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Killer baby birds, the secret to a glowworm’s gleam and more in this week’s news

11:22am, September 14, 2011

Natural born killers
Recently hatched, still-blind honeyguide chicks have for the first time been captured on video attacking and killing their nestmates. The tropical birds are cuckoolike parasites, laying their eggs in other species’ nests and leaving the hapless foster parents to do the work of feeding the resulting honeyguide chick. On an egg-laying blitz, the mother honeyguide stabs host eggs already in the nest, increasing the chances that the parasite chick gets all the foster parents’ attention. Should a host egg hatch anyway, the honeyguide chick itself can make up for mom’s oversight, Claire Spottiswoode of the University of Cambridge in England and a colleague report online September 7 in Biology Letters. The young honeyguide, equipped with sharp spikes at its bill tip, grabs any new hatchling in a prolonged, shaking bite that causes fatal internal bleeding.  —Susan Milius

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