Wednesday, April 11, 2007
I stumbled upon this article while reading the news today: The MSNBC news article. Researchers for the American Bird Conservancy filmed the courtship display of a rare, spectacular hummingbird from Peru, the Marvelous Spatuletail, Loddigesia mirabilis. The full video is available from the American Bird Conservancy: video. Don Roberson's page explains the current (very endangered) status of the bird. I can lavish multiple superlatives on this bird, but the video and pictures speak for themselves. This bird is simply amazing.
The other point I will draw from this news bite is the use of video to record bird behavior. Birds have been recorded since we have the technology, with a particularly rich history emanating from my own home institution, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. A good summary of the beginning is here and I figured this would be a good time to plug Macaulay Library's Animal Behavior Archive, a great resource. The use of video to research birds is growing fast, as is the imperative to 'collect specimens' of bird song and behavior. Highlighting this use is the recently published work by a colleague of mine, Ed Scholes. He has spent the past several years recording the spectacular breeding displays of Birds-of-Paradise (click for awesome BBC video!) in New Guinea. His recently published paper (may be unavailable to viewers without a journal subscription, citation to follow) documents in detail the incredible complex details of just one species display - that of the Carola's Parotia. Ed uses video to show the display, and has voucher clips, the media equivalent of museum skins, at Macaulay. Two figures from his paper follow:
I highly recommend tracking his paper down and giving it a read, or looking up the clips at Macaulay.
A second (self-promoting of course) example of video uses in research, is my own project. I have been enticing Northern Rough-Winged Swallows (Stelgidopterx serripennis) to use artificial nest burrows, so that I can record potentially very unique behaviors inside the burrow. I won't say much more, but you may expect to see results soon enough.
And finally, as a humorous end to my long post, the mock-news paper The Onion has finally taken a swing at birders, with this article - Sibley was wrong.
Edwin Scholes III. 2006. Courtship ethology of Carola's Parotia (Parotia carolae). The Auk. 123 (4): 967-990.
***Edit - I'll add a higher-res version of the second Scholes figure soon as I can, so you can read the caption better.