Bird DNA

For many years, ornithologists classified birds on the basis of their anatomy and behavior – feather color, plumage patterns, leg length, bill curvature, song, nest structure, and hundreds of other characteristics. In the last twenty or so years, however, DNA has been used to clarify relationships among birds, as we…

Albino Birds

Albino birds are not particularly unusual. I’ve seen white robins, jays, crows, peacocks, and others. And of course there are white domestic chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys. The whole explanation of feather color is fairly complex, but let’s just discuss pigments for the time being. These pigments fall into three…

Birds and Climate Change

When I arrived in northern California in 1972, I discovered that there were no Northern Mockingbirds but they are very common now. Mockingbirds expand and contract their ranges with the climate, preferring warmer ones, and they have been increasing in numbers in California since the 1940s. The House Finch, common over…

Bird Eggs

Here is the long-sought answer to the age-old question “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” : the egg. Eggs have been around since some of the earliest animals – like sponges and jellyfish – evolved, about 600 million years ago. Birds have been around for about 150 million…