Author Archives: Stephen Carr Hampton

Falcons and hawks, pearls and pygmies: parallels among the smallest

A previous post already described how falcons and hawks evolved independently of each other about 80 million years ago, the former in South America, the latter in Africa. In addition to the many similarities between the two distinct groups of … Continue reading

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Of Falcons and Hawks: Rules for Birds of Prey

Birders are well-aware of the recent change in their checklists, which annoyingly relocates the falcons away from hawks, eagles, and other diurnal birds of prey, and puts them deep among the little birds– just before flycatchers. Here is the dramatic … Continue reading

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Does Convergence Imply God?

In the words of Job, in one of the oldest pieces of literature in the world, I now speak of wonders beyond my comprehension. In the world of Stephen Jay Gould, life evolves unpredictably. Creatures adapt to ever changing situations … Continue reading

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Of Mousebirds and Bushtits: Rules for Gregarious Gray Family Groups

This is one of those easy comparisons that any birder with experience in western North America and sub-Saharan Africa can make. Growing up in California, I was quite familiar with Bushtits. Little gray birds with long tails and stubby bills, … Continue reading

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Of Elephants and Sperm Whales: Parallel Societies

If convergent evolution was the universal norm, we might expect to travel in space and find another planet with a complex ecosystem and species that mirror those found on earth.  Perhaps, if the planet had solid land, there would be … Continue reading

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Of Hummingbirds and Sunbirds: Rules for Jewels

Early European explorers were amazed by the hummingbirds of the Americas, with their dazzling colors and ability to hover and even fly backwards.  Across Africa, Asia, and Australia, however, hummingbirds have a near-equal.  While not quite able to maneuver as … Continue reading

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Of Wagtails, Wheatears, and Plovers: Rules for Open Country

As we move from conspicuous birds of wetlands to more open country, such as desert and short grass habitats, other rules for plumage and behavior prevail.  Many of the birds maintain conspicuous patterns, but revert to more bold black-and-white patterns.  … Continue reading

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