posted February 21, 2006

Renowned Ornithologist to Speak

Nature lovers and bird watchers will receive a rare treat when Dr. Donald Kroodsma, who is a Zeeland native, Hope College graduate and renowned ornithologist, presents "The Singing Life of Birds" on Friday, March 3, at 3 p.m. at Hope College in room 102 of VanderWerf Hall.

The public is invited. Admission is free.

Kroodsma did pioneer work on song learning by studying Bewick's Wren and then focused on a critical analysis of song structures and singing patterns of many species. He combined more than 30 years of observations of 33 species of birds in his book "The Singing Life of Birds," which was released in April 2005 and recently received the prestigious John Burroughs Medal Award presented to the author of a distinguished book of natural history.

His interests in bird song are many, and require long hours in the field combined with detailed laboratory analysis. He has explored questions such as how birds acquire song - whether it's learned or innate - and why; why songs of individual birds differ from place to place; and why birds expend so much effort in singing, often with very complex songs.

Examples of topics that Kroodsma will present at Hope include whether there is one species of Marsh Wren, which is conventional understanding, or two; why Chestnut-sided Warblers have two very different song types; and how the Wood Thrush produces such beautiful music, which he will demonstrate by slowing down its complex songs.

Kroodsma, who is a 1968 Hope graduate, received his Ph.D. from Oregon State University and spent most of his career at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he is a professor emeritus of biology. In 2003, he received the prestigious Elliott Coues Award from the American Ornithologists' Union, for his outstanding contribution to ornithological research. The citation that came with the award recognized him as the "...reigning authority on the biology of avian vocal behavior."

His visit to Hope is sponsored by the department of biology and the college's chapter of Beta Beta Beta, the student biology club. On Saturday, March 4, he will be the keynote speaker during the 2006 Annual Conference of the Michigan Audubon Society, being held in East Lansing.

VanderWerf Hall is located on the south side of 10th Street between Central and College avenues.