The Cool Killdeer

The Killdeer gets its name because someone thought the screeching sound the bird makes when it takes off sounded like “kill-deer, kill-deer.” I don’t , but I’m too late to rename the bird. The Killdeer’s scientific name is Charadrius vociferous, the last part referring to its call. (I’ll get to…

Bird Muzak

 According to the Associated Press, R. Rex Parris, the mayor of Lancaster, CA, home of the California Poppy Festival, wants to brighten up this Mojave Desert city by broadcasting recorded bird songs from loudspeakers on Lancaster Boulevard. The mayor says there’s science to show that listening to birdsong makes people…

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…

Ivory-billed Woodpecker and UFOs

[caption id="attachment_8423" align="alignleft" width="303"] Ivory-billed Woodpecker[/caption] On occasion someone e-mails me telling me that they have just spotted an Ivory-billed Woodpecker. It is almost certain that what they saw was the Pileated Woodpecker, found throughout the eastern U.S., the Pacific Northwest, and southern Canada, and a close relative of the…

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…
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