Guest Post: Plumage Inheritance and the Identification of a Ghostly Warbler

This post was contributed by Ethan Gyllenhaal, co-author of a paper in a recent issue of the The Wilson Journal of Ornithology documenting the unusual warbler hybrid described here.

Before I started down the academic path of ornithology, I was a birder with an appetite for difficult bird IDs. I loved the challenge of identifying the gulls that wintered along the shores of Lake Michigan, where I grew up. With so much variation within gull species and such subtle differences between species, each individual was a new puzzle. One complication is that many species of gull regularly mate with each other, producing intermediate hybrids. The strict definition of a species I learned in high school, which said different species never interbred, was clearly an oversimplification. I regularly saw rarer hybrids between distinct species (e.g., Herring x Great Black-backed Gull) and challenging individuals that were the products of hybrids swarms (i.e., Iceland Gulls). My fascination with the complexity of this phenomenon led to my desire to track down hybrids I’d never seen before, as I would any other new life bird.

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Guest Post: A Closer Look at Scrub-Jay Habitat

This post was contributed by Meredith Heather, a Research Assistant in the Avian Ecology lab at Archbold Biological Station and a 2020 WOS Research Grant recipient.

a photo of a florida scrub-jay, a blue, gray, and white bird
A Florida Scrub-Jay perches in a sand live oak, taking a break from foraging to scan for predators. Photo by Meredith Heather.

Growing up, I enjoyed watching birds feeding and bathing in the backyard. It wasn’t until after I took an ornithology course that I became more interested in watching their behaviors and learning about individual species. As the years passed, I became increasingly aware of the differences in their habitat preferences, habitat use, movement, and ecological significance. When I decided to pursue a master’s degree, I wanted a research project that would allow me incorporate habitat use, because understanding how animals utilize their habitats is necessary in supporting management and policy decisions. Conducting research at Archbold Biological Station (Archbold) with Florida Scrub-Jays provided me an opportunity to do just that.

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Upcoming Event on Ornithology Careers Outside Academia

On October 22 at 4 pm EDT, the Wilson Ornithological Society and the Association of Field Ornithologists will be hosting the first of a series of quarterly virtual events held via Zoom for students and early professionals. The inaugural event, a panel discussion on “Careers in Ornithology and Avian Conservation Outside the Academy” moderated by WOS 2nd Vice President Auriel Fournier, will include discussion from the panelists on what their jobs in ornithology and avian conservation look like, what they find rewarding, and what skill sets they use. There will also be time for questions so everyone can learn more about these career paths. Please register in advance using the link below. We hope to see you there!

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