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Crowned-Pigeons: Big, Beautiful, Threatened

Imagine a pigeon the size of a Turkey Vulture or a Canada Goose! Meet the crowned-pigeon. Four species inhabit the large, equatorial island of New Guinea and a few smaller islands. Crowned-pigeons are forest birds and fruit-eaters, with iridescent purple chests and spectacular, tall, lacy crests... read more »

Topics & Themes:  evolution

Pterodactyls and Birds

Pterosaurs—the giant, leathery flying creatures of the age of the dinosaurs—were giant reptiles, NOT dinosaurs. The pterosaurs had slim bodies and thin-walled, lightweight bones, ideal for flying. They thrived for 160 million years, passing into history after the same asteroid strike that... read more »

Topics & Themes:  evolution, science

Rapid Evolution in the Galápagos Islands

Scientists have long thought that new species took a very long time to emerge. This thinking has now changed dramatically. On an island in the Galápagos, researchers Rosemary and Peter Grant discovered that a hybrid union of two distinct species of finch produced descendants different from any of... read more »

Topics & Themes:  evolution

Why Do Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers Look So Similar?

Generations of birders have puzzled over how to tell Downy Woodpeckers from Hairy Woodpeckers. The two species’ patterns of black and white feathers are so alike that it was long thought they were the closest of relatives. The two live in similar woods, nest in similar trees, and eat many of the... read more »

Topics & Themes:  evolution

Just What Are Flamingos?

Few birds are as distinctive as flamingos. Scientists once grouped flamingos with storks and ibises. But a study of flamingo DNA delivered a stunning surprise: their closest living relatives appear to be grebes. And an even bigger surprise: DNA indicates that flamingos and grebes share an... read more »

Topics & Themes:  evolution

Hummingbird Bills and Heliconia Flowers

These Purple-throated Caribs live on many of the Antillean Islands in the Caribbean. The female’s bill is long and deeply curved. The male’s is shorter and straighter. And this one species of bird has a specialized relationship with two different species of flowering Heliconia plants. When... read more »

Topics & Themes:  ecology, evolution, science