The Wilson Ornithological Society (WOS) is an international scientific society comprising community members who share a curiosity about birds. The WOS produces the quarterly Wilson Journal of Ornithology as the latest iteration of scientific journal publication supported by the Society since 1888. The WOS is committed to providing
mentorship to both professional and amateur ornithologists through sponsorship of research, teaching, and conservation. Find us on wilsonsociety.org, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@WilsonOrnithSoc).
There is a new issue of The Wilson Journal of Ornithology now online! What makes the publication of this issue particularly exciting is that it is the official June 2022 issue (Volume 134, #2). After extensive hard work by our editorial team and our partners at Allen Press, as well as authors, reviewers, and many others, our venerable peer-reviewed journal has at last caught up from the publication delays that began with the untimely death of former Acting Editor Mary Bomberger Brown in 2019.
Remember, WOS members can access the journal for free online (see access instructions here—as of this writing, the new issue is not yet available on the Allen Press site, but it should be very soon) and receive a 50% discount on author page charges. We thank you for your patience and support and hope you will enjoy perusing this issue, which includes papers on everything from cowbird bill-wiping to how birds respond to flooding in the Amazon!
Each annual meeting of the Wilson Ornithological Society opens with a plenary by the recipient of that year’s Margaret Morse Nice Medal. We are delighted to announce that this year, the medal winner and lecturer is Chris Rimmer of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies. Dr. Rimmer’s plenary lecture will be titled “Bicknell’s Thrush: Scientific surprises and conservation connections across the hemisphere.” More details will be forthcoming in the next few weeks, but please join us congratulating Dr. Rimmer—we look forward to his talk in Santa Fe!
Among the most ubiquitous sounds of summer in North America, the vocal acrobatics of the Northern House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) bring joy to many. Males in this species return to my study area from migration in early spring, settle on a territory, and begin to build a crude, cup-shaped nest of twigs in any suitable cavity-like hole they can find. And they sing. Upon territory establishment and throughout the entire nesting cycle, male House Wrens produce varied, complex, and abundant song (Johnson 2014). Like many species in which members of only one sex produce such vocalizations, there is solid evidence that song in House Wrens is sexually selected. Male song is more elaborate than female song (Johnson 2014), male song incites aggressiveness when played in the territory of other males (DiSciullo, Thompson, and Sakaluk 2019), and females are attracted to areas without males when a recorded male song is played (Johnson and Searcy 1996). All of these features of House Wren song strongly suggest that it functions in both male-male competition and female mate choice, the two mechanisms of sexual selection.
Each year, the Wilson Ornithological Society offers five categories of research grants. The projects awarded funding this year span many aspects of avian biology and will involve field work throughout North America and beyond. Congratulations to all of the grant recipients for 2022!
In the field, bird researchers regularly encounter raptor pellets, which are regurgitated clumps of indigestible animal material such as fur, feather, and bones. However, where multiple species of similar-sized raptors occur, it can be hard to tell which species produced a pellet based on the pellet’s appearance alone. After field seasons spent on two Nova Scotian islands collecting raptor pellets as part of a study on predation on seabirds, one sample of pellets raised our eyebrows. The pellets we collected from an island known to host Great Horned Owls were small, about half the size of a computer mouse; those we collected from another island were huge — easily four times the size. We speculated about what could have disgorged such a monstrosity. Could it have been a Snowy Owl? Probably not, given the similar size of the two owls. An eagle? Seemed more likely, but how could we know for sure? Thus, we became interested in developing a way to identify bird species producing pellets based on residual environmental DNA (eDNA). We suspected DNA in pellets could come from a bird’s digestive tract cells, leaving behind a genetic signature in the field telling us “Who puked?”