Sunday, July 27, 2008

Why is this Cardinals beak dark?

I spent a relatively frustrating morning trying to catch Sedge Wrens, Cistothorus platensis, in Carver Park before the threat of rain sent me home. One of these days I'll try to put up a video of these little guys coming in to a tape lure. They're pretty fearless.

I got to thinking about all the questions that birders come up with just in their day to day wondering about the world around them. I may be biased but I think people who are interested in the natural world are significantly more willing to search out answers than folks who, even though they know that they don't know, don't seem to care to find out. To aid that search for knowledge I'd like to let everyone know about a resource that doesn't get enough publicity. There is an online searchable database called OWL that is just a wonderful source of information that goes past the material meant for a general, public audience. Admittedly, the resources can be quite technical but the database includes materials that are accessible to anyone who really wants to find out the "nitty gritty" about some ornithological subject. The site is described thusly:

"OWL is a compilation of citations and abstracts from the worldwide scientific literature that pertain to the science of ornithology. A major attraction is its coverage of the 'grey' literature, which are not abstracted by commercial databases such as Zoological Record or the Science Citation Index."

I hope little tidbits like this make your birding world more interesting.

P.S. The photo above showing a dark bill on a Northern Cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis, is due to it being a juvenile.


troutbirder said...

Interesting. I like the "identify it" posts. They give me needed practice

Mara McDonald said...

Re: Juvenile cardinal--dark bill in juvenile is proximate reason. Ultimate reason probably has to do with natural selection--young birds with bright bills might not survive as well as young birds that are more cryptic.