Fake Marbled Murrelet Eggs Cause Jays to Vomit

Photograph by Nicolas Hatch

Fake Marbled Murrelet Eggs Cause Jays to Vomit

Scientists thwart Steller's jays by tricking them into eating eggs that make them puke.

Brought to you by BirdNote®
Published: 08/29/2013

This story comes to you through a partnership between Audubon and BirdNote, a show that airs daily on public radio stations nationwide.

The marbled murrelet is a bird of the deep forest and of the ocean. Because it lays one and only one egg, its odds of raising a family are slim. And with the forest being thinned and the ocean warming, the murrelet's job is getting tougher and tougher. Then, in marches the Steller's jay, to complicate things even more. 

Steller's jays love to hang out around campgrounds in the redwood forests of northern California, looking for human handouts. And while a jay cruises the area, it just happens to find that solitary marbled murrelet egg in a nearby tree. One more tasty morsel. And one less murrelet. 

Well, scientists have turned the jay's extraordinary capacity to learn into a way to help those beleaguered murrelets. Researchers painted small chicken eggs to look like murrelets' eggs, and stashed them in plain sight around several campgrounds.

But those wily scientists added a secret chemical ingredient: carbachol. Carbachol makes the jays vomit. And fast, too - within five minutes after eating the egg, so the jay could link the foul experience with the egg it just ate. And the jays get the message, leaving the eggs alone after that. Amazing!

There's a lot more to this story at BirdNote.org. I'm Michael Stein.

Written by Ellen Blackstone

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Call of Marbled Murrelet [126402] recorded by T.G. Sander; call of Steller's Jay [59839] by W.W. H. Gunn. Ambient from Coniferous Forest Ambience #63 recorded by Gordon Hempton of QuietPlanet.com. BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler. Producer: John Kessler. Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

(c) 2013 Tune In to Nature.org    August2013   Narrator: Michael Stein

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Type: Author | From: Audubon Magazine

Comments

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