The Loh Down On Science

What birds understand about moving cars will amaze you!

Alisa Manzelli/Globalanimal.org

Do birds play chicken with cars?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

You've seen them:  Birds on the road who always fly away an instant before a car hits them.  How do they do that?

Meet ecologist Pierre Legagneux, of the University of Quebec.  He ran an experiment while driving home at night.  When he saw a bird in the road, he timed the interval between when the bird flew away and when his car reached the point where the bird had been sitting.

He found that when birds flew away was based more on the speed limit of the road than on the actual speed of his car!  The faster the posted speed limit, the earlier the birds took off as his car approached. 

So do birds sense the average traffic speed of roads?  Maybe they learn how, or maybe slower birds are simply killed off by collisions.  Survival of the fittest.  Finding out which it is, is another project. 

Either way, slow down . . . you could save a bird's life.  If not a bug’s.  Sorry.

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