Birds are endlessly fascinating creatures and there is always more to learn about them. One wonderful thing about the internet is that there is a lot of knowledge out there from top sources. You just need to know where to look (or be willing to spend some time web surfing to find them.)
Here are four spots online that I think you might enjoy. The first is a recent article about bird intelligence. The second is a resource for forecasting what birds you might expect to be migrating through your region of the US in the coming week. Another is a nifty way to figure out what bird lost that feather you found on the ground today. And the last is a fun tool that teaches you a bit about bird anatomy (helpful when bird field guides use descriptive terms that aren’t familiar to you.) Sound interesting? Read on!
Meet the Bird Brainiacs: Eurasian Jay
By Micheal Balter, March/April Audubon Magazine
“Superstar scientist Nicky Clayton uses worms and chocolate teddy bears to help figure out where bird and human intelligence intersect.” Birds in the Corvid family (like Jays and Crows) are apparently very clever. This fascinating article looks at how a researcher in England has been working with Eurasian Jays to try and figure out what they can do. Very cool.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s BirdCasts
Cornell Lab of Ornithology has all kinds of irons in the fire. This website documents a project where they use their eBird citizen science bird sighting reports along with weather forecasts to forecast which birds will be migrating through different regions of the United States in the coming week. Then they do an analysis using eBird sightings to look back at the week to see which migrating birds are the top movers and which are decreasing in migration numbers.
“BirdCast will allow, for the first time, real-time predictions of bird migrations: when they migrate, where they migrate, and how far they will be flying. Knowledge of migratory behavior will aid conservation on the ground by informing decisions for placement of wind turbines and identifying nights on which lighting of tall buildings could be reduced to prevent the deaths of millions of birds. Accurate migration models also have broader application, allowing researchers to understand behavioral aspects of migration, how migration timing and pathways respond to changing climate, and whether linkages exist between variation in migration timing and subsequent changes in population size.”
The Feather Atlas
US Fish & Wildlife Services Forensics Laboratory’s Flight Feathers of North American Birds
Find a feather on the ground? Want to figure out what species of bird lost it? Check the Feather Atlas. This resource lets you search for the feathers of a specific bird species by its common name, scientific name, order or family. Or you can use their “Search for a Similar Feather” tool to figure out an unknown feather’s source. It takes a little time to work through this to find a good match as you choose pattern and color and then browse the possibilities but it is really interesting to see the variety of feathers.
Build A Virtual Bird
Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds Anatomy
Want to learn more about the anatomy a bird (including feathers)? Check out Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds’ Anatomy tool to build a bird. “Explore how birds are built with Bird Academy’s virtual bird. Turn on and off each system and target particular parts to learn more about them and how to pronounce their names. With more than 100 parts at your fingertips, you can learn bird anatomy quickly and effectively. Then activate flashcard mode to quiz yourself.” I particularly find the feathers portion of the tool helpful as field guides usually refer to different types of feathers that a beginning birder might not recognize by name.
Got a favorite site where you can learn interesting things about birds? Please share in the comments!