A nest of Red-tailed Hawks grows up

Half-built nest in February

Half-built nest in February

In February, a pair of Red-tailed Hawks began to build a nest in the window of a tenth-floor conference room in Yonkers, NY. Over the next four months, Jerry and Beverly—who work in that office—watched and documented the red-tails as they raised their chicks. Many thanks to Jerry and Beverly for agreeing to share their photos and videos, and thanks to James for passing them on to me!

One of the adults at the nest

One of the adults at the nest. Red-tails like their nests to have a commanding view of the surroundings; you can see that this fits the bill nicely.

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Spend your weekend watching these live bird cams

First, and undoubtedly oddest, is the Piip Show, which is a “bird reality show” (read: livestream from a birdfeeder shaped like a bar) from a Norwegian television network. Apparently this is an experiment in “slow tv,” which I did not know was a thing. Follow this link and click the red arrow in the bottom-left corner of the picture to watch live, or scroll down a few lines to watch a popular clip (the birds are at the end of the clip). As an American, I’m enjoying watching the exotic-looking-to-me birds like Blue Tits. Thanks to Rachel for the tip!

The Decorah Bald Eagles are back, and as I type this, a very small small grey-fuzzed chick is struggling to get out from under its rather bemused-looking parent.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology maintains a number of excellent bird cams. My recent favorite has been the Laysan Albatross one on Kauai, HI, not least because the time difference means you can watch it in daylight even when it’s quite late for you if you live in the continental US. Also, the chick looks like a wet mop. The chick is named Kaloakulua and was recently identified as female. Sometimes she is visited by nonbreeding adult albatrosses doing lovely practice courtship dances, and it’s interesting to see how long the chick is left alone as the parents forage: sometimes they don’t return to feed her for weeks.

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“Ordinary Extraordinary Junco” and the wider world of juncos

ARKM, a male junco from one of my study sites in the Sierra Nevada mountains

ARKM, a male junco from one of my study sites in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Photo by M. LaBarbera

Ah, my noble research junco. Dramatic black hood, peach flanks, rusty back, hopping around the Sierra Nevada mountains and (hopefully) giving me insights into behavior, life history, and adaptation to environmental variability. That’s the story you mostly get from this blog, because it’s the one that I’m most intimately wrapped up in. But it’s a very small piece of the larger world of juncos and junco research.

The Junco Project has produced a series of videos entitled “Ordinary Extraordinary Junco,” all about the wide world of junco research. The videos are wonderful, covering the research in an interesting and accessible way, and filled with great footage of juncos doing every possible thing. If you only have time to watch one, check out Chapter 2: Appalachian Spring, which shows the field methods that I also employ, like nest searching, mist netting, banding, and collecting blood. It’s one thing to see photographs, and quite another to see how these birds look in motion. (As you watch, try to ignore the sound of my so-intense-it’s-audible envy of the resources these junco researchers have—aviaries! eight field assistants! nest cameras! radio-tracking devices!)

Just as my research is one tiny part of junco research overall, my population of juncos is a tiny portion of the juncos that are out there – and many of them are quite different. The juncos in Berkeley, CA, despite being quite far away from the Sierra Nevada juncos and many thousands of feet lower in elevation, look pretty much the same as “my” juncos…


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Winter Olympics: Animal Edition

Don’t get me wrong, the winter Olympics is fun and all, but isn’t it just a little bit small-minded to limit ourselves to human competitors? Here are some videos illustrating how great this athletic competition could be if we made it just a bit more inclusive (and added some new events):

Event: Team Vertical Iceberg Jump. Competitor: penguin

Event: Snow Diving. Competitor: red fox.

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Sounds and video from Cornell’s Macauley Library

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Macauley Library of sounds and videos has been fully digitized and posted online for browsing for free by everyone. It is really fun to explore.

Ever wanted to know what an Oilbird sounds like? It sounds like this!

Oilbird. Photo by Dominic Sherony

Oilbird. Photo by Dominic Sherony

Check out a colorful mantis shrimp swiveling its crazy eyes, then listen to it making sounds eerily like those of a drum set!

Go eye-level with Adelie Penguins, get close enough to a sea turtle to count the scales under its chin, then listen to a baby walrus ruff like a puppy!

Here is an article from the Lab of O – scroll to the end for links to: the earliest recording (a Song Sparrow from 1929); the sounds of an ostrich chick still in the egg; the haunting clarinet-like moan of the idri, a lemur; a bird of paradise apparently imitating a very melodious UFO; and a cute video of an American Dipper living up to its name by bobbing and dipping.

And then explore the library yourself! Hooray for open-access science.

Kinky kakapo, lyrical lyrebird, moonwalking manakin

I’m on vacation to clear out my brain after finishing the big grant application, so here’s a lazy-blogger post: three classic bird videos.

The kakapo is a very rare, flightless parrot in New Zealand. This one has a thing for human cameramen.

The lyrebird, like a mockingbird or a mynah, shows off by perfectly imitating the sounds of other birds… and camera shutters, car alarms, and chainsaws.

Manakins, like birds of paradise, have brightly-colored males who perform elaborate dances to attract mates. The Red-capped Manakin male’s dance will be familiar to fans of Michael Jackson.