Old-school Tweeting: Campus Teams Compete in 2nd Annual Birdathon

For the second year in a row, biology professor Nat Wheelwright organized a campus-wide Birdathon, inviting students, staff, and faculty to try to identify as many birds as possible in 90 minutes.

Birdathon competitors are not allowed to use fossil fuels to get around, so on a recent, overcast afternoon, small teams of five or more headed out on foot or bicycle to field edges, ponds, or patches of forest. As long as three or more team members could verify a bird by its call or by sight (or by its footprint), the teams could claim it.

Wheelwright, Bowdoin’s Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Natural Sciences and Chair of the Biology Department, each spring offers a popular science class called Bird Song. Along with studying the biology of bird song, including the mechanics, anatomy, neurobiology, endocrinology, ecology, and evolution of sound production and recognition in birds, students learn to recognize the songs and calls of common Maine birds. This year, seven of the 10 Birdathon teams were made up of students from the class.

Two teams tied for first place after identifying 28 species: the Loonatics and the Clayton Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. “Not bad for a brief afternoon saunter on and near campus,” Wheelwright said.

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