Ecology

What are the feathers in those Amazonian headdresses?

Working at the Field Museum, I get to see some pretty special things. Whether it's because of rarity, antiquity, or something that's just plain weird, the museum provides surprises in abundance. Today was one of those days where routine gave way to surprise when Dylan Lott, a graduate student in Anthropology at the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC), showed up needing help identifying feathers. These weren't just any feathers, they were feathers attached to incredible artifacts that a UIC professor had collected from an Amazonian tribe called the Parintintin in the late 1960s.

New paper published about bird migration in Africa

During each of my last two expeditions to Africa with the Field Museum--April-May 2012 to the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and March-April 2013 to western Uganda--I've made observations of northbound migrating birds. While visible migration ("vizmig" to the Brits) is extremely well known in places like the United States and Europe, where bird observatories have been set up to monitor just such migrations, it is virtually unknown in Africa, or at least seldom published on. So I decided to write up my observations, including migrating raptors, bee-eaters, and swallows.

Things seen in the Bird Division #7 (or: Same bird, different stripes)

As long as the bird that we know as Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) has existed, they've had a charming yellow stripe across the tip of their tail. The yellow pigment actually comes from carotene in their fruit diet, and that diet has been changing as humans have brought different fruit-bearing trees into their native range. Now, a small percentage of Cedar Waxwings have orange tail tips instead of yellow, probably the result of eating certain types of non-native honeysuckle berries when their tail feathers are developing.

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