Ep. 04 - Brrrrrds in Winter

Episode notes:

At one point we wonder if a bird we see is a grebe. We know that there aren't any grebes that have winter ranges in Western New York, but this has been a strange winter and less likely things have happened.

Questions that came up during the episode:

Although it was cut during editing, Bill and Steve wondered during recording, “Why do flamingos stand on one leg?” Bill thought he had come across the answer in the past, but had forgotten it. Steve just plain didn’t know. 

The answer? No one knows! While many theories are out there, no one has found a definitive answer (yet). The folks at How Stuff Works have done their usual great job of collecting solid information, and they present the reigning theories here: http://animals.howstuffworks.com/birds/flamingos-stand-on-one-leg.htm

And for a relatively recent study on one researcher’s efforts to get to the bottom of the flamingo-on-one-leg mystery, check out this article: http://www.livescience.com/5732-flamingos-stand-leg.html


While Steve was correct about the Red Knot (Calidris canutus), Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos), American Robin (Turdus migratorius), and House Sparrow (Passer domesticus), he was incorrect about the scientific name for the White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) which he thought was Sitta canadensis (Red-breasted Nuthatch); idiot!

Additionally, Steve said "hyperthermia" instead of "hypothermia" when talking about swimming in winter; double idiot!

Surprise surprise, Steve also explained phenotypes and genotypes rather poorly. In his excitement, he described both in terms of "changes in" observable characteristics and genes, respectively. What he should have said was that a genotype is an individual's gene for a trait, and that a phenotype is the observable expression of a gene; triple idiot!

But the quadruple idiot award for this episode goes to Bill, who insisted emphatically that House Sparrows were not Sparrows at all, but Weaver Finches. This is incorrect. Following the release of this episode, Steve researched Bill's claim, and being a great guy, he didn't call Bill a moron, but sent him a few Wikipedia links with the kind message, "I think you might be wrong about House Sparrows..." After just a few minutes of internet searching, Bill found out why he thought what he did. Old editions of the Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds places House Sparrows in the Weaver Finch family, but all recent references (within the past 30 years) Bill could find to their taxonomy refer to them as "Old World Sparrows," the family Passeridae. National Geographic Complete Birds of North America states, "Old World Sparrows are not closley related to New World sparrows in the family Emberizidae. Instead their closest alliance is with the family Ploceidae, in which they were formerly placed." Ploceidae is the Weaver Finch family. So, basically, House Sparrows used to be considered Weaver Finches but research has revealed that they are only closely related to them.

Work Cited:

Björklund, Mats, et al. "Increase in body size is correlated to warmer winters in a passerine bird as inferred from time series data." Ecology and evolution 5.1 (2015): 59-72.

Brittingham, Margaret C., and Stanley A. Temple. "Use of winter bird feeders by black-capped chickadees." The Journal of wildlife management (1992): 103-110.

Brodin, Anders. "Why do hoarding birds gain fat in winter in the wrong way? Suggestions from a dynamic model." Behavioral Ecology 11.1 (2000): 27-39.

Carr, Jennie M., and Steven L. Lima. "Wintering birds avoid warm sunshine: predation and the costs of foraging in sunlight." Oecologia 174.3 (2014): 713-721.

R. R. J. Chaffee, et al. “Studies on thermogenesis in cold acclimated birds.” Canadian Journal of Biochemistry and Physiology, 41 (1963): 2215-2220

Coughlan, Neil E., et al. "Humid microclimates within the plumage of mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos) can potentially facilitate long distance dispersal of propagules." Acta Oecologica 65 (2015): 17-23.

Ederstrom, H. E., and S. J. Brumleve. "Temperature gradients in the legs of cold-acclimatized pheasants." American Journal of Physiology--Legacy Content 207.2 (1964): 457-459. 

Houston, Alasdair I., and John M. McNamara. “A Theoretical Investigation of the Fat Reserves and Mortality Levels of Small Birds in Winter”. Ornis Scandinavica 24.3 (1993): 205–219. 

Klaassen, Raymond HG, et al. "When and where does mortality occur in migratory birds? Direct evidence from long‐term satellite tracking of raptors."Journal of Animal Ecology 83.1 (2014): 176-184. 

Koskenpato, Katja, et al. "Is the denser contour feather structure in pale grey than in pheomelanic brown tawny owls Strix aluco an adaptation to cold environments?." Journal of Avian Biology (2015).

Macdonald, Christie A., et al. "Cold tolerance, and not earlier arrival on breeding grounds, explains why males winter further north in an Arctic‐breeding songbird." Journal of Avian Biology (2015).

Martinson, Tammie J., and David J. Flaspohler. "Winter bird feeding and localized predation on simulated bark-dwelling arthropods." Wildlife Society Bulletin (2003): 510-516.

Mori, Emiliano, and Sandro Bertolino. "Feeding ecology of Long-eared Owls in winter: an urban perspective." Bird Study 62.2 (2015): 257-261.

Murray, Molly. "Did You Know? Nature's Winter Survival Strategies." www.delawareonline.com. 20 Jan. 2015. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.

Petit, Daniel R., Lisa J. Petit, and Kenneth E. Petit. "Winter caching ecology of deciduous woodland birds and adaptations for protection of stored food." Condor (1989): 766-776.

Reinertsen, Randi Eidsmo, and Svein Haftorn. "Different metabolic strategies of northern birds for nocturnal survival." Journal of Comparative Physiology B156.5 (1986): 655-663.

Robb, Gillian N., et al. "Winter feeding of birds increases productivity in the subsequent breeding season." Biology letters 4.2 (2008): 220-223.

Roth, Timothy C., and Steven L. Lima. "Hunting behavior and diet of Cooper's hawks: an urban view of the small-bird-in-winter paradigm." The Condor 105.3 (2003): 474-483.

Sibley, David. Sibley field guide to birds of eastern North America. Alfred A. Knopf, 2003.

Smit, Ben, and Andrew E. McKechnie. "Avian seasonal metabolic variation in a subtropical desert: basal metabolic rates are lower in winter than in summer." Functional Ecology 24.2 (2010): 330-339.

Swanson, David, et al. "Relative roles of temperature and photoperiod as drivers of metabolic flexibility in dark-eyed juncos." The Journal of experimental biology 217.6 (2014): 866-875.

Thompson, John N., and Mary F. Willson. “Evolution of Temperate Fruit/bird Interactions: Phenological Strategies”. Evolution 33.3 (1979): 973–982.