Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Clever little things, aren't they?

The Guardian reports that nesting swallows haven't been deterred by automatic doors installed in a Canadian cycle parking facility.

When the University of Victoria in Canada opened a new campus bike centre in the parkade located under the University Centre last November, motion-activated doors were installed to discourage swallows from nesting in the new facility. But when the swallows returned to their familiar nest sites a few weeks ago, they were undeterred by this peculiar impediment: they quickly learned how to open the doors by flying in front of the infrared motion detector, as you see in this video:

"Who knew they would figure out how to open [the doors]!" exclaimed Joanne McGachie, University of Victoria communications officer, in email.

"We don't really know how long they have been doing this", writes Ms McGachie in email. "Presumably just since nesting season began, perhaps a few weeks."

According to writer and bird biologist Dick Cannings, who works with Bird Studies Canada, the migrating swallows probably spontaneously learned how to open these doors upon returning to their previous nest site, after trying to get in by flying back and forth in front of the doors.

"That flying back and forth obviously triggers the motion sensor to open the doors and that would be quickly reinforced each time they tried to enter", writes Mr Cannings. "Probably straight-up operant conditioning."

According to Ann Nightingale, former president and current volunteer with the Rocky Point Bird Observatory in Victoria, swallows have nested in the parkade for more than two decades.

"They really do go right up to the sensor and call", writes Ms Nightingale in email, after watching these birds a few days ago. "Although one bird can trigger [the door], it opens faster if there are two or three birds fluttering in front of the sensor. When the door opens, usually a few other birds fly through as well."

There's more at the link.

How cute is that?



Anonymous said...

Dumb added.

Jester said...

At the face of this there is no surprise. Spending my younger years on a dairy farm you would just be amazed at what these creatures are capable of doing.

Old NFO said...

Yep, bird brain... NOT... :-)

Douglas2 said...

I want to know if the quoted Ann Nightingale has ever visited Berkeley Square, and if so, did she sing?