Bird is the Word at KU

Twelve Osage Trails Master Naturalists journeyed over to Kansas University in Lawrence on February 15 to visit the ornithology collections at the Biodiversity Institute.  Our host for the tour was Mark Robbins, Collection Manager for the Ornithology Department.

Our tour commenced in a room where there was some new specimen processing going on.  Mark explained how the birds were skinned and a wooden rod and cotton were inserted to give the bird some shape.  Tissue samples are saved during the process.  Most bird specimens are then stored in drawers in large cabinets since that's the easiest way to accomodate more than 107,000 specimens!  

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Here's a close-up of the tail of a subadult Red-tailed Hawk.  It still has some of the barring of an immature, but is looking more like the red tail of an adult.

Below is probably the most awesome drawer in the collection!  It contains the extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Eskimo Curlew, Guam Rail, Carolina Parakeet, Passenger Pigeon, and Heath Hen among others.  We were all amazed to see the birds we'll never see alive again.  Well….unless someone figures out how to clone them from tissue from the likes of these guys.  Might be possible in the future - who knows - but it wouldn't be feasible to bring back some of these birds due to the loss of their habitat.

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Remember the Snowy Owl irruption the winter of 2011 - 2012?  Here's where many of those owls that starved to death or were hit by cars ended up.  Mark will soon be publishing his findings from studying these owls.  He showed us the differences in size and markings between the males and females.

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Below is a whole drawer full of resplendent birds from not around here!  Lilac-breasted Rollers from sub-Saharan Africa are absolutely lovely.

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Elegant Trogons are a rare and highly sought after birder's delight in southern Arizona.

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Great field trip and learning experience visiting KU!  Many thanks to Mark Robbins for taking time out to show us around the newly-remodeled ornithology lab.  Afterwards, we all wandered around the rest of the Natural History Museum.  So much to see and learn!

© Osage Trails Chapter Missouri Master Naturalist 2012-2021 ~ All Photographs © Osage Trails Members