Sunday, January 1, 2012

eBird Birding

Not all arduous jobs are unpleasant. I have been transcribing my life list into eBird. I have listed over 2,000 species in 51 years of birding. One problem is that, during this time, our understanding of avian taxonomy has been revolutionized. Consider these Masked Boobies Erika and I found in the Galapagos Islands on 30 April 1976. Since then, mitochondrial DNA studies indicate these Galapagos seabirds are a distinct species, the Nazca Booby. (The two species have different bill and feet colors and as well as behavioral differences.) To my delight, last February I listed Masked Boobies in Florida's Dry Tortugas. At the time I was disappointed the Florida birds were not new for my list. What a lovely present from eBird--a new bird--and a great example of why birders should keep complete lists--not just the new ones in life lists or year lists--of the birds they encounter.

Nazca Boobies practice obligate siblicide. They lay two eggs, but the elder chick always pushes the younger sibling out of the nest. The parents do not intervene. Only if the first egg fails to hatch, does the younger sibling survive. This behavior has been linked to high levels of testosterone and androgens in the hatchlings (Wikipedia).

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