The Color of Birds

There has always been the presumption or assumption that tropical birds are generally more colorful than those further from the tropics. The closer the birds live to the equator, the more colorful they are, we have always thought. Alexander von Humboldt, Charles Darwin, and Alfred Russell Wallace, well-known naturalists of…

Shape-shifting Birds

There is a “rule,” actually a rule of thumb, that says as distance from the equator increases (like going farther north in the northern hemisphere) the body sizes of warm-blooded animals tend to change, the surface area of the body becoming proportionately less than the volume – the surface area…

Again About the Ivory-billed Wodpecker

In the fall of 2021 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared the Ivory-billed Woodpecker extinct as there have been no reliable sightings of the bird since 1944. But individuals and groups have occasionally asserted that they have seen an individual or two deep down in the forests of Louisiana.…

Sleeping Birds

I previously wrote a post explaining why birds don’t fall out of trees while they are sleeping. Not falling out of a tree has to do with the arrangement of muscles and tendons on the lower legs, but this explanation mainly applies to those birds in the Order Passeriformes, the…

New Additions to Life List?

Some estimates give 150,000 to 1.5 million as the number of bird species that have ever lived. Most went extinct as the environment changed and evolution created new forms that were better fit for the new circumstances. Evolution occurs via the accumulation of genetic changes. When the changes are sufficient,…

The Turdidae, True Thrushes

The family Turdidae contains the true thrushes of the world, although there are birds in other families some of which are called thrushes. Turdidae derives from the Latin word turdus, meaning thrush. The familiar American Robin is Turdus migratorius, the wandering thrush. The 88 species of true thrushes, Genus Turdus,…

Bluebirds

Bluebirds, family Turdidae,  belong to the genus Sialia, from the Greek meaning “a kind of bird.” Not a very helpful description. The three Sialia species, all North American, are the Eastern Bluebird, Western Bluebird, and Mountain Bluebird, semi-descriptive but not very imaginative names. At 7 inches long with a 13…

Oology and Museums

I earlier blogged about Oology, the study of eggs, actually their shells. In the 19th and early 20th century it was a hobby, like stamp and coin collecting. Eggs were collected from wild birds’ nests, holes made in both ends, and the material inside blown out. They were displayed, sold, and traded,…

The Bombycillidae

I saw a few Cedar Waxwings the other day, such elegant and poised birds. In their small genus Bombycilla are two other waxwing species: the Bohemian and Japanese Waxwings. Similar in size and shape, all waxwings possess a tapering crest, a black stripe through the eye extending over the beak,…

Flights of Fancy

Richard Dawkins is a British evolutionary biologist and author. He is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford. An atheist, he is well known for his criticism of creationism and intelligent design. Dawkins first came to prominence with his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, which popularized the gene-centered view of…