The wonder women of ornithology

Writing by Dr Jo Wimpenny

“One of the most influential amateur ornithologists of all time, Margaret Morse Nice pioneered a new form of ornithology in the USA, uniting bird-banding techniques with new behavioural theories emerging from Europe, and her own background in child psychology.

Despite abandoning the prospect of a PhD to accompany her husband to Ohio and raise a family, Nice went on to publish three landmark monographs on the life history of the song sparrow, based on 14 years of data on the lives of ‘her’ backyard sparrows. The American Ornithologists’ Union recognised her work by awarding her the coveted Brewster Medal.

Nice corresponded with hundreds of people and played a central role in promoting the exchange of scientific information between US and European ornithologists. She published 250 research articles (seven of which were book length) and, as editor of Bird-Banding, a staggering 3,313 book and article reviews.”

“While others observed living birds, Annie Meinertzhagen was a skilled collector, who shot and skinned most of her birds herself. She was particularly interested in plumage and moulting of ducks and waders, and chick mouthpart colouration. For her expert knowledge, Henry Witherby invited her to author the relevant sections of his highly influential Handbook of British Birds, a work that became the standard authority on British birds for over a decade.

Indeed, to prevent publication delays, on marrying ornithologist Richard Meinertzhagen, she chose to spend part of her honeymoon studying birds at Lord Rothschild’s Museum in Tring. Her husband’s work was recently found to be largely fraudulent, and his role in her death – considered a tragic shooting accident at the time – remains suspicious.”

Read the full Discover Wildlife Article here

Birds Sing to Their Eggs, and This Song Might Help Their Babies Survive Climate Change

Text from Smithsonian Magazine

” Embryonic learning—things birds pick up from their parents while still in the egg—may play a bigger role than imagined. ”

” Birds feeling the heat from warming weather may be able give their offspring an early weather advisory right through the eggshell—which could in turn help baby birds prepare for the forecast.

A new study shows that the songs zebra finches sing to their eggs late in development may give the young a head start in dealing with warm weather once they hatch.

Researchers have long known that birds like chickens or quails, which hatch fully capable of fending for themselves, can hear through their eggs—allowing them to imprint things like who their mother is. But or around 50 years, nobody believed anything happened inside the egg with birds that hatch dependent on their parents.

A new study published today in Science upends that wisdom, showing that certain zebra finch calls can change their young’s growth and behavior in adulthood.

Article by Joshua Rapp Learn. View the full article here.

Read the Scientific Journal: Design, synthesis, and testing toward a 57-codon genome.

 

Tamron SP 150-600mm lens for Iceland

I just rented the Tamron SP 150-600mm lens to bring along on our vacation, and for the purpose of working on my project of bird photography in Iceland and Norway. We are staying in Vestmannaeyjabær for a couple of days and I am hoping there will still be some adult puffins left but either way I will be looking for pufflings! I cannot wait to see the many birds around both countries, and can’t wait to be able to shoot 600mm.

 

Why Love Matters to a Zebra Finch

sfw_emblematicpictureFemale (left) and male Zebra Finch pair. Photo: Wolfgang Forstmeier

“Love is complicated—ask anyone who’s ever been forced into an arranged marriage at the hands of mad scientists. That’s exactly what 160 Zebra Finches faced during a recent study conducted by the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany—though to be fair, the scientists weren’t necessarily mad, just very curious about the role love (or “behavioral compatibility,” as they like to call it) plays in successful bird reproduction.

Zebra Finches make the perfect subjects for such an investigation, because they’re monogamous birds that often mate for life, sharing nesting and offspring rearing duties (though they’re also known to enjoy an occasional midnight rendezvous with a sultry neighboring finch). To find out how much love matters when it comes to reproduction, the researchers put single Zebra Finches in a sort of speed-dating chamber, and allowed them to select a partner at will.”

Article written by Erica Langston – Read the full article here.

Tree Swallow Being Fed in Nest Box

When I first arrived to the nature preserve last week there were tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) everywhere. There are several nest boxes set up near the front entrance to the trails, where you could hear the nestlings chirping for food. I found one which was old enough to sit up at the entrance of the box and call for its mother to bring it food. I got this quick video of the baby getting fed, although it was a little bumpy – I will definitely be using my tripod for future videos.