69 episodes

The Science of Birds is a lighthearted exploration of bird biology. It's a fun resource for any birder or naturalist who wants to learn more about ornithology. Impress your birding friends at cocktail parties with all of your new bird knowledge! Hosted by Ivan Phillipsen, a passionate naturalist with a PhD in Zoology.

The Science of Birds Ivan Phillipsen

    • Science
    • 4.9 • 329 Ratings

The Science of Birds is a lighthearted exploration of bird biology. It's a fun resource for any birder or naturalist who wants to learn more about ornithology. Impress your birding friends at cocktail parties with all of your new bird knowledge! Hosted by Ivan Phillipsen, a passionate naturalist with a PhD in Zoology.

    Bird Bones: The Avian Skeleton

    Bird Bones: The Avian Skeleton

    This episode—which is Number 69—is all about the avian skeleton. Bird bones.

    So this is an episode about some basic anatomy of birds.

    Bird bones and the avian skeleton are elegant, strong, and rigid. 

    Let’s put on our x-ray goggles, and peer inside the body of a bird, to see what’s going on with all those beautiful bones...


    Links of Interest
    Cranial kinesis in the skull of a Hyacinth Macaw [VIDEO]
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    • 36 min
    Hornbills

    Hornbills

    Today’s episode is number 68. It’s all about the family of birds called Bucerotidae. These are the hornbills.

    Maybe you’ve heard about hornbills and know a few facts about them. Or maybe you’ve never even heard about these birds. Either way, I think you’ll enjoy today’s podcast episode. Hornbills are just so cool!

    The family Bucerotidae includes several dozen hornbill species. But there’s a second, much smaller avian family that contains birds we also call hornbills. The name of that family is Bucorvidae, the ‘ground-hornbills.’ There are only 2 species of ground-hornbills. I’ll be including them in our conversation today too. Besides, until recently, scientists grouped ground-hornbills into the larger Bucerotidae family.

    Hornbill are key players in the tropical ecosystems of both Africa and Asia. There are many fascinating things for us to learn about them.

     Links of Interest
    Hunting the Helmeted Hornbill [VIDEO]Hornbills Pluck Bats Mid-flight [VIDEO]

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    • 50 min
    Awesome Things We Learned About Birds in 2022

    Awesome Things We Learned About Birds in 2022

    This is Episode Number 67. It’s the last episode of 2022, so that means it’s the Annual Review!

    We’re going to look back at 2022, at some of the most interesting scientific studies of birds that were published this year. 

    Will this be a painstakingly thorough review of everything that scientists learned about birds in 2022? 

    No. Not so much. The studies I’m telling you about today—while they did make it into the newsfeed—are just the ones that I found most exciting. Or at least interesting. I decided they’re worth yapping about.


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    Links of Interest
    Cockatoos are in a "cultural arms race" with Sydney residents and their bins [VIDEO]Slow-motion video of woodpeckers hammering into wood [VIDEO]References
    Hummingbird plumage color diversity exceeds the known gamut of all other birdsInnovation and geographic spread of a complex foraging culture in an urban parrotWoodpeckers minimize cranial absorption of shocksThe homogenization of avian morphological and phylogenetic diversity under the global extinction crisisCretaceous ornithurine supports a neognathous crown bird ancestorJuvenile bar-tailed godwit "B6" Sets World RecordAvian neurons consume three times less glucose than mammalian neuronsDeterrence of birds with an artificial predator, the RobotFalconHow woodcocks produce the most brilliant white plumage patches among the birdsLink to this episode on the Science of Birds website
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    • 43 min
    15 Simple (and Several Complicated) Ways You Can Help Birds

    15 Simple (and Several Complicated) Ways You Can Help Birds

    This episode—which is Number 66—is all about the ways you can help birds. How you can make a difference in their conservation.

    It’s one thing to enjoy learning about birds in an objective, scientific way. They’re fascinating organisms.

    But does our interest in the biology of birds also come bundled with a care and concern for them? With warm and fuzzy feelings? 

    I’d say heck yes, it does! For most of us, anyway, including yours truly.

    We want birds out there in the wide world to survive and thrive. For their own intrinsic worth as living beings. 

    But also because of our selfish desire to have them around for us—so we can enjoy them, and take Instagram-worthy photos of them, and write their names down on our lifelists.
     
    Links of Interest
    The Blue Feet FoundationBring Birds Back podcast

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    • 21 min
    Waxwings

    Waxwings

    This is Episode 65, and it’s all about waxwings—birds in the family Bombycillidae.

    The Cedar Waxwing is one species, and there are two others that we’ll talk about.

    These beautiful, elegant songbirds are loved by people across the Northern Hemisphere.

    Waxwings are easy on the eyes, for sure, and that’s great. I mean, personally, I think they’re just about the most gorgeous songbirds we have in North America.

    But their biology is also really interesting. So much of how waxwings live and behave is dictated by what they eat… By their specialized diet.

    What is that special diet? Is it maybe something like scorpions, psychedelic mushrooms, or the blood of their enemies?
     
    Listen and find out!

    Links of Interest
    Cedar-Waxwings getting drunk on Holly Berries [VIDEO]Cedar Waxwing Courtship [VIDEO] 
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    • 43 min
    Bird Habitat: Temperate Grasslands and Prairies

    Bird Habitat: Temperate Grasslands and Prairies

    This episode—which is Number 64—is all about the importance of temperate grasslands as habitat for birds.

    When we say “temperate grasslands,” we mean those generally occurring in the middle latitudes.

    Temperate grasslands exist in several parts of the world. Some of them cover vast areas. Here in North America, we have the Great Plains as a “great” example.

    The steppes of Mongolia and the Pampas of South America are similarly vast temperate grasslands.

    Many, many bird species around the world depend on such grasslands for food and breeding habitat. Among them are raptors, sparrows, blackbirds, larks, pipits, a bunch of South American species in the ovenbird family, Furnariidae… and the list goes on.

    But, unfortunately, temperate grasslands are also among the most threatened ecosystems on the planet. Many of the bird species that call them home are, not surprisingly, also in trouble.

    Today, we’re going to dive into what makes temperate grasslands special, and why they’re so important to birds. I’ll give you several examples of bird species that depend on grassland habitats.

    And we’ll also talk a bit about grassland conservation. Because you know we can’t get through this without a little gloom and doom.

    Links of Interest
    Little Bustard [VIDEO]Grassland Bird TrustAmerican Prairie ReserveThe North American Grasslands Conservation Act
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    • 39 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
329 Ratings

329 Ratings

marketpop ,

Birdie Skeletons

Cool episode…never knew humans shared so many of the same name of bones.

123321Alex123321 ,

Super informative and easy to listen to.

I’m a professional wildlife biologist and I loved learning more details about all kinds of birds! Highly recommend this pod!

youspoer ,

Emu

Excellent podcast on ostriches. I would love to hear one on emus.

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