Yes, it is that time of the year again and another round of "I and the Bird" has come, the 47th to be precise, and today's edition is about what rocks our blogs, the "Bird" behind the "I and the".
With so many birders watching and writing about the bird, it was time to give this whole citizen science project a solid foundation and take a first step towards establishing a monograph on the bird species which is the object of our blogging. Patrick of The Hawk Owl's Nest therefore got in contact with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The full report of Patrick's first meeting with the Cornell staff, where he represented our blogging community and discussed the possibilities of a cooperation with the lab, can be found here. One of the most exciting results of the conference (he's obviously excellent at negotiating, this Hawk Owl's Patrick) was to define the aim of such a common and shared project, which is to eventually incorporate the knowledge about this as yet largely unknown bird species gathered on our blogs into the fine Cornell's bird guide.
I am therefore more than pleased to present a summary of the most recent scientific blog results here at Bell Tower Birding. This summary is not only intended to show how far we've gone already but to also highlight deficits in our bird blogging which might be mended either in future editions of "I and the Bird" or in the course of each blog's own advances into the wonderful world of birds and birding.
Common Name and Taxonomy
The most widely used common name of this little known bird species which we will start to characterize here is "Blog Bird". As a result of its wide distribution and evolving into many subspecies and morphs, there are a multitude of alternative names which can be learned by reading the following blog citations. However, as mentioned before, the name "Blog Bird" is in wide use and appears to reflect its many facets in a neutral and summarizing way, which is why I will use this common name here within this presentation.
Its taxonomy is still fiercely debated and there are no results fit to be presented here. It was at a time incorporated into the Ciconiiformes simply on the basis that all bird species whose taxonomy was somewhat confusing were placed there.
Even though the high diversity of heron forms within the Blog Bird complex was shown by Beakspeak, the Big Bird Blog during his research in Florida, the inclusion of the Blog Bird into the Ciconiiformes is not fully accepted yet and needs further investigation.
What we can state at this point however is its scientific name, on which there is complete agreement:
The Blog Bird is known to Science as Iandthe bergini, in honour of Mike Bergin who first discovered it and promoted a wider interest in its biology and conservation.
Discussing the identification of the Blog Bird as a species is hampered by the multitude of plumages, subspecies and morphs, as was recently shown by Journey Through Grace.
In some regions of the Blog Bird's range, some forms may be difficult to find, but once seen are a sight not easily mistaken or forgotten, as Murmuring Trees demonstrates here.
In other regions, as Charlie of Charlie's Bird Blog was able to investigate and prove for southern Africa, a radiation of Blog Bird forms lead to many similar looking morphs that make local expertise desirable when venturing out to find those Lousy Brown Jobs.
Those difficulties in sorting out rare Blog Birds from the more common forms were mostly avoided in the past by looking at Blog Birds down the barrel of a gun, as A DC Birding Blog reveals here for the District of Columbia, but this approach was luckily replaced by Digiscoping and Binoculars, or the Status section of this account would be different from what it is now...
Range and Migration
The Blog Bird is widely distributed - potentially each continent has a whole range of different morphs and forms - and shows different migratory behaviour traits depending on the breeding ranges of the different populations. As with so many other topics within Blog Bird Biology, our knowledge until now is scant at best and only comes from a limited number of sites where bird bloggers were active and these results mostly pertain to migration routes.
An interesting migration pattern along the North-Eastern Atlantic was demonstrated by Peregrine's Bird Blog during his recent studies in Ireland.
The seasonality of coastal migration was investigated by Mike of 10,000 Birds who presents his results here.
The Blog Bird migration and diversity however is not confined to the coast and was witnessed in an abundance of forms in the Missouri Region of Nebraska, as is described by Aimophila Adventures in an exciting report here.
Neither their brown (LBJ-type) patterning nor the bad weather have prevented Plummer's Hollow, Pennsylvania from keeping an eye on the sparrows and drawing conclusions about weather related phenomena in their migration, a very welcome addition to this monograph as results from former migration periods are also included and put this spring's cold snap into context: while some Blog Bird populations are right on schedule, others linger around longer. I can't help but wonder though if this latter effect was caused by the quality of the local bird feeders and not by the cold?
Search and Serendipity failed to record any weather dependency of Blog Bird migration but accomplished a remarkable inventory of roosting Blog Bird forms for Texas.
The naivety of the Bell Tower Birder regarding the Michigan weather finally allows us to check on bird occurrence in good, bad and ugly weather conditions. Or to cite Coleridge's Ancient Mariner: "He went like one that hath been soaked and is of sense forlorn: a wet but none the wiser man he rose the morrow morn."
Tom McKinney provides a much needed first impression of Blog Bird occurrence or lack thereof in Scotland here, where he braved the remoteness and the difficulties in obtaining decent provisions and furthermore ignored the nerve wrecking history of expedition failures to secured this wealth of knowledge for generations to come.
