Birders, as I’ve written before, are consumers of the fruits of evolution, celebrants of the processes of natural selection and genetic drift. It may be fair to say that birding has deeper ties to evolutionary theory than any other recreational activity in the world. Whether we realize it or not, those of us who track changes in avian taxonomy for year to year, who care about splits in scrub-jays or Empidonax flycatchers, are end-users of the very biological processes that inspire so much controversy and confusion.
Why speciation is controversial is beyond me, but how it can serve as the foundation of an endlessly fascinating preoccupation with different lifeforms has become much more understandable as my experience in bird watching increases. Let others explain why Lesser and Greater Scaup look so similar or how the Mallard’s dominant genes threaten the integrity of related duck species. I’m just amazed every time I successfully distinguish between Anas platyrhynchos and A. rubripes or observe how the relationship between species and ecosystem is far more reciprocal than it might seem on the surface. Evolution… not just a theory anymore!
No, this little lecture on speciation wasn’t triggered by a belated observance of Darwin Day. The last line about evolution, if you didn’t recognize it, is the tagline for Greg Laden’s eponymous blog. That Greg is a brilliant guy who “gets it” is readily apparent from his regular musings on topics like biology, global warming, or just about anything else that catches his fancy. That his insight extends to as esoteric an avocation as birding is indisputable based on his ingenious presentation of I and the Bird #48.
If you “get it” and “it” includes birding or wild birds, you should be sharing “it” with the global audience of I and the Bird, a savvy lot one and all. Send a link to your best recent post on the subject to me or our next discerning host, Dave (dave DOT bonta AT yahoo DOT com) of Via Negativa by May 15 for inclusion in the May 17 edition.