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Blog Birding #390

Evolution works in funny ways, and the famous Galapagos Finches may be evolving in response to tourist junk food, according to

Galápagos finches are famed for being the inspiration behind Charles Darwin’s pioneering work on evolution. They are an example of adaptive radiation, an evolutionary process that produces new species from a single, rapidly diversifying lineage. Their common ancestor arrived on the Galápagos about two million years ago, and since then Darwin’s finches have evolved into more than a dozen recognized species differing in body size, beak shape, and feeding behavior.

Sneed Collard of Father Son Birding writes about an experience with a pelican trapped in fishing line, and the importance of disposing plastics.

Back at my hotel in Houston, however, I decided to see if there was any help available. Earlier, I had met three young employees of the Houston Audubon Society who lived at High Island. I called HAS and left a detailed message about the pelican’s predicament and location and asked if the High Island crew might go out there to free it.

The bizarre American Coot is one of the continents most common, and arguably one of its least appreciated birds. At 10,000 Birds, Larry Jordan attempts to put that right.

Maybe it’s because the American Coot (Fulica americana) is the most abundant and widely distributed species of rail in North America that it gets no respect? I mean we see them everywhere, in almost any of a broad variety of wetlands, including freshwater lakes, ponds, marshes, roadside ditches, and industrial-waste impoundments, as well as in coastal marine habitats. As we come upon winter, we often find Coots in rafts of thousands!

The depths of winter are perhaps the best time to think back on warmer and greener birding experiences, as Steve Tucker of Bourbon, Bastards, and Birds does with a remembrance of Sabine Woods on the Upper Texas Coast.

At dawn we started the birding the trees at Texas Point National Wildlife Refuge, which is right on the way to Sabine Woods. It’s not an impressive looking patch (some pieces of private property in the area appeared better suited as migrant traps), but since this is the UTC it should be checked! It was really slow at first, but after a while we began to see sweet sweet migrants coming in off the coast. Not many were stopping, but it was encouraging. The Northern Parula above was very accommodating, and ended up being the only one we would see that day.

Bird evolution has explored some pretty remarkable avenues, but iridescence must be among the most amazing. Albertokynus of Raptormaniacs explains the evolution of it all.

On its own, melanin generally produces shades of gray, brown, or black, but iridescence has the potential to create just about any type of color. This is determined by the thickness of the keratin and melanin layers, which influences the specific wavelengths of light they reflect. Given this versatility and its inherent glimmering qualities, it’s no surprise that iridescence has been adopted by so many birds (and other animals) for the purpose of visual display.


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Nate Swick

Nate Swick

Editor, Social Media Manager at American Birding Association
Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog, social media manager for the ABA, and the host of the American Birding Podcast. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children. He is the author of Birding for the Curious and The ABA Field Guide to Birds of the Carolinas.
Nate Swick

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