More than amazing is the progress a small team of dedicated Blog Bird Bird Bloggers is achieving in Mongolia. The team has been too busy lately in documenting spring migration to submit a single link, but the whole blog is too important to leave out in this first summary of Blog Bird biology, so a repeated visit (or permanent link) to Birding Mongolia is highly recommended.
A recent observation by Wrenaissance sheds some light on the varieties of habitats used by certain migratory populations of the Blog Bird, as can be seen here, although these pristine habitats seem to be frequented infrequently.
Comprehensive studies on Blog Bird use of different landscape elements were conducted by Ben Cruachan Blog and his detailed analysis of the different types of habitat and their respective Blog Bird forms can be found here.
An interesting insight into the parasitic and highly sophisticated feeding behaviour of certain Blog Bird morphs was recently obtained by A Snail's Eye View and published here.
A less aggressive behaviour was adapted by Blog Bird herons in Florida, as was shown by Snail's Tales. The reasons for the discrepancy between the two regions have yet to be clarified, possible hypotheses worth investigating being differences in barbecue quality or human defensive behaviour towards animal intruders.
Living the Scientific Life tells us here why these complex behavioural traits might have been necessary in Blog Bird evolution and led to the pre-adaptation and high degree of intelligence necessary to use humans as a source of food in multiple ways.
To complement our picture, Coyote Mercury demonstrated how - starting from this pre-adaptation - the precise behaviour especially regarding the parasitic traits observed in Australia might evolve. Clearly it is the concentrated occurence of food in school lunch breaks that lures the birds in and then it is only a small step from catching a fly in midair to snatching a sandwich from a juvenile offender's hand.
Even though these results demonstrate a change in Blog Bird behaviour as a result of co-existence with humans, Rurality clearly proved that this is not always the case and that some Blog Bird forms maintain their natural feeding behaviour even within human back yards.
John of Birds Etcetera did interesting research beyond food choice by investigating the correlation between some Blog Birds' food choice and their popularity with humans, the results of which can be found here.
John's findings were independently verified by KeesKennis, publishing the results here and presenting them at "I and the Bird" after the manuscript got rejected by CuteOverload.
Behaviour and Reproduction
As was to be expected, Blog Bird behaviour varies in accordance with the different morphs inhabiting varying habitats. The following account is therefore only a short preliminary compendium of a few selected results and does not mirror the full range of Blog Bird Behaviour and Reproduction. However, some of the results obtained so far are very promising and sure to promote a wider interest in this field of bird blogging science.
Bogbumper for example was treated to a full display of Blog Bird intraspecific aggressive behaviour during a day on the coast, but so far has not been able to verify the same behavioural schemes for the BBBB's (Bog Bumping Blog Birds).
Over at Blogaway, an interesting behaviour trait of the Blog Bird regarding conspecifics in trouble was observed and documented here but is still awaiting an explanation.
Turning to reproductive behaviour, Lord Garavin's Bird Blog reveals here just how quick this reproduction thing can happen when you're well adapted to living on the fast side of life.
A very unexpected insight into the nest choice of some Blog Bird forms and the first tough lessons in these young bird's lives can be obtained by studying WoodSong's publication here.
The Behavioral Ecology Blog shows for the first time here that sexual selection in Blog Birds is strikingly different from what one might expect and this is certainly a very intriguing finding that should spark a multitude of follow-up projects on Blog Bird wattles, crests and other inexplicably strange bird protrusions.
A short essay on Blog Bird vocalizations associated with potentially kinky mating behaviour was published here by the Bird Ecology Study Group.
The BirdChick recently looked at spring vocalizations of the Blog Bird and also provides a few details on mating behaviour and pretty scary character traits of some Blog Birds here.
Blog Bird populations have been monitored for close to 50 seasons now and appear stable, as can be seen on the following diagram.
However, Birdman provides very remarkable and thoroughly researched evidence here of severe declines in recent history for some Blog Bird forms due to a multitude of reasons that reflect poorly on the will and effectiveness of nature conservation in western societies. Much still needs to be done.
An increase in mortality for migrating forms of the Blog Bird has been noted in connection to late cold spells in North America and are a major conservation concern, but recent research published here in The EDGE Gallery shows that conservation measures are easily possible and help avoid significant population losses during adverse weather conditions.
The economic importance of some Blog Birds, especially regarding the income of small local communities through Ecotourism, was demonstrated by Corey of Lovely, Dark and Deep, who published his calculations here.
The next edition of "I and the Bird" (No. 48) will be hosted by Greg Laden and contributions should be sent to him (laden002 AT umn DOT edu) or Mike over at 10,000 Blogbirds by May 1st.