Biogeography

Tea Parties, Bird Barf, and Rat Skulls

At tea parties, etiquette is key. You need to know which spoon to use, whether to pour the milk or the tea first, and, when a fellow scientist hands you an owl pellet for your research, how to graciously accept it and dissect it right there at the table. Field Museum collections manager Bill Stanley was at a garden tea party in Tanzania when a colleague handed him a coffee can containing an owl pellet for him to study. The hacked-up mass of fur and bones contained the key to a scientific discovery—the skull of a rat never before seen in the region.

The traveling knot

On 22 May, Rob Curtis discovered a flock of seven Red Knots (Calidris canutus) on Montrose Beach, on Chicago's north side, a beach almost as famous for its birds as its sand. One Red Knot in the Chicago area is unusual, but seven is remarkable. Even more remarkable was that one of the knots--a particularly brightly colored one--had an engraved "flag" on its leg, with a readable alpha-numeric code unique to that individual.

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