Bird Habitat: Deserts
The Science of Birds
by Ivan Phillipsen
2d ago
This episode—which is Number 92—is all about the value of desert ecosystems as habitats for birds. Deserts are important for the birds that are adapted to live in them—birds that can handle the harsh conditions. Deserts are home to relatively few bird species. Only the polar regions and maybe some parts of the open ocean have less bird diversity. Even if a bird species can handle the extremes of heat and cold in a desert, the desiccating winds, and the lack of water, that bird may not find much food. Because where there are few plants, there are few invertebrates. So a bird in the desert c ..read more
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Chickadees, Tits, and Titmice
The Science of Birds
by Ivan Phillipsen
2w ago
This is Episode 91. It’s all about birds in the family Paridae. These are the chickadees, tits, and titmice—cute little forest-dwelling songbirds known and loved by many people around the world. I’ve had a lot of requests to make a podcast episode about chickadees and their kind. Some species in this family are familiar visitors to backyard bird feeders. They’re highly active, vocal, bold, and sometimes quite confiding with people. It’s possible to gain the trust of tits and chickadees of some species by feeding them seeds out of the palm of your hand. These birds not only visit bird feeders ..read more
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Flowers and Feathers: The Importance of Birds as Pollinators
The Science of Birds
by Ivan Phillipsen
1M ago
This is Episode 90 and it’s all about the importance of birds as plant pollinators. If I had to use only one word for the topic of this episode, it would be ornithophily. The definition of ornithophily is “the pollination of flowers by birds.” Today, I’ll be focusing mostly on the ecological relationships between plants and the birds that pollinate them. Another way to look at all of this would be through the lens of evolution—the fascinating ways that plants and birds have co-evolved with respect to pollination. I’ll make another podcast episode, at some point, about bird and plant co-evol ..read more
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Fascinating Things We Learned About Birds Last Year
The Science of Birds
by Ivan Phillipsen
1M ago
This is Episode 89. I’m publishing it right at the beginning of 2024, and it's a review of some fascinating things that happened in the world of ornithology and bird conservation over the last 12 months, in 2023. Naturally, this isn’t an exhaustive review of every scientific discovery about birds in 2023. That would be too much. An exhaustive review would be, well, exhausting. Maybe not for you, but definitely for me. Instead, I’ll tell you about a handful of studies and projects that I think you’ll find interesting. These gems were hand-selected by me for your educational pleasure. Links o ..read more
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Owls
The Science of Birds
by Ivan Phillipsen
2M ago
This episode—which is number 88—is all about owls. Owls are fascinating birds that have captured our imaginations since the dawn of humankind. They have amazing camouflage that allows them to blend in with their surroundings, and they have several other avian superpowers that set them apart from all other birds. Owls are divided into two families—Tytonidae and Strigidae—and we'll be discussing both of them today. Links of Interest Owl Notes–Denver Holt Shares the Short eared Owl's Courtship Flight [VIDEO] Long-whiskered Owlet (Xenoglaux loweryi) [VIDEO] The silent flight of an owl [VIDEO] P ..read more
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Avian Rebrand: New Names for Many North American Birds
The Science of Birds
by Ivan Phillipsen
3M ago
This episode—which is Number 87—is all about some big news in the birding world. The common names for about 150 North American bird species are going to change in the not-too-distant future. This comes from an announcement made by the American Ornithological Society just a few weeks ago, on November 1st. I couldn’t pass up the chance to talk about this. It’s a hot topic among birders right now. People have been asking me what I think about all these birds getting renamed. And so here we are. If you’re hearing about this for the first time, and you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t wo ..read more
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Bird Beaks: The Right Tool for the Job
The Science of Birds
by Ivan Phillipsen
4M ago
This episode—which is Number 86—is all about bird beaks. This will be an overview of beak anatomy, function, evolution, and diversity. The head of every bird on Earth is adorned with a beak. A bill. And to the delight of us all, those beaks come in a wild variety of shapes and colors. Just picture the mugs of toucans, vultures, ducks, parrots, flamingos, and pelicans. The diversity of beak shapes like these is one of the fascinating things about birds. Birds use their beaks for all sorts of tasks. These appendages are vital tools, used for getting food, for grooming, for communication, an ..read more
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Meadowlarks
The Science of Birds
by Ivan Phillipsen
4M ago
This episode—which is Number 85—is about the Meadowlarks of the world. And it’s not just those three North American species: the Western, Eastern, and Chihuahuan. There are actually 8 bird species we call meadowlarks. The other five are found primarily in South America. We’ll be talking about them today, too. Meadowlarks belong to the New World Blackbird family, Icteridae. This family includes birds like Red-winged Blackbird, Baltimore Oriole, and the Great-tailed Grackle. There’s a lot to admire about meadowlarks. The 3 yellow-breasted and 5 red-breasted meadowlark species bring color and ..read more
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Quails of the New World
The Science of Birds
by Ivan Phillipsen
5M ago
This is Episode 83. It’s all about birds in the family Odontophoridae. These are the New World quails. Why is this the family of "New World" quails? Because there’s a whole mess of birds we call quails that live in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. But those birds all belong to the pheasant family, Phasianidae. New World quails are shy birds ground-dwelling birds that walk or run around in the daytime, looking for tidbits of food in the leaf litter. If they sense any kind of stranger danger, they hunker down and hide in bushes or other vegetation. Their first instinct is to sit still an ..read more
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Tracking Methods: How We Know Where Birds Go
The Science of Birds
by Ivan Phillipsen
6M ago
This is Episode 82. It's all about the ways that scientists track the movements of individual birds. The focus of today’s episode is not so much about the behaviors of birds, but about the technologies used by researchers to study bird behavior—the methods used to reveal the movements of birds. And our focus will be on the tracking of individual birds. There are other methods scientists use to record the mass movements of birds, like using radar to track flocks of migrants.  But today we’re looking at techniques that can reveal the unique paths taken by an individual bird—a sandpiper ..read more
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