Tim Birkhead - June 30, 2012

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Tim Birkhead, University of Sheffield, England, author of Bird Sense: What It's Like to Be a Bird. Also wrote Cambridge Encyclopedia of Ornithology. He's Yorkshire through and through, absolutely not a hunter. Farming had a devastating effect on birds. Cuckoos are increasingly rare. People still keep canaries as a hobby. Bulfinch has amazing ability to mimic a whistle. Like people, birds have regional accents. Birds sing for 2 reasons: to announce territory, to announce availability to females. Once paired up, the nightingale stops singing. She ignores plumage, likes your voice. Yellow-billed magpies are promiscuous—pair off long term but have a little bit on the side. 78% of Superb blue wrens of Australia are fathered by the bird next door. European quail is promiscuous, has enormous testicles. Birkhead attends permatazoa biannual meetings. Only male canaries sing, but females sing for about two weeks with a shot of testosterone. Long-tailed sylph (hummingbird) is most beautiful, tiny. Bar-tailed godwit flies nonstop from Alaska to New Zealand. Cooperative breeders help with incubation and with chicks. Emotions of gannets when mom returns. We've learned a lot since Darwin, but he was spot on.

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