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 Brian Myers



I've Got 99 Problems but a Bird Ain't One

Posted by Brian on May 12, 2017 at 5:20 PM

I’m in the homestretch! The transect is finished-it officially runs from Arcata, CA to Florence, OR, gradually shifting smoothly from an Allen’s-like phenotype in the south to a Rufous-like phenotype in the north. Over the next couple weeks, I’ll be posting a lot of pictures and a few videos that show what it is I’m doing out here-videos of how I catch birds and the data I gather. All of them were taken over the last few months. It’s been a successful trip, as I accomplished sampling for phylogeography and finished the coastal transect of the hybrid zone. Next year, the goal will be to find out how far it extends inland, as migratory Allen’s Hummingbird is a strictly coastal species in northern California and southern Oregon, with Rufous found both inland and along the coast throughout Oregon.

Here’s a summary of my travel over the last several weeks: it all started in Los Angeles County, shifted to Santa Barbara, then to San Luis Obispo, Monterey, Mendocino, Humboldt County, Del Norte County, southern Oregon, central Oregon, and will end either in Bandon, Oregon (in the center of the hybrid zone) or inland as I might search for some hybrid populations to get a head start on next year.

Most people know that a lot of birds migrate, but how do they do it? It’s pretty amazing to think something weighing three grams can fly thousands of miles over a short period of time, back and forth from Mexico as far north as Alaska and Canada, year in and year out, like the Rufous Hummingbird does. Although there might be some movement from year to year depending on mating success in the previous year and the presence of adequate resources, birds often return to the same population for the mating season, which is how populations, such as the hybrid hummingbird populations I’m studying, can be compared to each other at the genetic and phenotypic level. They don’t live there year-round, but migrate in and out of the area every year! Birds are able to use the stars, the sun, the Earth’s magnetic field, topography, and odor to figure out both how to find their mating grounds and how to return where they came from. Experiments have shown that, because sometimes information is complete or unavailable (such as overcast nights or an inability to detect the sun), birds can also get lost using other cues.

In a week or so, the cold temperatures and rainy weather will have to wait until next year to come around again, while I work on presenting and publishing all of this data. Thanks for checking in!

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