About me

Hi! I’m Katie LaBarbera, a graduate student in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at UC Berkeley. Before I came here, I did research on House Wrens at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University. Now, I’m working on a PhD on Dark-eyed Juncos in the mountains near Yosemite: specifically, how they respond to environmental variability at both small and large scales.

In my spare time (haha – don’t worry, Dissertation Committee, I’m just kidding, I don’t have any spare time – I never do anything besides research, I promise! Look away now) I take photographs, pester my cat, annoy my geckos, write creatively, and read science fiction.

Disclaimer: I speak only for myself, not for the MVZ or UC Berkeley or any subset of the general scientific community. If you don’t like something I say, I’m the only one to blame!

me with MAGG

Young me with a robin chick. My career path may not have exactly shocked anyone.

Young me with a robin chick. My career path may not have exactly shocked anyone.

26 thoughts on “About me

  1. Good evening ! I found this little fellow this morning (my cat did, but I rescued him/her) and because you’re specialized in birds (and obviously you love them! :D), I will ask your help in identifying this little one – http://carmenfortis.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/picture00234.jpg and a close view of the head – http://carmenfortis.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/micul-musafir-cine-sunt/
    I can tell that the bird has clean water and some fruits and seeds ( I have a little canary so I borrowed some of his food :D).
    Thank you very much and I wish you a wonderful day !

    • Hi Carmen,
      Wow, that’s a new one for me! The wings look like a swallow or purple martin, but the bill looks too long to be those species. Are you located in North America?
      Whatever it is, it’s a young fledgling: has all its feathers but still has some yellow around the gape. Its parents were probably still feeding it. I’d recommend feeding it for at least a few days (or taking it to a rehab center) before releasing it. Young birds rarely eat seeds – you’ll want to look for bugs, or try chopping a hard-boiled egg into small bug-sized strips. If it won’t eat food placed in front of it, try holding the food in your fingers and “swooping” your hand down to the baby, as if you’re a parent flying in. If the baby then opens its bill, put the food in.

      • Thank you for the help ! I am located in Europe, in Romania and unfortunately rehab centers don’t exist and the veterinary clinics are opened in weekends just on saturdays but untill 12 p.m. I have to say again the word unfortunately, by the night the little one seemed to be weak, of course I gave the bird food.
        When I woke up, the first thing was to check up on the little buddy but it died, maybe the reason could’ve been internal wounds created by the cat’s bites, I felt sorry because I knew it could have had a chance at life with the right help from a veterinarian.
        Thank you again for your help !
        Wishing you a sunny morning and beautiful day !

  2. Hi Carmen,

    It seems you get asked for advice on dealing with injured birds a lot… I hope this is not unwelcome.

    My cat recently brought in a little junco… he (not sure on the sex but lets say he) seems to be “ok” after the initial shock. I have had him in a dark box with some chopped sunflower seeds, almonds and walnuts (with a small water dish) for the last two days and tried to release him today. He was unable to fly and I had to re-capture him. He does seem to be moving around with no problem and seems very alert just unable to fly. I have back in a clean dark box with the aforementioned accouterments. I am not sure what to do next?

    I will try to contact some local wild life rescue institutions but last year I had an incident with a raccoon and nobody seemed interested in helping. If he is going to have to stay with me longer is there a way I should go about this? Should I leave him in the box or should I get a bird cage? I don’t know if he will be OK in the cage… I can leave him in an isolated part of the house where he won’t get stressed to often? Is there a better food I can get him? Maybe a bird seed mix from the local pet store?

    Any help you give me would be greatly appreciated… I love my cat but hate that this happens sometimes and would really like to see this little guy make it back into the wild.

    Thank you for taking the time.

    • Hi Christopher,
      If your local rehab places aren’t helpful – and they would definitely be the best thing for your junco – then I would keep him in a bird cage with a water dish and a seed mix (one of those wild bird mixes for birdfeeders). Give him a chance to recover; he may have injuries you can’t see. (One possibility is that one of his air sacs was punctured, which would take a while to heal.) In a decent-sized cage with a perch or two, he’ll be able to hop around until he can fly again. Keep him in a quiet part of the house – one where you can close a door to keep the cat out – near a window if possible, with a normal daily light-dark cycle. Don’t keep him in a dark box all the time, that sounds like no fun for him!
      I hope he gets better! Let me know how it goes. Thanks for taking care of him!

  3. Being of a scientific mind, you might not go in for this goofy award system, but I listed your site in my blog post today for the Beautiful Blogger award. Your blog is awesome and I’m so glad that I found it and would like others to see it, too. Thanks!

  4. Hi, how can i contact you, i need to communicate with you about something urgent that is happening here in iran’s wild life. You would be amazed!

  5. my name is Justin and I have a question regarding city sparrows.

    I noticed that during and after a windy rain storm, a lot of young sparrows are blown onto the ground and unable to fly temporarily due to wetness, sometimes they are really young and cannot fly period.

    do you think it is a good idea to pick up and relocate the above mentioned sparrows to a big park where it seems friendlier with trees.
    these sparrows that I’m talking about are located in heavily cemented areas with a lot of cars and buildings.

  6. Hi Katie,
    “My” baby juncos are about two weeks old with real feathers, I think, and still in their nest. They are fledgling. I came across your blog because I am researching about how to increase their chance of survival when they just leave the nest. I am afraid they might be attacked by squirrels or jays around here.
    The juncos’ nest is in one of my flower pot in my front yard.
    I want to buy food and bring water close to their nest so they don’t have to wander far.
    Thank you for your advice.

    • Hi Anne,
      There are a few things you can do. Young fledglings rely on hiding for protection, so the more shelter there is available – think dense bushes – the better, especially if the shelter makes pathways that would let them move places. If your yard already has bushes, you’re fine; if not, see if there’s any way you can move some shelter there temporarily. Maybe move some potted plants outside for a few days? (If it was January, I’d say leave an old Christmas tree out.) Any kind of clutter is better than a bare lawn.
      Your food and water idea is a nice thought but not necessary. Young fledglings don’t need to drink, and they’ll eat bugs at first, which will be hard for you to provide. (The fledglings themselves won’t be searching for food; their parents will find it and bring it to them.) Also there’s a danger in putting out food and water in that it may attract the jays you’re worried about, as well as various other birds which may themselves attract bird predators.
      If you have a cat, the absolute best thing you can do for your juncos is to keep the cat indoors for a week.

  7. I just stumbled across your blog while researching (“researching,” i.e. surfing the net–not real research like yours, unfortunately!). This is fantastic! I’m so excited to find other birders online, especially one who writes as well as you do and provides such valuable insight. Thank you! I’d be honored if you checked out my own birding blog at aberrantplumage.wordpress.com.

    Best wishes–keep up the great work! I’ll be reading enthusiastically!


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