SCIENCE IN THE NEWS DAILY
Records of Birds from a Time Gone By
from the San Francisco Chronicle
At first glance, the contents of the 15 glass jars in Sam Droege's collection do not look like much--bivalve shells, twigs, a fishhook. But they hint at a story that would fill a vast ornithological library. In fact, they once did.
The jars are the remnants of the federal government's first major study of birds. From 1885 to the 1940s, scientists from the Division of Economic Ornithology in the U.S. Agriculture Department dissected at least 230,000 bird stomachs. The aim was to determine which species were helping farmers and which were harmful.
To do so, the government scientists went out shooting and recruited local hunters to donate birds' innards to science. At the dissection table, the scientists recorded the stomach contents of each bird in meticulous detail--for one mallard duck, a scientist estimated that it had eaten 72,710 seeds from various plants--and preserved many of them in jars at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland.
Subscribe to Our Content!
Visit our RSS Feeds page to choose among 13 customized feeds, or create a free My AmSci account to request an email notice whenever a specified author, department or discipline appears online.
A free daily summary of the latest news in scientific research. Each story is summarized concisely and linked directly to the original source for further reading.
An early peek at each new issue, with descriptions of feature articles, columns,
and more. Every other issue contains links to everything in the latest issue's table of contents.
News of book reviews published in
and around the web, as well as other noteworthy happenings in the world of science books.
To sign up for automatic emails of the
Update and Scientists' Nightstand issues, create an
online profile, then sign up in the
My AmSci area.
Science in the Media
Magazines and Web Sites:
The Science-Media Intersection: