The Mysteries of Eggs

[caption id="attachment_8494" align="alignleft" width="300"] A Variety of Bird Eggs[/caption] I’ve always known that birds’ eggs are pretty amazing structures. Encased in a shell with everything it needs to produce a new bird, an egg does so in 10 to 60 days, depending on the species. You can get an overview…

Migratory Bird Treaty Act Defiled

From NPR: The new Secretary of the Interior, responsible for the protection of our natural resources, is a former gas and oil lobbyist. Bernhardt says that responsible energy development on public lands is good for both American taxpayers and towns dependent on oil, gas or coal. The Department of the…

The Brown-headed Cowbird

[caption id="attachment_10925" align="alignleft" width="259"] Brown-headed Cowbird Male[/caption] We think of a parasite as an organism that lives on or in another organism and derives its food from its host. That’s the common definition, but in use it’s generally broader. Your brother-in-law who constantly borrows money and doesn’t pay it back…

Roxie and The Feather Lab

[caption id="attachment_10917" align="alignleft" width="495"] Roxie Laybourne at the Smithsonian[/caption] Part of my job as a professor and ornithologist was managing the university’s vertebrate museum. Students and faculty used stuffed specimens for teaching or research and the general pubic would come in asking various questions about what they had found (including…

The Incredible Shrinking Birds

[caption id="attachment_10904" align="aligncenter" width="436"] Bergmann's Rule[/caption] According to Science Daily, May 23, 2019, warm blooded animals – birds and mammals - are getting smaller. That seems bizarre until you put some pieces together. Scientists have known about Bergmann’s Rule for many years. This “rule” is actually a general ecomorphological concept…

Montana Birding

[caption id="attachment_10900" align="alignleft" width="498"] Chestnut-collared Longspur[/caption] I just returned from a fishing trip to northeastern Montana with two biologist friends from graduate school. Impressive scenery. I expected it to be flat and cold. Well, it was cold, but the topography - mountains and valleys and canyons made for an attractive…

Birding Bhutan

Bhutan is a landlocked country in the eastern Himalayas of south Asia. It is a peaceful country with little corruption, but still undeveloped. The country's landscape ranges from lush subtropical plains in the south to the sub-alpine Himalayan mountains in the north, where there are peaks in excess of 7,000 metres…

Do Birds Get Goose Bumps?

[caption id="attachment_10883" align="alignleft" width="427"] Goose Bumps[/caption] If you google “goosebumps” the first thing you get is a description of a scary kids’ movie. But that’s not what we are talking about here, although there is a connection. The word “horror” is derived from the Latin horrere, which means to “bristle.”…

Ornithologists and Condors

I just returned from my first visit to the national parks of Utah - Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, etc. Spectacular places, truly majestic scenery. I didn’t expect to see many birds, and my expectations proved true. This part of the U.S. is arid, sparsely vegetated, desert. Ravens were pretty common, but…

Bird Names, Redux

[caption id="attachment_10870" align="alignleft" width="280"] Poospiza hypochondria[/caption] Let’s face it, birds have funny names. Prothonotary Warbler? Who came up with that? Phainopepla? Chachalaca? Kagu? Bengal Florican? OK, I know all of these common names make a certain amount of sense once you know their origin. Phainopepla, from the Greek, means “shining…
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