Birds: singing and honking through the seasons!

One thing that I miss this time of year is birds singing, espcially on my walk into work.  Lately, all I hear is geese honking loudly as they go south!  Birds' ability to sing is one of the things I really appreciate about them.  In fact, our first BirdSleuth module (Most Wanted Birds) starts by kids listening to a bird "dawn chorus" trying to figure out how many species there are.  Bird song is a great clue to bird ID.  But the dawn chorus is a bit of a mystery:  Scientists have often wondered, "why do birds sing so much in the morning?"

My colleague, Karl Berg, a PhD candidate in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at Cornell University, likes waking up early... and it's a good thing! With his wife, Karl took to the tropical forests of Ecuador to find out why so many birds sing at dawn. Karl and his wife spent several months making over 100 hours of recordings synchronized with twilight to find out if the birds had a singing schedule (also called “bio-acoustical” monitoring). Back at Florida International University, Karl identified 130 bird species from the recordings and logged the times of 25,000 songs.

From his field work, Karl discovered that tropical birds begin to sing only when they see light. Big-eyed birds that foraged high in the forest canopy sang earlier while late-rising birds have small eyes and inhabit the dark, dense underbrush. I never even thought about birds having big or little eyes!

As the destruction of tropical forests continue, which affects the quality and quantity of forest light, Karl's research and the continued bio-acoustical monitoring of birds may help us understand more clearly how our interactions with the Earth affect the behaviors and health of other species.
It's all related, isn't it!?!
See the full article that inspired me to think about this at:
Happy Honking!
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