Darwin’s Finches

Thumbnail image for Darwin’s Finches by GregLaden 16 September 2011

A quick break from sexual selection (we’ll get back to it) to read Darwin’s words about the famous finches and other birds of the Galapagos. Of land-birds I obtained twenty-six kinds, all peculiar to the group and found nowhere else, with the exception of one lark-like finch from North America … The other twenty-five birds […]

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Darwin’s Sexy Sons May Not Be Sexy Enough

Thumbnail image for Darwin’s Sexy Sons May Not Be Sexy Enough by GregLaden 9 September 2011

He who admits the principle of sexual selection will be led to the remarkable conclusion that the nervous system not only regulates most of the existing functions of the body, but has indirectly influenced the progressive development of various bodily structures and of certain mental qualities. Courage, pugnacity, perseverance, strength and size of body, weapons […]

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Darwin’s Sexy Sons

Thumbnail image for Darwin’s Sexy Sons by GregLaden 2 September 2011

Darwin saw the same thing others had seen … an enigma of nature … and took equal note of it. But others explained this enigma in a way that made sense to them but that was completely wrong. Darwin produced an alternative explanation that was both convincing and frightening. Darwin’s explanation was much closer to […]

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Birds, Darwin, Sex: Foreplay

Thumbnail image for Birds, Darwin, Sex: Foreplay by GregLaden 26 August 2011

Birds played an important role in Darwin’s thinking about evolution, both from his observations of bird variation and biogeography and his observation of breeding birds in England. But they also played a very important role in his development of one of his most important theories: Sexual Selection. I’d like to address this development over the […]

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The Dove of Peace Has Not Always Been Safe

Thumbnail image for The Dove of Peace Has Not Always Been Safe by GregLaden 19 August 2011

This dove is one of the most abundant birds in the Archipelago. It frequents the dry rocky soil of the low country, and often feeds in the same flock with the several species of Geospiza. It is exceedingly tame, and may be killed in numbers. Formerly it appears to have been much tamer than at […]

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Darwin’s Rheas and the Birth of Evolutionary Theory

Thumbnail image for Darwin’s Rheas and the Birth of Evolutionary Theory by GregLaden 12 August 2011

Everyone knows about Darwin’s Finches, of the Galapagos Islands. But of course, Darwin made observations of birds throughout his travels on The Beagle. And, one of the most interesting sets of observations has to do with the Rhea. Struthio Rhea I will now give an account of … the Struthio Rhea, or South American ostrich. […]

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The Cowbird and the cuckoo

Thumbnail image for The Cowbird and the cuckoo by GregLaden 5 August 2011

For this week’s installment of Darwin’s Other Birds I give you pure Darwin, from the Voyage monograph on birds, concerning the cowbid and the cuckoo. MOLOTHRUS NIGER This species is common in flocks on the pasture grounds of Chile, and along the whole western shore of the southern part of the continent. In Chile it […]

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Darwinian Thinking From The Birds

Thumbnail image for Darwinian Thinking From The Birds by GregLaden 29 July 2011

In Darwin’s time explorers had converted the European view of the world by their observations, much like travelers of today convert their own view of the world, from a simple binary to a mosaic. Before experience, information, exploration, learning and reflection, the world is something of an “us and them” or a “here and everywhere […]

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Birds Feared Darwin

Thumbnail image for Birds Feared Darwin by GregLaden 22 July 2011

If Darwin was alive today he would be a bird watcher. But he would do his bird watching differently, using a nice set of binoculars rather than a shotgun. In his autobiography, Darwin reminisces In the latter part of my school life I became passionately fond of shooting, and I do not believe that anyone […]

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The mocking bird mocks ironically

Thumbnail image for The mocking bird mocks ironically by GregLaden 15 July 2011

Most people think of Darwin and Birds in relation to Darwin’s Finches. Unless, of course, you’ve heard a bit more about Darwin than the first-order mythology we tend to attach to our scientific leaders and know that Darwin ignored the finches and the whole bird evolution thing was figured out later by someone else. But […]

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Where the abyss touches the sky: a Booby and Noddy ecosystem

Thumbnail image for Where the abyss touches the sky: a Booby and Noddy ecosystem by GregLaden 8 July 2011

An entire ecosystem based on a bird? Apparently so.

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Darwin on the Andean Condor

Thumbnail image for Darwin on the Andean Condor by GregLaden 1 July 2011

Darwin demonstrates his approach to doing science in his description of the Andean Condor, which was used in the monograph on birds that came out of the famous voyage of the Beagle.

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Darwin’s Other Birds: Introduction

Thumbnail image for Darwin’s Other Birds: Introduction by GregLaden 24 June 2011

Despite rumors to the contrary, Charles Darwin knew his birds. In fact, some of the most interesting writing on birds is to be found in his work. And, for the next several weeks, that’s where we’ll be looking for knowledge and inspiration of an avian kind.

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