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ESRM 456 . Biology and Conservation of Birds John Marzluff 123E Anderson 206 616 6883 Course Web Page. Web site Follow links to ornithology (field and lecture) Class email list

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esrm 456

ESRM 456

Biology and Conservation of Birds

John Marzluff

123E Anderson

206 616 6883

course web page
Course Web Page
  • Web site
      • Follow links to ornithology (field and lecture)
  • Class email list
    • Important to monitor your u. account for announcements related to class notes, etc.
assignments and grading
Assignments and Grading
  • CRITICAL THOUGHT EXERCISES (100 Points). Throughout the quarter I will provide materials for you to evaluate (e.g., conservation plans, scientific papers, etc) and discuss. Each student will turn in a 1 page summary of their review and discussion. There will be 5 assignments worth 20 points each.
  • MIDTERM EXAM (100 Points). My exams include long essay and discussion problems. The midterm will include all material covered up to that point and will be a take-home exam.
  • FINAL EXAM (DEC 17, 830am, Wink 201; 200 Points). The final exam will be comprehensive.
  • RESEARCH PAPER (due NOVEMBER 30; 100 Points). You can choose the topic of your choice that involves bird biology or conservation and write a research paper that reviews and synthesizes the relevant scientific literature. Pose questions for future study. No more than 5 pages in length (double spaced), not including references or tables/figures.
why birds
Why Birds?
  • Taste great
  • Look nice
  • Culturally important
  • Useful in sport and work
  • Interesting and everywhere
  • Need active conservation
subsistence among native peoples
Subsistence Among Native Peoples

Harvest of arctic birds: early 20th century


Starting in the 1840s…

“Doc Robinson came west to start a theatre company but soon discovered more money was to be made by stealing. He plundered eggs from the common murres nesting at the Farallons and sold them for $1.75 a dozen. The Farallon Egg Company was soon formed and every May through July ten to fifteen men gathered, packaged, shipped and sold the eggs. During the early days 600,000 eggs were taken per year; an estimated 14 million eggs were removed in a 40-year period. The original murre population of a half million was reduced to several thousand by the turn of the century.”

From, M. Ellis. History of the Farallon Islands: an essay

Egging on SE Farallon Island,



Laysan & Black-footed

Albatross eggs being harvested

on Midway Island. Early

20th century.

they are reliable
They are Reliable

Raven saving Elijah

Swiss Army with carrier pigeons

Early 19th century


They are diverse and everywhere
    • 9700 species in world
    • 650 in US and Canada
hawaiian drepanids splendid isolation
Hawaiian Drepanids--Splendid Isolation
  • Adaptive Radiation
    • Single ancestor, radiation in bill shape to exploit variety of resources
  • Convergent Evolution
    • Bill shape converges with mainland species utilizing similar resources (hummingbirds, grossbeaks)
hawaiian drepanids deadly isolation
Hawaiian Drepanids--Deadly Isolation
  • Extinction and Endangerment due to lack of resistance to exotics
    • humans, mosquitoes, rodents
  • Trophic Cascade Effects
    • loss of pollinators leads to plant endangerment
important early players
Important Early Players

John J. Audubon



John Townsend

Alexander Wilson


development of academic ornithology
Development of Academic Ornithology

Cornell University-Lab of O


Joseph Grinnell

Alden Miller

T. Howell- D. Manuwal

Frank Pitelka- S. West

Ned Johnson

Charles Sibley

Robert Storer

Arthur Allen

Olin Pettingill

George Sutton

Ludlow Grissom

John Emlen

U. Illinois

Charles Kendeigh – Russell Balda – J. Marzluff

typical avian features
Typical avian features

1. feathers

2. unique skull

single occipital condyle

cranial kinesis

bills without teeth (in modern birds)

gizzard (grinding or storage-crop)

3. hollow bones, many fusions

4. eggs

5. chambered heart

6. homeothermic, rapid BMR

7. lungs and air sacs

8. highly developed brain and nervous system

early evolution and radiation of birds
Early Evolution and Radiation of Birds
  • Mesozoic era—age of reptiles
  • Birds evolved from reptiles
    • Archaeopteryx 150 my in Jurasic
but from which reptiles
But From Which Reptiles?
  • All agree birds came from Archosaurs (thecodonts and their derivatives), but which group?
  • Crocodylia (crocs and gators)
  • Saurischia (reptile hip dinos)
  • Ornithischia (bird hip dinos)
  • Pterosauria (flying reptiles)
  • Thecodontia (ancestral group)

Hypotheses abound as to whether birds evolved from basal thecodonts, saurischians (which gave rise to carnivorous therapods as is shown in above diagram), or crocodylia

recent evalution of alternative hypotheses james and pourtless 2009 ornithological monographs no 66
Recent Evalution of Alternative Hypotheses (James and Pourtless (2009, Ornithological Monographs No. 66)

Dogma: birds are maniraptoran,

theropod dinosaurs (BMT)

  • Maybe birds are early derivatives from archosaurs, crocs, products of multiple evolution
  • Maybe maniraptorans are birds not dinosaurs!
at present the origin of birds is an open question james and pourtless 2009
“At present the origin of birds is an open question.” (James and Pourtless 2009)
  • Three hypotheses cannot be distinguished
    • Early archosaur, crocodillian, or theropod ancestors are all still in running
    • Support for the notion that some maniraptorans are birds more derived than Archaeopteryx
    • Little progress recently because theropod origin has taken the status of dogma and only received verifactionist approach to “testing” rather than falsificationist approach, which science demands.