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  3. Fun fact: Our science and tech editor, Chris Gayomali, has an irrational fear of birds. Now researchers have stumbled on a possible new therapy to help treat phobias: Sleep.

     

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  5. Your cat is a killer. According to biologists, when they’re not curling up in your lap, cats are off killing other animals — billions of ‘em. Scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the Fish and Wildlife Service estimate that each year, apparently bloodthirsty felines are preying on billions of birds and small mammals like indigenous chipmunks, shrews, and meadow voles. “When we ran the model, we didn’t know what to expect,” researcher Dr. Peter Marra told theNew York Times. “We were absolutely stunned by the results.”

    4 to 18 — Birds killed by a typical house cat every year
    8 to 21 — Small mammals killed by a typical house cat every year
    1.4 billion to 3.7 billion — Total birds killed by America’s cats every year

    More numbers

     

  6. Dinosaurs ate all the giant bugs. 

    That’s the word from researchers at UC Santa Cruz, who noticed that the griffinfly (a dragonfly-like insect with a wingspan of about 28 inches) stopped growing bigger right around the time the first birds began to take flight in the Jurassic period. Insects like the griffinfly began to shrink, evolving features that made them harder to catch.

    The study’s author claims that if not for birds, the largest bugs would likely be three times bigger today. Which is why birds are our new favorite animals.

    Keep reading

     


  7. The Everett, Wash., Police Department parking lot has come under attack from a flock of courageous crows.

    Like a scene pulled from the video game Angry Birds, the crows “dive-bomb” officers as they walk from their cruisers into the precinct building. “They’re like velociraptors,” says one lieutenant. Retaliation from the officers has only resulted in a torrent of droppings from above. Worse, the birds are conspiring: Three birds have been seen working as a team, with two causing a distraction while the other strikes.

    Despite the nuisance, a city spokesman says they police and city workers will “wait out the aggression,” so as to not provoke the crows any further. In the meantime, employees should “use umbrellas to defend themselves if need be.”

    Luckily, video is available.

     

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  9. If you start looking for something in a large enough data set, chances are you’ll find it. So when one perfectly timed bird death event occurs, it gives the media license to keep looking for similar events—and as a quick trip through the news archives show, it won’t be hard to find them.

    -Bryan Walsh, TIME

     


  10. Arkansas wildlife officials are struggling to explain the recent, sudden deaths of tens of thousands of creatures. Late on New Year’s Eve, nearly 5,000 blackbirds fell dead from the sky in the small northeastern town of Beebe in an incident “straight from a Hitchcock movie.” A few days earlier, nearly 100,000 dead drum fish floated to the top of the Arkansas River just 125 miles west of Beebe. Authorities say the two instances of mass animal death are likely unrelated. Here are some of the explanations that have been suggested:

    Poison
    While some residents initially suspected that the birds, whom some consider a nuisance, had been poisoned, officials have questioned that explanation. “Since it only involved a flock of blackbirds… it is unlikely they were poisoned,” says Karen Rowe of the Game and Fish Commission, as quoted in the Daily Mail. “But a necropsy is the only way to determine if the birds died from trauma or toxin.”

    New Year’s Eve fireworks
    "Revelers shooting off fireworks in the area may have startled the birds from their roost," reads a Game and Fish Commission news release, as quoted in the Arkansas Times. “The birds may have died from [resulting] stress.”

    Weather
    Recent bursts of hail and lightning may explain the death of the birds, says Keith Stephens, a spokesman with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, as quoted by Reuters. That said, no physical injuries have yet been detected on the birds’ corpses.

    More theories here