birds consider daring threats to get a beakful of hair for their nests. Titmice have been noticed dive-bombing cats, alighting on dozing predators’ backs and plucking strands of hair from people’s heads. Now, there is a expression for the uncommon actions: kleptotrichy.

Derived from the Greek terms for “to steal” and “hair,” kleptotrichy has hardly ever been described by experts, but dozens of YouTube video clips capture the conduct, researchers report online July 27 in Ecology. Titmice — and just one chickadee — have been caught on online video tugging hair from pet dogs, cats, individuals, raccoons and even a porcupine.

“Citizen experts, chicken watchers and men and women with canine knew this conduct substantially extra than the scientists them selves,” suggests animal behaviorist Mark Hauber of the College of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Popular observations precede science rather than the other way about, which is a valid way to do science.”

Experts counting birds in an Illinois point out park in May possibly 2020 noticed a tufted titmouse plucking fur off a dozing, unbothered raccoon. The crew dubbed the habits “kleptotrichy” after a lookup of the scientific literature and novice videos on YouTube turned up a lot more than 100 occasions of hair thievery by birds.

Witnessing a hen steal hair from a mammal in the wild is what very first encouraged Hauber’s colleague, ecologist Henry Pollock, to dig further. Whilst counting birds in an Illinois point out park in May well 2020, Pollock and colleagues spotted a tufted titmouse pluck fur from a sleeping raccoon. “I was like, ‘Wow, I’ve under no circumstances noticed anything at all like that,” suggests Pollock, also of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

In South The usa, palm swifts snatch feathers from flying pigeons and parrots — a habits previously recognised as kleptoptily. Exploring by the scientific literature, Hauber, Pollock and colleagues discovered only 11 anecdotes of birds stealing hair from dwell mammals. When most revealed accounts entail titmice in North The united states, at the very least five other fowl species get in on the motion. Scientists have witnessed an American crow harvest hair from a cow and a red-winged starling in Africa peck a compact antelope referred to as a klipspringer. In Australia, 3 honeyeater bird species steal fur from koalas.

Meanwhile, a YouTube search by the team turned up 99 films of tufted titmice, a mountain chickadee and a black-crested titmouse plucking hair from mammals. The latter two hen species had not previously been identified as hair burglars in the scientific literature.

Researchers usually suppose that birds get hair for their nests in small-risk ways, relying on carcasses or stray fluff get rid of into the wind. “Plucking hairs from raccoons, which are typical avian nest predators, implies that it’s obviously well worth it to get that hair,” Pollock states.

Hair-harvesting species are likely to stay in colder climates, so people birds in all probability prize hair’s insulating homes, the staff claims. Some birds may well also spruce up their nests with mammal hair to confuse would-be predators and parasites (SN: 8/28/01).