Fri, Jun 08, 2012 - Page 2 News List

International acclaim for birds

BIRDS OF A FEATHER:A type of songbird native to Taiwan was propelled to stardom when a paper by Taiwanese academics was published in a magazine

By Hu Ching-hui  /  Staff reporter

Nestling Formosan Yuhinas are pictured yesterday. The Formosan Yuhina, which is indigenous and exclusive to Taiwan, is being monitored in a long-term study by researchers at National Taiwan University and Academia Sinica.

Photo courtesy of Lin Ying-tian

A paper jointly published by Academia Sinica and National Taiwan University (NTU) on how the cooperative strategies employed by the Yuhina brunneiceps songbird lowered social conflict and increased survivability appeared in internationally renowned magazine Nature Communications yesterday.

The Yuhina brunneiceps, otherwise known as the Formosan Yuhina or Taiwan Yuhina, is endemic to the mid to high altitudes of mountain ranges in Taiwan.

According to the report, rainfall, low temperatures and typhoons during the East Asian Monsoon season from May to June pose an unfavorable environment for the Yuhinas, but also give researchers a chance to understand how such an environment affects the social behavior of the Yuhina species.

The research was carried out from 2004 to 2007 at the university’s Highland Experimental Farm in Nantou County and led by NTU School of Forestry and Resource Conservation professor Yuan Hsiao-wei (袁孝維) and Biodiversity Research Center Academia Sinica assistant researcher Shen Sheng-feng (沈聖峰).

Researchers collected 37 Yuhina nests and analyzed how the birds fed their young for 85 days and 288 hours. Using traditional telescopes, high-tech radio frequency identification chips and digital recording systems to monitor the birds, the team found that “fight frequency was lower, fewer total eggs were laid and incubation was more likely to start after all females completed egg laying [which causes more synchronized egg hatching].”

They would not fight over who had the better hatching place and would even lay fewer eggs to better synchronize egg hatching, the paper said, adding that due to lack of competition the rate of hatchlings living to leave the nest increased, the paper said.

One to four couples would share a nest for synchronous egg hatching, but despite their unique social behavior, Yuan said the research showed there were no “extra-marital” affairs between them.

Translated by Jake Chung, Staff Writer

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