Subscribe to BirdNote

Sign up to receive a weekly email preview of the following week's shows!

Sign Up
Support BirdNote

Help BirdNote tell more stories, reach more people, and inspire action.


You are here

Spark Bird: A Lifetime in Science

Making small discoveries led to a lifetime as a scientist

When he was just a kid, Gordon Orians kept notebooks about the birds he saw. And then he realized he could make discoveries – he could add to the body of knowledge and contribute to science. That opened a whole new world to him, and he has spent the rest of his life studying birds and the natural world.

Full Transcript



Spark Bird: A Lifetime in Science

Written by Mark Bramhill

AA: This is BirdNote.

GO: I'm Gordon Orians. I'm a professor emeritus of biology at the University of Washington.

I actually got involved with birds as a kid. I have little notebooks going back to when I was five or so. Three robins, two Song Sparrows...

We lived close to the Lake Michigan shore, and I would go down on my bike before and after school to birdwatch. Along the lakeshore, there was a big flat area that was just grown up with weeds. And it was a wonderful place for Spotted Sandpipers to breed, and they were all over there.

[Spotted Sandpiper LNS#___]

I would find the nests and count the eggs and just make general observations. And I determined that the incubation period was 21 days. Then I looked in the literature, and it said it was 16 days. And I realized that I could actually make discoveries. I think that was very powerful to me as a kid. I then appreciated that science is just not a bunch of facts; science is a way you learn about the world.

[Spotted Sandpiper LNS#___]

When I see one now, they remind me of this important time, the role they played in my development as a scientist.

AA: Gordon went on to spend his life studying birds, making many more discoveries. You can find out more at BirdNote Dot Org.

Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Sallie Bodie
Managing Producer: Jason Saul
Editor: Ashley Ahearn
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
Assistant Producer: Mark Bramhill
Narrator: Ashley Ahearn
Music: Hiddensee, by CEEYS
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York.
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2019 BirdNote   October 2019

ID#  sparkbird-03-2019-10-14    sparkbird-03

Sights & Sounds