Bird Research

Journal Club: Scarlet macaw genome sequenced

by Grrlscientist 15 May 2013

SUMMARY: The newly-sequenced scarlet macaw genome will provide many important insights into avian and human biology, behaviours and genetics and will contribute to parrot conservation. Scarlet macaw, Ara macao, in flight.Image: Tambopata Research Center. [NOTE: This image has been altered; it has been cropped.] After many years of research into the behaviours, diseases, genetics and [...]

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Journal Club: Polly gets his own cracker: clever cockatoo manufactures, uses tools | video |

Thumbnail image for Journal Club: Polly gets his own cracker: clever cockatoo manufactures, uses tools | video | by Grrlscientist 21 November 2012

SUMMARY: Not known to manufacture or use tools in the wild, a captive cockatoo demonstrates that parrots can make tools to suit their needs.   If you’ve ever lived with a parrot, then you are well aware that they come with a built-in multi-purpose tool attached to their faces. For this reason, most parrots do [...]

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Journal Club: Sing for your supper: fairy-wren chicks must sing vocal password for food

Thumbnail image for Journal Club: Sing for your supper: fairy-wren chicks must sing vocal password for food by Grrlscientist 14 November 2012

SUMMARY: Female fairy-wrens teach their chicks a vocal password before they hatch to distinguish them from brood parasitic bronze-cuckoo chicks How do parents recognize their offspring when the cost of making an error is high? To avoid wasting valuable time and energy by raising chicks of another species that commonly sneaks eggs into its nest, [...]

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Journal Club: One-eyed wooing

Thumbnail image for Journal Club: One-eyed wooing by Grrlscientist 10 October 2012

SUMMARY: A newly published study shows that beauty is in the right eye of the beholder for birds, providing the first demonstration in any animal of visual lateralization of mate choice. Conservation biologists are well aware that the most challenging part of their job is to convince their animals to breed — it’s certainly not [...]

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Journal Club: Wild parrots name their babies | video |

Thumbnail image for Journal Club: Wild parrots name their babies | video | by Grrlscientist 22 September 2012

SUMMARY: Wild green-rumped parrotlet parents give their babies their own individual names People who live with parrots know that they can mimic their human care-givers as well as many of the common sounds in their environment. Although such mimicry is delightful, it does raise the question of what purpose does vocal mimicry serve for wild [...]

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Journal Club: Extinct Carolina parakeet provides glimpse into evolution of American parrots

Thumbnail image for Journal Club: Extinct Carolina parakeet provides glimpse into evolution of American parrots by Grrlscientist 19 September 2012

SUMMARY: DNA obtained for the first time from extinct Carolina parakeets reveals their closest relatives and provides insight into the evolution of New World parrots .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. The Carolina parakeet, Conuropsis carolinensis (pictured above), was the only endemic parrot in the United States. It had one [...]

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Journal Club: New species of barbet discovered in Peru

Thumbnail image for Journal Club: New species of barbet discovered in Peru by Grrlscientist 20 August 2012

Sira barbet, Capito fitzpatricki, Seeholzer, Winger, Harvey, Cáceres & Weckstein, 2012, photographed at the Río Shinipo locality in Cerros del Sira in the Ucayali Region, Peru (South America). Image: Michael G. Harvey/Cornell University, 4 November 2008 [velociraptorise]. Canon EOS 20D, 1/250 sec, f/8.0, 400 mm, iso:400 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. [...]

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Santa explained

Thumbnail image for Santa explained by Gunnar 22 December 2011

Santa has no time to rest Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with due to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, providing he travels from East to West. He has to deal with 1800 household visits per second. Birdingblogs own GrrlScientist writes today in the Guardian: How does Santa [...]

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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