A handbook of British birds, showing the distribution of the resident and migratory species in the British islands, with an index to the records of the rarer visitants

By Harting, James Edmund, 1841-1928

Publication info London,J.C. Nimmo,1901.

Contributing Library: American Museum of Natural History Library

Sponsor: Biodiversity Heritage Library


“Follow the rainbow to my door….”  The male Satin Bowerbird, an Australian species endemic to the rainforests of the East Coast regions of the mainland and Tasmania, constructs an intricate ‘bower’ on which to display, dance and attract a mate. All bowerbird species do this, however the Satin variety has a penchant for indigo blue and collects all kinds of objects in various shades of this colour to decorate the bower with. The male Satin bowerbird’s plumage has an iridescent sheen in this colour, and the female, whilst having spotted beige plumage, has a striking eye colour in this same indigo shade as well. Male bowerbirds spend an extraordinary amount of effort and time adorning their bowers, arranging and re-arranging objects around it’s entrance as seen in the above photo examples.


Every few years, these behind-the-scenes photos of our National Museum of Natural History go viral. 

With less than one percent of the museum’s collection on display at any given time, we need a lot of drawers. 

These images, captured over the course of almost 20 years, show the vastness and variety of specimens in storage but also represent very active science that goes on at the museum. What do we do with all those birds? They allow researchers to study a species’ variability, to learn how environments change over time, and to access raw data for continual investigation as the field advances. 

The Story Behind Those Jaw-Dropping Photos of the Collections at the Natural History Museum by @smithsonianmag

Poisonous Birds in Papua New Guinea and a Very Baffling Story of Evolution
They secrete batrachotoxin through their feathers, which is one of the world's most deadly poisons.

Secreted from the glands of poison dart frogs in South America, batrachotoxin is fatal at a dosage of just 0.1 milligrams. That’s equivalent to around two grains of table salt. After exposure, the toxin jams open the ion channels in its victim’s nervous system, forcing muscles to fire continuously. In around 10 minutes, the heart and lungs will seize.

Batrachotoxin just about the most potent toxin on the planet. But killing power aside, the most compelling thing about batrachotoxin is how it reveals large holes in our understanding of evolution.

In 1989, a graduate student from the University of Chicago named Jack Dumbacher was studying birds of paradise in Papua New Guinea. He was trying to catch them in nets but kept getting another bird, called a pitohui, instead.

“So I had two or three in a net and was pulling them out, and they scratched my hand,” he recalled over the phone. “I licked my cuts and instantly felt my tongue start to tingle and burn. After a moment it went numb and I thought Hey, maybe I shouldn’t have done that.”…


Artist Jane Kim has just completed painting a 3,000-square-foot mural on the wall of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Visitor Center in Ithaca, New York, that depicts the evolution of birds.

The mural features winged representatives from each of the world’s 243 families of modern birds, painted to scale on a massive world map on the 70-foot by 40-foot wall. As well as birds, which evolved 150 million years ago, it also includes 27 dinosaurs and prehistoric beasts that are ancestors of birds.

Article Here.

Woodpeckers are Hardcore

To prevent damage to the brain caused by the rapid and repeated impacts, woodpeckers have evolved several adaptations to protect the brain: it is small sized, orientations within the skull are such in order to maximize the area of contact with the skull and the brevity of contact. In the millisecond before each impact, a membrane covers the eye, protecting against shrapnel. The nostrils are small gaps and have special feathers to cap them. Thus, the woodpecker are capable of repeatedly pecking the wood of a tree, suffering deceleration in the order of 10,000 m/s. 



You are looking at the first-ever photos of a male moustached kingfisher!

Chris Filardi is director of Pacific Programs at the Museum’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation. This month, he’s blogging from the remote highlands of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, where he is surveying endemic biodiversity and working with local partners to create a protected area. He writes, “In the western Pacific, first among these ghost species is the moustached kingfisher (currently classified as Actenoides bougainvillei excelsus), a bird I have sought for nearly 20 years. Described by two female specimens brought to collectors by local hunters in the 1920s, the bird has only been glimpsed in the wild once. Scientists have never observed a male. Its voice and habits are poorly known. Given its history of eluding detection, realistic hopes of finding the bird were slim.

Until on our third morning we heard an unmistakable “ko-ko-ko-kokokokokokokoko-kiew” of a bird that could only be a large forest kingfisher. We paused, waited for what seemed like eternity, and then heard another cry from the mossy forest. It had to be the bird.

Within moments our eyes caught movement: a large shadow of wings and a thick body abruptly stopped in a tangle. Our recordist Frank Lambert saw the bird first and called me over. There in plain sight pumping its tail, crest alert, in full colors, was the moustached kingfisher. And then, like a ghost, it was gone.”

But not for long! Read the full blog post.

Look at today’s Google doodle. Google is celebrating the 85th birthday of the late Phoebe Snetsinger, an american birder famous for having seen and documented birds of over 8,398 different species by the time of her death, at the time, more than anyone else in history. This was 85% of the known species in the world. Snetsinger recounts her experiences in her autobiography Birding on Borrowed Time.


Can you identify the species in these photos from Malheur National Wildlife Refuge? Follow @nprskunkbear and the hashtag #FlockupyMalheur on twitter for fun facts about these birds.

Most of the images come from Flickr user Dan Dzurisin - he has lots of amazing wildlife photography on his page. The landscape comes from Flickr user Mathew Foster.

Other images:

Why is the refuge occupied by armed militants? Read all about it here.


Natural History of Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fish, Marine Life, Insects ; By Jonstonus, Joannes, 1603-1675 Bayer, Frederick M., Burndy Library, Godman, Frederick Du Cane, 1834-1919 Jonstonus, Joannes, 1603-1675
Via Flickr:
Publication info Francofurti ad Moenum: Impensis haeredum Type: Meriani, MDCL-MDCLIII [1650-1653] 

BHL Collections: Smithsonian Libraries