Ecology

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.

Follow up: A first for Illinois, discovered in the Field Museum's collection

Last week I wrote about the recent publication detailing the detective work that uncovered the first record of Western Flycatcher for Illinois. I didn't have time to include photos of the actual specimen, so here they are. The two birds on the left are Yellow-bellied Flycatchers from Illinois and the two on the right are Western Flycatchers from California (presumably Pacific-slope Flycatchers). The star of the show--Illinois' only Western Flycatcher--is in the middle.

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