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Ovation: Robosquirrels

04/06/2012

We have several bird feeders in the yard at my house and we enjoy a variety of songbirds as they appear outside our windows.  We see lots of common chickadees, cardinals, blue jays, wrens, finch and occasional Towhee and a lot of woodpeckers.  But, I must admit, my favorite guest at our bird feeders has to be the squirrels.

Most bird feeding enthusiasts take great strides to prevent squirrels from emptying their feeders and chasing away the colorful birds that they’re meant to attract.  But, for me, the antics of the squirrels are far more amusing than even the rarest of birds at the feeder.  They way they stretch and contort themselves to reach the tiny seeds without falling to the ground is extraordinarily amusing and, let’s face it … they’re just so darned cute.  Plus, as they eat and eat and grow chubby by the day, they become even more comical.  The squirrels in our yard have no real predators to watch out for so they frolic about with a spectacularly brave attitude.  Their relatives in more remote areas aren’t so lucky … they have to deal with rattlesnakes.

A team from the University of California Davis is working to understand how squirrels interact with rattlesnakes using specially designed lifelike robot squirrels.  Research has determined that squirrels display two behaviors when confronted by a rattlesnake and the “robosquirrels”, outfitted with video cameras, can mimic the behaviors and capture a snake’s reaction on video. Like this …

The robosquirrels are very clever and scientific but not nearly as cute as the chubby little rodents that eat the bird seed in my back yard.  I like to think that there’s not a big snake problem in my area but I’m sure I’m living in denial.  However, should snakes become a problem, I’d like to think the fuzzy tree rats at my bird feeder will keep them at bay.

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7 Comments
  1. First the Squirrels, then the People.

    Be afraid. Be very afraid.

    Like

  2. Loved this! It’s like Caddyshack with a snake! It’s so funny because we have a lot of squirrels and I washed out my vacuum cleaner filter and put it on the deck to dry and a squirrel ran off with it! Who knew they were so clean! HA!

    Like

  3. Your description of how much you enjoy watching the antics of the squirrels to get at the bird feed reminds me of my Dad, who would howl with laughter watching the squirrels in our back yard doing similar things.

    And then, switching gears in another very different direction, the demonstration of the robo-squirrels and rattlesnakes is fascinating. I’m quite a nature enthusiast, but this is something I’ve never heard of or seen before. Apparently all that tail waving does something to make the snake less likely to strike. Very cool!

    Like

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  1. Diatribe: The Hazzard County Squirrel Slam. « DiatribesAndOvations

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