It's a surprisingly dangerous world out there in the trees. Sparrows sing, flit about, and fight like they're auditioning for a role on "Game of Thrones." Male swamp sparrows will even take their battles to the death. Before they get that far, though, there's a whole lot of wing-waving going on to mark their territory and signal their aggression.
Duke University biologist Rindy Anderson wanted to learn more about how these birds communicate with each other, so she and engineering undergraduate student David Piech built a cyborg robo-battle-sparrow of doom.
The Frankensparrow consisted of a miniature computer and robotics gear stuffed into the body of a dead sparrow. This allowed the researchers to control the wings. They took the Frankenstein sparrow to a breeding ground, played swamp sparrow invasion songs, and made it wave its wings at other males, the sparrow equivalent of flipping them the bird.… Read more