"An intense and prolonged dry season in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta combined with fires set by Kogi indigenous people for agricultural purposes has devastated its fragile high-elevation habitat (páramo), home to a suite of endemic plants and animals. Two conservationists Carlos Julio Rojas and Christian Vasquez who work at ProAves’ “El Dorado” nature reserve in the mountain range, carried out investigations to document the fires. On March 4th 2015, the photographed the spectacular Blue-bearded Helmetcrest – a hummingbird that was last seen in 1946 and feared quite possibly extinct. Unfortunately, the habitat of the three birds they saw is threatened by ongoing fires." [more inside]
This Jay Is Evolving in a Very, Very Weird Way. As she gathered more and more data on different populations of the island scrub jays around Santa Cruz Island, Katie Langin, a biologist at Colorado State University, had a revelation: The birds, members of one single species, had split into two varieties in different habitats. Ever since Darwin and his famous finches, biologists have thought that in order for a species to diverge into two new species, the two populations had to be physically isolated. Those finches, for instance, each live on a different Galapagos island, where their special circumstances have resulted in specialized bill shapes. Yet the two varieties of island scrub jay (they haven’t technically speciated—yet) live on the same tiny island. If they wanted to meet each other for a brunch of acorns and/or pine nuts and perhaps later some mating, they could just fly right over. [more inside]
"We ornithologists, with our Important Capitals, continue to look Curiously Provincial" : copy-editors and ornithologists fight a very pilkunnussija-esque war over conventions of bird names.
Genius in a tiny mother bird, who learned to give her babies a password so they wouldn't die. A musical password. The Superb Fairy Wren sings to her eggs. The unborn baby birds, still in the egg, learn that musical password and sing it on being hatched.
Dennis Hlynsky is a professor of film and animation at RISD whose most recent work, titled Small Brains on Mass, looks at bird behavior, particularly how they interact when flying in groups. To better understand how flying as a flock is achieved, Hlynsky filmed the birds and then stacked the images on the same frame for a set number of frames, the results show each bird’s flight as a trail, but synchronized with the flock. The results are often pure poetry. [more inside]
Minnesota Birdsong: An interactive poster Cute interface with birdsong content provided by the always amazing Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
"My subject is a barren one – the world of nature, or in other words life; and that subject in its least elevated department, and employing either rustic terms or foreign, nay barbarian words that actually have to be introduced with an apology. Moreover, the path is not a beaten highway of authorship, nor one in which the mind is eager to range: there is not one of us who has made the same venture, nor yet one Roman who has tackled single-handed all departments of the subject."Naturalis Historia was written by Pliny the Elder between 77 and 79 CE and was meant to serve as a kind of proto-encyclopedia discussing all of the ancient knowledge available to him, covered in enough depth and breadth to make it by a reasonable margin the largest work to survive to the modern day from the Roman era. The work includes discussions on astronomy, meteorology, geography, mineralogy, zoology and botany organized along Aristotelian divisions of nature but also includes essays on human inventions and institutions. It is dedicated to the Emperor Titus in its epistle to the Emperor Vespasian, a close friend of Pliny who relied on his extensive knowledge, and its unusually careful citations of sources as well as its index makes it a precursor to modern scholarly works. It was Pliny's last work, as well as sadly his sole surviving one, and was published not long before his death attempting to save a friend from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, famously recounted by Pliny's eponymous nephew Pliny the Younger.
Here is a reasonable translation that is freely available to download from archive.org for your edification.[more inside]
NestWatch offers all kinds of interesting information about birds and their nests with beautiful pictures of the birds, their nests, clutches, broods, and fledglings. An example: the Indigo Bunting. Each page about a particular bird includes their often beautiful songs and sounds. There is a related Flickr NestWatchers site, as well as an extensive community with links about places for bird watching in each state. It's part of the fabulously encyclopedic website of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology with its own rich archive of superbly organized recordings and videos at the Macaulay Library. [more inside]
Snoring Hummingbird (SLYT) Watch closely for sticky-outy tongue!
