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Wild Things: Life As We Know It

Icebergs, ice age wolves and honeybee queens

WAS KNOWN TO: Build nests out of plant matter, saliva and other birds' feathers.

NOW KNOWN TO: Procure those feathers by ripping them off other birds' backs, in flight.

WE KNOW THIS BECAUSE?: Ornithologist Bret Whitney of Louisiana State University saw them do it. The birds, he reports, circle high above their Amazon palm-grove homes until "striking their victim in the middle of the back and tugging at feathers with the bill...to dislodge a mouthful." The swifts favored parrot and pigeon feathers. Most victims, Whitney notes, "react only slightly."

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