What It’s Like To Be A Bird – Professor Tim Birkhead – 11th November 2013.

Hearty congratulations to our speaker finders for allowing Stumperlowe Probus to enjoy what was certainly a lecture of outstanding merit.  Professor Birkhead’s ornithological knowledge and aptitude for transmitting fascinating facts to his audience were immediately apparent. One could, at once, appreciate why he has been able to write over twenty best-selling books on the subject of birdlife. He displayed, with tremendous aplomb, an enthusiasm for his subject and a rarely-seen ability to effortlessly entertain us with his seemingly infinite grasp of what makes birds tick.

 The theme of Tim’s discourse was to display how birds differ from humans in their habits and lifestyles. Starting on a remote island in the Irish Sea, we learned of the ability of the female Guillemot to recognise her returning partner from a distance of 700 m and surrounded by countless other, to us, identical birds – even when close up, we couldn’t tell one from the other.

 Next, we were told of the Blue Tit’s aptitude to see in the ultraviolet spectrum and, by so doing, to hunt out potential insect food. Owls and other predatory species have phenomenal auditory powers to further their stalking success. Kiwis have poor vision, but good hearing and a very great sense of smell, which enables them to locate and  unearth buried food without any preliminary probing.

 Professor Birkhead then showed us how ducks are able to taste and touch by means of minute receptors behind the edge of their beaks, which they use to judge what to eat. Flamingos in South West Africa can sense when the rains have arrived in Etosha Pan, about 200 miles away and will migrate  there , but only following a specific amount of rainfall. Some Vultures hunt by sight when flying over open terrain, but others use their sense of smell to scavenge  whilst hovering over dense forests.

 At the end of all this wonderful enlightenment, we were certain that the term, “Bird Brain” was anything but a correct description of a human dunce! In many ways birds can show humans a thing or two, and thousands of years will pass before we evolve to their state of ingenuity!

 Professor Tim Birkhead was named as UK Bioteacher of the Year by the UK Society of Biology , in honor of his three decades of inspirational teaching, matched by a longstanding  passion for research out in the field.

 There is a museum at the University of Sheffield  run by Tim Birkhead called the Alfred Denny Museum in the Dept. of Animal & Plant  Sciences. It’s about the amazing world of nature and it is open to the public on the first Saturday of every month from 9.30 to 1pm. Places can be booked via r.myers@sheffield.ac.uk or 222 9308 during office hours.”