for the birds collective

In the ornithology class at U of M, the students are about learn all about color! Bird plumage comes in every color of the rainbow, from the mousiest browns to the brightest oranges. The different hues and tones also have a world of purposes for helping birds to survive, including camouflaging with every habitat available, attracting the finest mates, and even warning less dominant birds who the boss is around here.

While the pigments and structures that make these gorgeous colors may be different, the result is a beautiful, endless array of birds that are diverse enough to keep anyone hooked for a lifetime.

Photo credit: Ash Boudrie

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On many of our skulls, you might notice there are small rings of bone in the eye sockets. These are sclerotic rings, and they’re found in many species of bird. It’s thought that these rings, which are also found in many species of reptiles, amphibians, and fish, can help stabilize an animal’s eyeballs. They may also help to keep particularly large eyeballs from straining themselves while the animal is trying to focus its sight on something.

Photo credit: Mary Margaret Ferraro

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Northern Bobwhites (Colinus virginianus) do everything in life on the ground. The feed on the ground, they nest on the ground; honestly, it’s a bit amazing that they bother with wings anymore. This means that these birds have to blend into the litter layers of North American grasslands. The female, like in many species, does a much better job of blending in. But where they are a buff color, males have bright white instead.

This taxidermy display does a great job incorporating animal behavior and landscape knowledge to show off these birds’ lives. The male is standing for the world to see, the female is almost hidden by the colors of the surrounding plants. Taxidermy displays can be such a great educational tool, and it’s always great to find more hiding away in our cabinets! 

Photo credit: Ash Boudrie

For those of you registered American voters out there reading this, I have an entire drawer of Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) today as a reminder for you to go and vote.

While it is a myth that Benjamin Franklin suggested a turkey as our national bird, he did comment that a turkey may be more appropriate than a Bald Eagle, which Franklin thought was “a Bird of bad moral Character.”

Make these turkeys of excellent character proud, and if you can, please go and vote. Many local museums need your vote to pass proposals that can help them with their budgets, with repairs and expansions, and sometimes with just staying open. Make your voice heard, and support your local dead things!

Photo credit: Ash Boudrie

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Have you ever thought that a chicken could be beautiful? The domestic chicken is thought to have been domesticated from birds of the Gallus genus, the Junglefowl. Many species of Junglefowl were domesticated, bred, and hybridized throughout Asia, then spreading across the world to become an integral part of farms, families, and diets in so many cultures! This particular subspecies of Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus murghi) is found in India and Bangladesh, and the incredible colors of its feathers shouldn’t be overlooked simply because of how familiar most of us are with its domestic cousin.

Photo credit: Ash Boudrie

May the anime/manga fans of the world have a collection like mine or bigger.

I hope that this pile will continue to grow for years to come. 

My favourite Roman emperor is Severus Alexander because he really loved birds and collected lots of different species, including 20 000 turtle doves which he kept in a special, big imperial dovecote, only he felt bad for making the people pay for his bird obsession with their taxes so he set up the dovecote to be self-sufficient and sold eggs and dove poo and used the money to pay for food to feed his birds, and if that’s not the best abuse of dictatorial power you’ve ever heard I don’t know what is

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The Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) is the smallest owl in Michigan. In fact, they’re so tiny, they’ll actually split a mouse between two meals. While their small stature might seem to be a disadvantage, these small bundle of fluff are incredibly well suited to cold weather, living in Michigan throughout the year. Only some populations migrating south for the winter, as researchers have learned through tracking them more consistently since the 1990s.

Photo credit: Ash Boudrie

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When working with teeny, tiny bones, the worst thing imaginable is losing track of which jaw belongs with which skull. For this reason, a specimen number is written on every bone possible. This means a lot of incredibly delicate work for some of UMMZ’s volunteers, who use a steady hand, a very thin pen, and some excellent penmanship to keep every bone sorted properly.

This Tawny Owl (Strix aluco) must have been difficult to label. Just look at those skull sections! Some of the surfaces aren’t much wider than a needle.

Photo credit: Mary Margaret Ferraro