Blogs & Videos: Birds

From Finches to Ostriches: The Anatomy of a Museum Collection

The other day, Peter Lowther from The Field Museum’s computer services department stopped by my office and handed me a frozen House Finch his 11-year-old daughter, Gloria, found dead in the snow by their house in Homewood, Ill. Although our computer records showed we already have more than 500 House Finches in the bird collection, I didn’t hesitate to accept another. After all, this was our first House Finch collected on Jan. 20, 1999. It is one of only four from Illinois, one of six from east of the Mississippi River and our only eastern specimen collected in winter.

Brood Parasitism -- Host Lists

Brood parasitism is an awkward term to describe an interaction between two species in which, as in predator-prey relationships, one species gains at the expense of the other. Brood parasites "prey" upon parental care, and the victimized species usually have reduced breeding success, partly because of the additional cost of caring for alien eggs and young, and partly because of the behavior of both adult and young brood parasites which may directly and adversely affect the survival of the victim's own eggs or young.

Camiguin Hanging-Parrot: a new species from a small Philippine Island

One thing that makes museum collections so valuable is that they bring together specimens from throughout the distributions of species. When comparative series of specimens are available, it becomes possible to see if differences between populations are greater than than what is found within the populations being studied. The Field Museum's Bird Division has outstanding collections of Philippine birds made by D. S. Rabor and is colleagues in  the 1960s.

Darwin and museum collections

We study the evolution of birds, so when we go into our son’s seventh grade science classroom and they are going to be studying biological diversity, but the word “evolution” does not appear in the room because the word is not an accepted term in the state curriculum standards, we realize there is still a lot of work to be done to get us beyond debates over evolution even in a state like Illinois.  To us, evolution is the fundamental basis of biology, but it is also a fun thing to think about.

2011 REU Intern Gregor-Fausto Siegmund

Calibrating phylogenies: are we using the right fossils?

GREGOR-FAUSTO SIEGMUND Sophomore Biological Sciences major at The University of Chicago REU Mentor: Dr. Peter Makovicky (Curator, Geology) Symposium Presentation Title: Measuring the quality of the avian fossil record to explain the ‘rock-clock’ divide of the avian evolutionary timescale.