E How knows Nothing About Birds

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leaf-46540_960_720I’m looking up information on the internet today and found  the  Lifestyle Lounge  that boldly states that ducks don’t have nerves or blood vessels in their legs and that’s why they can swim in cold water. No, the reason they can swim in cold water has to do with something called “countercurrent exchange” between the blood vessels; and nerves aren’t affected by cold water.   The eHow Behavioral Adaptations of Ducks to Water site that purports to have answers spouts this myth. Maybe it’s because the writer of that page has degrees in journalism and history. Don’t these people check facts before disseminating them? Guess not. How about the site that said that birds lay their eggs in a pattern and position you find them in egg cartons? That’s not even close to sensible.

So I got curious about the eHow site and looked up a few more pieces of bird information that they are spouting. The one about keeping European Starlings away from your feeder, written by an undergraduate in journalism, has a photo of a Superb Starling of Africa. A video entitled How to Identify the Northern Mocking Bird (no longer available) when birding not only misspells the name (it’s mockingbird, not mocking bird) but does not show the bird or say one single thing about identifying the bird!

Another eHow page tells us that the official California bird is the California valley quail. And all this time I thought it was the California Quail. And then there is the eHow site on Seagulls, not gulls; but what do you expect when the author has a degree in advertising? Yet another page tells you how to take care of Killdeer eggs which require 28 days of gestation; clearly the author does not know that mammals gestate and birds incubate. And no mention of the fact it is illegal to take Killdeer eggs.

eHow tells us how birds fly but gets the important points dead wrong and the pages comparing birds and reptiles are so sketchy as to be laughable. A writer with a master’s in theology writes a bumbling article on how birds migrate and another article on Identifying Migratory Birds is all but useless. And then there is How to Take Care For Baby Birds which tells you to return a baby bird to its nest. NEVER NEVER do that. But what do you expect from an article with an illiterate title?

And then there is the How To Get Rid of the Killdeer Bird, not only an illiterate and uninformed article, but presumes you’d like to get rid of these birds because they occasionally screech. It is full of inaccurate information by a “contributing writer.” Yeah, I wouldn’t put my name on this piece either.

Why are all these people with little or no knowledge or education in biology, certainly not ornithology, passing on this, excuse the term, crap? Having a degree in journalism or English and being a freelance writer doesn’t justify writing anything without doing some homework. Now, not all eHow pages on birds are bad, but none of them that deal with birds, to me, are satisfactory as they lack a lot of information or give emphasis to the wrong facts. Who checks these ornithologically deficient semi-illiterates who are putting out bad information?

One of the things I taught my biology students at the university was how to examine claims and critically think about statements and conclusions. And when they wrote a paper I expected them to justify their statements, facts, and conclusions. The internet seems to have give rise to a generation of writers who feel that correct spelling and grammar are sufficient (although those are rare); facts don’t seem to matter. That’s my opinion of eHow, anyway, or should I say noHow?

1 thought on “E How knows Nothing About Birds”

  1. Charles La Via

    Dear Dr Lederer,

    Thanks for passing along this useful critique of the eHow site. After earning a Ph.D. in French Literature at the University of California Santa Barbara, I moved to French where I became a translator and have been working on translations of documents about ornithology and conservation ecology for a number of years. It’s always difficult to know what to trust, and there is not always enough time to double or triple check all the terminology. Your words of wisdom will remind me to be even more demanding of my sources.

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