THE FIELD GUIDES - EP. 04 - BRRRRRDS IN WINTER
Episode notes:

At one point we wonder if a bird we see is a grebe. We know that there aren't any grebes that have winter ranges in Western New York, but this has been a strange winter and less likely things have happened.

Questions that came up during the episode:

Although it was cut during editing, Bill and Steve wondered during recording, “Why do flamingos stand on one leg?” Bill thought he had come across the answer in the past, but had forgotten it. Steve just plain didn’t know.

The answer? No one knows! While many theories are out there, no one has found a definitive answer (yet). The folks at How Stuff Works have done their usual great job of collecting solid information, and they present the reigning theories here: http://animals.howstuffworks.com/birds/flamingos-stand-on-one-leg.htm

And for a relatively recent study on one researcher’s efforts to get to the bottom of the flamingo-on-one-leg mystery, check out this article: http://www.livescience.com/5732-flamingos-stand-leg.html

Mistakes:

While Steve was correct about the Red Knot (Calidris canutus), Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos), American Robin (Turdus migratorius), and House Sparrow (Passer domesticus), he was incorrect about the scientific name for the White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) which he thought was Sitta canadensis (Red-breasted Nuthatch); idiot!

Additionally, Steve said "hyperthermia" instead of "hypothermia" when talking about swimming in winter; double idiot!

Surprise surprise, Steve also explained phenotypes and genotypes rather poorly. In his excitement, he described both in terms of "changes in" observable characteristics and genes, respectively. What he should have said was that a genotype is an individual's gene for a trait, and that a phenotype is the observable expression of a gene; triple idiot!

But the quadruple idiot award for this episode goes to Bill, who insisted emphatically that House Sparrows were not Sparrows at all, but Weaver Finches. This is incorrect. Following the release of this episode, Steve researched Bill's claim, and being a great guy, he didn't call Bill a moron, but sent him a few Wikipedia links with the kind message, "I think you might be wrong about House Sparrows..." After just a few minutes of internet searching, Bill found out why he thought what he did. Old editions of the Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds places House Sparrows in the Weaver Finch family, but all recent references (within the past 30 years) Bill could find to their taxonomy refer to them as "Old World Sparrows," the family Passeridae. National Geographic Complete Birds of North America states, "Old World Sparrows are not closley related to New World sparrows in the family Emberizidae. Instead their closest alliance is with the family Ploceidae, in which they were formerly placed." Ploceidae is the Weaver Finch family. So, basically, House Sparrows used to be considered Weaver Finches but research has revealed that they are only closely related to them.