Image by Jeanne Church, picturewalks.org – Blue Jay
February Program: BIRDS WITH WORDS - EXPLORING AN EVOLUTIONARY ARMS RACE BETWEEN YELLOW WARBLERS AND BROWN-HEADED COWBIRDS
There may not exist a bird species more controversial and divisive than the Brown-headed Cowbird. It would be difficult to find a Facebook birding group without some form of slander against these birds and nearly every birder you meet will have a strong opinion of them, either positive or negative. Cowbirds have been painted as a villains because of their brood parasitic breeding strategy in which they forgo the building of their own nests and care of their own offspring in favor of leaving their eggs in other “host” birds’ nests and letting other birds raise their young. In her talk, Karla hopes to convince you that these host birds are not helpless and that, despite their reputation, cowbirds are as brilliant, fascinating, and worthy of our adoration as any other bird.
Our speaker for February, is Karla Kelly, MS a Ph.D. Student in Dr. Gill’s Sound Ecology Lab in the Department of Biological Sciences, at Western Michigan University. Karla will explore the evolutionary arms race, or reciprocal adaptations, between cowbirds and their most common host, Yellow Warblers. We will see how the Yellow Warblers have a “word” for cowbirds, explore the world of bird words, and consider the role of cognition in host-parasite interactions.
Karla began studying cowbirds and Yellow Warblers as a master’s student in 2021 and continues this work in 2023 as a first-year Ph.D. student. While her master’s research focused on the cognition of referential calling, her Ph.D. research will dive deeper into the evolutionary origins of brood parasite-specific alarm calling and will test the evolutionary plasticity and adaptability of this unique behavior.
We hope you'll join us on Monday, February 26, at People's Church, 1758 North 10th Street, Kalamazoo. Come at 7:00 PM for some refreshments and socializing. Snacks and beverages will be provided. The one-hour program will start at 7:30. Masks are recommended but not required in the church. Handicap parking and access are at either the front or the rear entrance.
We will have a simultaneous Zoom link to the meeting for those who can’t make it or feel uncomfortable as yet to attend in person. This link will be emailed shortly before the meeting. We will also be recording the meeting for later viewing.