Bird Egg Coloration

[caption id="attachment_10724" align="alignleft" width="568"] Dinosaur Eggs[/caption] Birds are the only vertebrates that lay colored eggs. But in a new paper, Dinosaur egg colour had a single evolutionary origin, lead author Jasmina Wiemann of Yale University said that nonavian dinosaur ancestors had colored eggs as well. About a decade ago, Richard…

Plumage

“Plumage” comes from the Old French meaning feathers or appearance. Today the word is almost exclusively used for a bird’s set of feathers. Depending on the species, birds have various plumages throughout the year. Feathers wear out, are broken, or lost and they need to be replaced on a regular…

Do Birds Matter?

[caption id="attachment_10705" align="alignleft" width="235"] California Condor[/caption] I have had this website, Ornithology.com for 20 years now. I started it just before my retirement from a university where I taught ornithology and ecology. Now, in my leisure years, I write this blog, give lectures, lead field trips, write articles and books,…

Avian Color Morphs

[caption id="attachment_10692" align="alignleft" width="300"] Swainson's Hawk Light Morph[/caption] We are familiar with soaring hawks overhead in search of prey. Red-tailed Hawks, Ferruginous Hawks, Swainson’s Hawks and others we distinguish by their markings, mainly their underside because that’s what we mostly see. But occasionally it gets a little confusing because one…

Birds and Bugs

[caption id="attachment_10686" align="alignleft" width="300"] Female House Sparrow[/caption] Flycatchers, bee-eaters, swallows and swifts conjure up images of birds flitting through the air in quest of some sort of arthropod. We mostly don’t think about the tiny prey item that gets engulfed by the snapping avian jaws. So let’s give them some…

The Evolution of Migration

The following is excerpted from my book, Beaks, Bones, and Bird Songs. Migration is dangerous but it must be advantageous for long term survival. Determining how the physical and physiological characteristics of organisms developed over geological time is difficult as the fossil record is incomplete and the fossils themselves often…

Fat and Feathers

[caption id="attachment_10671" align="alignleft" width="369"] Northern Cardinal[/caption] Winter is approaching in the northern hemisphere. How do our seemingly fragile birds cope? We say that birds and mammals are warm-blooded, but that’s a misleading term. A desert iguana sitting on a rock in the sun can tolerate a body temperature of 1150…

The Seedeaters

Excerpted from Beaks, Bones and Bird Songs: [caption id="attachment_10660" align="alignleft" width="356"] California Scrub Jay[/caption] From the Old French fourrage, to forage, pillage, or plunder, foraging refers to the ways birds find food. Virtually every bird has its own style of seeking out and acquiring its sustenance with each beak shape…

Chickens

[caption id="attachment_10651" align="alignleft" width="465"] Red Junglefowl by George Edward Lodge[/caption] Each American consumes the equivalent of 27 chickens per year, not counting eggs. The U.K. raises 870 million chickens and imports another 400 million each year. And no wonder, chickens are tasty. The domestic chicken came from the Red Junglefowl…