The Radio Parrot
The radio parrot, Ara radius, is a close cousin to the blue-and-gold macaw, and one of the bigger representatives of the Psittacidae family. Native to South-America, the species had long been considered a phenotype of the blue-and-gold macaw, due to its plumage following the same pattern, if not the same colors. Indeed, instead of the blue and yellow, radio parrots have green and red feathers, making them extremely hard to spot in the jungle. But not very hard to hear.
Like many migratory birds, the radio parrots have a special organe in their brains that contains a small metallic “needle”, allowing them to find their north. In addition to telling us something about the evolutive history of this species (radio parrots are not migrating birds, but the presence of this organ indicates they must have been some time in the past), it also allows radio parrots to “tune in” to the frequencies used by man-made radios. When radio waves pass through or near the parrots, they will shuffle their feathers and squawk in rythmic sequences, which are influenced by the information carried by the radio waves.
When this was first discovered by Dr. Jack Ough, from the South-American Institute for Feathers n'Stuff (SAIFS), it was seen only as a small curiosity in the biological world. However, it has recently become clear that the importance of the radio parrot is much higher than previously assumed. Indeed, a number of rebel groups hiding in the South-American jungle use the birds to detect enemy signals, which would alert them to radio-surveillance or imminent attacks. In addition, several cryptologists have been able to decipher important information contained in radio communications from the behavior of radio parrots.
Meanwhile, the wild populations of radio parrots keep plummeting, presumably because of the extreme disturbance the animals experience because of omnipresent radio-waves in their habitat. The global use of cellphones has only excarberated the problem, and it seems likely that the species will go completely extinct in the wild by the end of the decade.
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