Bluebirds of Happiness

Bluebirds have become associated with happiness partly because of Native American legends but mostly because of the song “Bluebird of Happiness” written in 1934. And you may be familiar with the line “Mr. Bluebird on my shoulder”, from “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.” There are three species of bluebirds in North America: the Western…

Archeopteryx and Evolution

[caption id="attachment_8835" align="alignleft" width="548"] Archeopteryx bavarica[/caption] Recent surveys indicate that only about 40% of American adults believe that evolution is a scientific fact. According to the latest survey of the PEW Research Center,"Roughly six-in-ten U.S. adults (62%) say humans have evolved over time, according to data from Pew Research Center’s…

Bird Banding

Birds have been banded since ancient times. In one recorded instance a besieged Roman garrison was sent a swallow with three threads around its toes, indicating that help would arrive in three days. By the late 16th century many species of birds were being tagged in some way. Some Chinese…

Red Hawks

The Red-tailed Hawk (and the Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned) were once called  “Chicken Hawks” and the Red-shouldered the “Hen Hawk.” Undoubtedly they took a few chickens, but only rarely. Like most stories of wild predators taking domestic animals, their impact is usually exaggerated. There’s one story about a farmer letting loose…

Lumpers and Splitters

[caption id="attachment_9886" align="alignleft" width="419"] Northern (red-shafted) Flicker[/caption] All individual organisms that scientists have named have scientific names, given by international committees by agreement. Scientific names, Latin or Greek based, are useful internationally. Common names can be confusing across different languages. But it gets even more complex. What is a species?…