This week when I went in to the Bird Collection, I decided to pull out a tray of hummingbirds that had caught my eye on a previous visit. The little gems were specimens from the western hemisphere and dated from 1891 (2 tiny eggs collected in Ohio) to 2005 (a ruby-throat from right here in Washtenaw County, Michigan). The colors are showstoppers, but the beaks are pretty incredible, as well. I was fascinated by a large rust-colored bird from Bolivia and a smaller hummingbird with a mottled chest and a hooked beak. I'm so interested in the evolutionary details – the reasons for the curved beak, what flower she got her nectar from, etc.
Each time I go to the museum, I learn so much from the head ornithology curator. This week, one of the things I learned is that songbirds only make their songs when they've migrated north, to their spring breeding grounds and summer nesting areas. Scientists believe the lengthening daylight triggers hormone production and they all start singing to find mates. When they're in their southern winter homes, they are nearly silent. Fascinating!