Archive
2014
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
2013
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
2012
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
2011
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
2010
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
2009
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
2008
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
2007
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
2006
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
Apr. 18, 2013

The Case of the Barfing Blue Jay

by Julie Leibach

Click to enlarge images
During a recent show, SciFri’s Flora Lichtman discussed monarch butterflies with Lincoln Brower, a biology professor at Sweet Briar College in Virginia. During the conversation, Brower mentioned a photograph that he had taken of a “barfing blue jay,” which had just suffered a distasteful experience dining on a monarch. We thought you might be curious to see the image:
 
{"input":{"width":490,"photo":"barfingbluejay","row":"4693","table":"DOCUMENT"}}
Why the upchuck? Monarchs feed on milkweeds, plants which contain chemicals called cardiac glycosides that the insects absorb. While the toxins don’t harm the butterflies, they taste bitter and can cause vomiting in birds that chow on monarchs.
 
Some bird and mice predators, however, figure out a way around the poison—either by avoiding monarchs once they’ve had an unpleasant experience, or by pecking or nibbling at potential monarch meals to gauge the insect’s toxicity level. If the butterfly tastes “clean,” it’s dinner. 
 
 
Related Science Friday LinkS
 
Have you photographed any migrating monarchs? Share them on our map: Mapping the Monarchs
Learn how you can help monarchs: Milkweed for Monarchs 
 
About Julie Leibach

Julie is the managing editor of ScienceFriday.com. She is a huge fan of sleep and chocolate. Follow her @julieleibach.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

Science Friday® is produced by the Science Friday Initiative, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Science Friday® and SciFri® are registered service marks of Science Friday, Inc. Site design by Pentagram; engineering by Mediapolis.

 

topics