At the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago recently, I got the chance to see some particularly charismatic birds, including a colony of squabbling flamingos, and Sophia the young Cinereous Vulture. Abandoned as an egg, Sophia was raised by humans—with a vulture puppet—until she was old enough to rejoin her parents.
Sophia the Cinereous Vulture, at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.
The morning I saw her was overcast and cold, but she was in high spirits: a man was raking her enclosure, and while her parents mostly ignored him, Sophia was fascinated. She chased the rake; he shooed her away; she stalked it. “I helped to raise her,” the man said; then, rolling his eyes, “It’s impossible to get anything done with her around.” Eventually he dropped the rake, and Sophia got to investigate.
ARKM the Dark-eyed Junco showing off his perfect birdiness.
Photo by M. LaBarbera
I think we can all agree that the junco is pretty much the Ideal Bird. Ask any small child. Brownish, feathers all over, small round body, short neck, cute twiggy legs, little triangle for a bill: that’s what a bird looks like.
Or not. None of the following birds look like a small child’s quintessential Bird, because these birds—with their spoonbills, mustaches, and scary dinosaur feet—are awesome weirdos.
I found winter: the juncos have it.
SEAL on the snow.
In the sciences we think a lot about how to recruit more [insert underrepresented group here]. There are a lot of challenges to this, such as that many people may not know that there are real paying jobs to be had studying animals/chemicals/theoretical physics, or that many entry-level research positions pay next to nothing so you have to have a certain level of financial security just to start out in the field. But even if you know the jobs exist, and even if you have figured out the finances somehow, you still have to have the confidence to go for it, and that can be difficult. It’s easy to think that you don’t know enough to start research, or that everyone else must know more than you do.
So this is How I got into research: or, I promise you are not less qualified than I was, so just go for it.
One morning when we were target-netting a female named IKIA, the field of corn lilies in which she had hidden her nest seemed to be full of butterflies.
Considering how much time we spent in the field, and that one of my field assistants was by natural inclination a herpetologist, we found surprisingly few herps (reptiles and amphibians) this summer.
Pacific treefrog (subspecies: Sierran treefrog)
This guy comes in brown or green. The two morphs look very different from each other:
Photo by M. LaBarbera
While it seems like it might be logical for people to find my blog after searching something like “pictures of juncos” or “how do birds fly?”, internet users (and search engines) are thinking a bit more creatively. So once again I, your humble servant, will attempt to give you what you really want from this blog by responding to the actual search terms that have led you here.
This time, though, you guys are kinda scaring me.
Wait, no. Do not come to this site if you want information on human babies. I don’t know anything about human babies! Search engines, don’t send people who search “human babies” to a bird research blog! And now I’ve written “human babies” four times here so that probably won’t help…
Cute, yes, but crucially NOT A HUMAN BABY.
If these are a problem, put up some strong netting around your house, work area, etc. to catch the floating skeletons. Grab a ladder and pull the bones out of the net at least once a week so it doesn’t get clogged up.