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has released a trailer for their upcoming documentary, "The Birds of Paradise" (SLYT) [more inside]
Photographer Todd R. Forsgren works with ornithologists to safely capture striking images of birds in nets. [more inside]
Is there nothing a Wii controller can't do? YouTube tutorial in 14 parts DIY human bird-wings . [more inside]
Next weekend, February 17-20, is the 2012 Great Backyard Bird Count, sponsored by the National Audubon Society, the Cornell Lab for Ornithology, and Bird Studies Canada. [more inside]
Audubon's "The Birds of America" has been mentioned here before (1 2). The University of Pittsburgh's digital library has now made available zoomable high-resolution scans of each page of the first 'double elephant' folio edition, as well as a scanned copy of his Ornothological Biography, which is an entertaining read in itself. [more inside]
Because there are so many birds around the world, and because they often look very similar, you likely need a field guide to help you figure out what bird is in your backyard. Well, just in time for spring, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has redesigned their wonderful All About Birds site and they can help you with building your skills. Don't forget to bring your checklist!
The entirety of David Attenborough's wonderful nature series The Life of Birds is available on the new YouTube TV Shows section, which is its Hulu-clone. The old PBS Life of Birds website is also worth a visit.
The Internet Bird Collection has over 28000 videos of birds from all over the world. The brain-child of Josep del Hoyo (who also started the Handbook of the Birds of the World) it contains footage of more than half of all the bird species in the world, which number around 10000. Just browsing randomly I found such charming clips as a pair of gang gang cockatoos, a pair of preening and feeding Siberian cranes, a hoatzin displaying, Temnick's tragopan displaying, Kerguelen petrel swooping between waves, green hermit feeding on heliconia flowers, in flight, a pair of hamerkops mating display and American avocets mating. Or you can just go look up your favorite bird species and see if they have videos of it. Happily they had plenty of videos of my favorite bird, sterna paradisaea, the arctic tern, and I like this one best. Each bird has taxonomic and distribution information.
John James Audubon's Birds of America with Audubon's original text. It's laid out by family and genus but there is also an alphabetical list of plates which has bigger versions of the bird pictures. There are also links to the state birds as well as birds driven to extinction since Audubon's time.
The male Superb Bird of Paradise has an unusual courtship routine. First he sings. Then he hops. Finally, he busts out a spectacular finishing move, which the female finds attractive and/or totally scary. [more inside]
RavenViewer. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers free sound analysis software that allows you to simultaneously listen to and watch spectograms of animal communication, such as the uncanny mimicry of a lovesick Satin Bowerbird or the chilling call of the Common Loon. If birds aren't your bag, there's lots of other animal sounds (and stunning video) to explore.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a great source for all kinds of information on our feathered friends. The bird identification section is particular useful. There are also NestCams.
"A natural history of birds. Most of which have not been figur'd or describ'd, and others very little known from obscure or too brief descriptions without figures, or from figures very ill design'd."  and "Birds of North America"  Samples (the last 15 from each link): : 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. : 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. [MI]
Bird Watchers Guide on Flickr. "Linked list of species submitted; find all photos of a species here".
Manakins (Manacus sp.) are small, colorful sparrow-sized birds found all over Central and South America. Manakin males engage in elaborate courtship dances, including rhythmic sounds they produce with their wings. No one really knew how the birds made this sounds, until Kimberly Bostwick, Curator of Birds and Mammals at the Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates, went into the jungles of Ecuador to film the birds at 1000 frames per second. As it turns out, different species of manakin use entirely different motion to produce the sounds. The Journal of Experimental Biology has published the results, complete with videos. Mark Barres, who studies avian genetic population structures at the Univ. of Wisconsin, has also filmed the mating dance of the Manakins [.mov].
Screw bigfoot. Researchers at Cornell say they have found the ivory-bill.
[K]nown as an ornithologist's "Holy Grail," [r]esearchers from Cornell University, along with others, reportedly have found the ivory-billed woodpecker in the Big Woods of Arkansas, a rare bird that was last seen in the United States in the 1940s and was believed to have become extinct.More on the story here. A digression into the legend here.
Since 1996, The Osprey Project has been re-introducing the osprey into the United Kingdom, and since 1999 has been tracking its migrations, which stretch as far south as Senegal, and can include marathon stretches of open-ocean flight.
Oh, and sometimes they even make it Back.
Oh, and sometimes they even make it Back.
Why Birds Fly in a 'V'. And I thought it was because they liked the view.