Grrlscientist

Journal Club: The economics of tree swallow brood sex ratios

Thumbnail image for Journal Club: The economics of tree swallow brood sex ratios by Grrlscientist 14 December 2011

Tree Swallow brood sex ratios SUMMARY: Tree swallows reveal that brood sex ratios are an economic balancing act with far-reaching evolutionary consequences Skewed sex ratios have been widely discussed in the news. But a demographic imbalance in the sexes is not purely a human phenomenon: it can occur throughout the animal kingdom. Several studies have [...]

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Birdwatching With Your Eyes Closed [Book & Podcast Review]

Thumbnail image for Birdwatching With Your Eyes Closed [Book & Podcast Review] by Grrlscientist 7 December 2011

Summary: GrrlScientist reviews a new book by Simon Barnes Birdwatching with your eyes closed accompanied with a free downloadable podcast. The book teaches you to open your ears to appreciate and recognize birdsounds. Eighty percent of bird watching is listening “Eighty percent of bird watching is listening”, I often told my university students whilst we squished through [...]

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Inside the AMNH Collections: Ornithology

Thumbnail image for Inside the AMNH Collections: Ornithology by Grrlscientist 23 November 2011

SUMMARY: This video takes you on a behind-the-scenes tour through the largest and most complete ornithology collection in the world.   Natural history collections are important. These collections, usually maintained by a museum, make up a library that scientists consult to answer all sorts of questions, from deciphering evolutionary relationships of the Hawaiian honeycreepers to [...]

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Journal Club: Bird-friendly California vineyards may have fewer pests

Thumbnail image for Journal Club: Bird-friendly California vineyards may have fewer pests by Grrlscientist 16 November 2011

SUMMARY: Insectivorous cavity-nesting birds can be encouraged to occupy vineyards by giving them nest boxes. New research documents that these birds reciprocate by providing significant eco-friendly pest control services to winegrape growers. I was in graduate school when I first read Rachel Carson’s classic book, Silent Spring [Amazon UK; Amazon US Affiliate Link]. This poignant [...]

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Journal Club: The seventh starling (Murmuration)

Thumbnail image for Journal Club: The seventh starling (Murmuration) by Grrlscientist 9 November 2011

What do particle physics, statistics and poetry have in common? Anyone who has looked at the late afternoon sky has seen it: a single, giant shape-shifting creature of the air made up of hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of birds wheeling and swirling overhead as they settle in to their communal evening roosts. [...]

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Journal Club: Evolution of the Hawai’ian honeycreepers

Thumbnail image for Journal Club: Evolution of the Hawai’ian honeycreepers by Grrlscientist 2 November 2011

Hawaiian Honeycreeper evolution SUMMARY: Using a large DNA data set, researchers have identified the progenitor of Hawaiian honeycreepers and have linked their rapid evolution to the geological formation of the four main Hawaiian Islands .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, thousands of [...]

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Journal Club: Jumping genes reveal birds and their sex chromosomes evolved together

Thumbnail image for Journal Club: Jumping genes reveal birds and their sex chromosomes evolved together by Grrlscientist 26 October 2011

SUMMARY: Avian retroposons — “jumping genes” — reveal that birds and their sex chromosomes evolved together, and provide us with important clues into the evolution of sex chromosomes and sex in general Like mammals, the sex of individual birds is determined by the combination of sex chromosomes they get from their parents at fertilization. But [...]

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Journal Club: The birds and the trees

Thumbnail image for Journal Club: The birds and the trees by Grrlscientist 19 October 2011

Hoarding and breeding strategy of the Gray Jay SUMMARY: Gray jays hoping to survive and reproduce during Canada’s harsh winters must store food in the right kinds of trees If you’ve ever met a gray jay, Perisoreus canadensis, then I think you’ll agree with me that this audacious and personable bird is one of the [...]

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Journal Club: Jumping genes reveal deep relationships between parrots and songbirds

Thumbnail image for Journal Club: Jumping genes reveal deep relationships between parrots and songbirds by Grrlscientist 24 August 2011

SUMMARY: A new study adds support to two earlier reports that songbirds and parrots are each other’s closest relatives (Psittacopasserae), indicating that vocal learning abilities appeared in this group of birds 30 million years earlier than originally assumed. Passerines and parrots share a common ancestor as well as the ability to learn vocalization. Vocal learning [...]

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Journal Club: Why are there so many bird species in the tropics?

Thumbnail image for Journal Club: Why are there so many bird species in the tropics? by Grrlscientist 17 August 2011

SUMMARY: What can we learn about evolution, geography and biodiversity by studying continental patterns of speciation? Since before the time of dinosaurs, species diversity is related to latitude. Basically, species richness increases as distance from the equator decreases. As any sweaty bird watcher dragging a heavy field guide through the tropics will tell you, this [...]

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Journal Club: The decline and fall of showy bustards

Thumbnail image for Journal Club: The decline and fall of showy bustards by Grrlscientist 10 August 2011

SUMMARY: intense early reproductive effort takes a toll on long-term survival of individual male houbara bustards by leading to early declines in fertility and early ageing Why do we get old and die? Why hasn’t natural selection “weeded out” those genes responsible for age-related declines? Several hypotheses have been proposed, with the most important pointing [...]

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Journal Club: American crows: the ultimate angry birds?

Thumbnail image for Journal Club: American crows: the ultimate angry birds? by Grrlscientist 6 July 2011

Newly published research shows that crows remember the faces of humans who have threatened or harmed them, and these memories probably last for the bird’s lifetime. Not only do crows scold dangerous people, but they include family members — and even strangers — into their mob. The hostile behaviour of crows within mobs allows naïve [...]

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Journal Club: Gouldian Finches’ fascinating mating system

Thumbnail image for Journal Club: Gouldian Finches’ fascinating mating system by Grrlscientist 29 June 2011

Gouldian Finches occur in two morphs. Red heads or Black heads. Red-headed females prefer red-headed males – and black prefer blacks. In the small populations it is not always possible for the finches to chose their own type. When they cross the results are not good. However, a “hybrid” female will always have less viability than “hybrid” male. The stress of mating the “wrong”kind makes the Gouldian Finch able to regulate the outcome producing more male “hybrid” offspring which has better viability. Read Grrl Scientist fascinating account how the females do this.

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Journal Club: Sparrows show us a new way to have sexes

Thumbnail image for Journal Club: Sparrows show us a new way to have sexes by Grrlscientist 25 May 2011

I’ve always loved white-throated sparrows, Zonotrichia albicollis. Not only are these handsome birds the sister species to my own dissertation bird, the white-crowned sparrow, Z. leucophrys, but I think they are among the most fascinating bird species in the world. In fact, I am so captivated by this species that the chance to pursue my [...]

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A new bird in the flock

Thumbnail image for A new bird in the flock by Grrlscientist 18 May 2011

Some of you may know me already. Gunnar has been asking me to contribute to BirdingBlogs for quite some time now, but I’ve always postponed my involvement, mostly because I’ve been busy with other things and hadn’t had the time I needed to think through the specifics of what my contributions here might be. But [...]

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