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This Week In: Birds
January 25, 2012
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With the news usually dominated by big, hard-hitting international stories, it can be hard to keep up with breaking developments in absolutely every field. In an effort to keep you informed, from time to time we try to bring you updates about unjustly overlooked subjects.

This week? Birds.

1. Gulls Making a Racquet

Our first avian story comes from the Australian Open where seagulls appear to be unduly influencing some of the tennis matches. Flocks of the birds have been circling over Melbourne Park, on the hunt for locusts in and around the courts below.

Defending champion Novak Djokovic was leading in his match against Lleyton Hewitt on Monday until a delay was called on account of swooping birds. While Djokovic initially smiled about the incident, he then went on to lose six of the next seven games and dropping a set. (He went on to win through four sets.) Yesterday, Rafael Nadal was the victim of a winged intrusion: After another swooping flock made him pause during his match with Tomas Berdych, he failed to win another point for the rest of the set.

Australian Open organizers say the swarms of seagulls are a "highly unusual occurrence and we are looking at ways of preventing it in the future."

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2. Learning Turkey

A break-in at a library in Deadwood, South Dakota, was not the work of a regular thief. Police were called in to investigate after an intruder had accessed the library through a broken window. But the culprit found inside was not a burglar but a turkey, who had managed to smash through one of the building's original historic windows.

"I can't believe he wasn't hurt," said Sgt. Ken Mertens of the Deadwood Police Department. "In this case, we caught the culprit and then we let him go."

After chasing the bird through the book aisles for nearly 20 minutes, Mertens and John Chaney-Moodie (the husband of Deadwood's librarian) were able to catch the bird and set it free.

"One thing we noticed is that he did not go down the aisle with the cookbooks in it," said Jeanette Chaney-Moodie of her library's visitor.

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3. Crows: Just As Smart As Us?

One of things most often cited as a distinguishing feature between humans and other animals is our species' ability to use tools. But that distinction might not be entirely true: a team of researchers has set an experiment that shows crows making use of stones and other tools to access food. The birds were even able to distinguish between tool options, routinely selecting proper rocks over less useful Styrofoam lookalikes.

Here are the crows in action:



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