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The Science of Birds

A weekly Birds, Nature and Science podcast featuring Ivan Phillipsen
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Episodes of The Science of Birds

Ecologists and ornithologists have been studying the effects of wildfire on bird populations all over the world. Their research has resulted in many fascinating discoveries about the relationships between fire and birds.Wildfires have been in t
This is a special episode, and the first of its kind. I answer questions from my listeners. It’s a fun, mixed bag of bird factoids.Who were these lucky people who got to contribute to this episode? The specific listeners who submitted questions
This episode is about the seven bird species in the family Cathartidae: the New World vultures and condors.This group includes species like the Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, and Andean Condor.Among these birds are some that people celebrate, o
Birds, probably more than any other aerial creatures, have amazed and inspired us with the grace and power of their flight. So just how do they do it?In this episode, we'll look at the physics and anatomy of bird flight.I’ll start off with the
This episode is all about penguins. All penguins belong to the family Spheniscidae.Penguins are among the most bizarre and specialized birds in the world. Few other birds represent such a departure from what we think of as the standard avian mo
In this episode, we’re going to look at wetlands as habitats for birds.We’ll start with how to recognize—how to define—a wetland ecosystem. Then, we’ll get into why these ecosystems are so important to birds. How do birds use wetlands as habita
This episode is all about the bird species in the genus Geococcyx. There are only two: the Greater Roadrunner and the Lesser Roadrunner. People in North America have revered the Greater Roadrunner for thousands of years. This bird features prom
eBird is a digital archive of bird observations. It’s a database of observations from across the planet. eBird users connect to the database via the Internet, to both contribute data and access data.In this episode, we’ll start off by going ove
This episode is all about birds in the family Columbidae. These are all the world’s many species of pigeons and doves.These birds are more exotic and interesting than many of us give them credit for. This is a widespread, diverse group that has
Alaska is a truly amazing place that is still dominated by nature. It’s a wonderful region to explore for anyone who loves birds and charismatic megafauna. Many of Alaska’s vast natural areas are relatively intact. They offer endless opportunit
The Shoebill is a tall, gray bird that appears more dinosaur-like than most members of the class Aves. You aren’t likely to confuse it with any other bird. It possesses a unique and impressive combination of size, color, and bill shape.The Shoe
We hear the terms ‘artificial intelligence’ and ‘AI’ all the time these days. Beyond the issue of evil robots taking over the world, AI technology is helping scientists do some pretty amazing things in the field of ornithology.In this episode,
New World Warblers are all the birds in the family Parulidae. You’ll sometimes hear these birds referred to as ‘Wood-Warblers.’New World Warblers are among the most celebrated and sought after birds in North America. We love them here. They’re
This episode is all about how birds choose their mates and the evolutionary outcomes of those choices.A lot of what we’re talking about today has to do with sexual selection, which is a special form of natural selection. In sexual selection, in
Birds in the family Scolopacidae include all the world’s sandpipers and birds such as godwits, curlews, snipes, dowitchers, willets, stints, and more.We know these as familiar ‘shorebirds.’ They haunt coastal habitats from autumn through spring
Our understanding of bird brains and intelligence has grown tremendously in the last couple decades.Thanks to countless scientific studies, we now know that many bird species are highly intelligent. Some of them perform better than primates, do
The Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus) is a charming bird found in the arid southwest of the United States, as well as in Mexico and down to southern South America.This bright red flycatcher is a favorite of birders and bird photograph
Join Ivan as he wades into the conservation quagmire surrounding house cats and their effects on wild birds.First, we’ll look at the status of house cat and feral cat populations around the world. How are all these free-ranging cats affecting o
All about the ‘true’ finches, the species belonging to the family Fringillidae. These small songbirds are found in many places around the world. Most of them specialize in eating seeds. Not every bird we commonly call ‘finch’ is a member of thi
Winter can be a cold, dark time when food is scarce. Birds fight to stay alive during this season by using a variety of behavioral and physiological adaptations. Many of these are the same things you and I would do. But birds also have some ama
Kingfishers—all the birds in the family Alcedinidae—are the focus of this episode. There are many species of these charismatic birds living across the world.Learn about their key features, global distribution, evolution, feeding, and more.~~ Le
Despite much of human civilization grinding to a halt in 2020, research on birds continued to be published in scientific journals.Through this research, we learned many new things about our avian friends. In this episode, let’s look at 5 intere
This episode focuses on the biological family Anatidae. This family includes the over 150 species of ducks, geese, and swans in the world. First, we highlight the key features shared by these birds, as well as some differences among them. We al
Sometimes birds of many feathers flock together. Mixed-species foraging flocks are seen in forests all across the world. Different combinations of species are found in each region.First, we talk about what mixed-species flocks look and act like
This episode is all about the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), of the family Falconidae.Learn about this incredible bird's key features, its global diversity, feeding behavior, and more.Links of InterestShort video about Peregrine FalconsPe
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