The Monthly Species – October

The Monthly Species

I thought it was high time to include another bird on this years Monthly Species list. Today I wanted to introduce you to a very small owl species and it is very aptly name. This month’s monthly species is the Little Owl!

Image result for Athene noctua

Scientific Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Strigiformes
Family: Strigidae
Genus: Athene
Species: A. noctua

Size: The little owl is usually 22 centimetres (8.7 in) in length with a wingspan of 56 centimetres (22 in) for both sexes, and weighs about 180 grams (6.3 oz).

Diet: They can eat small mammals (like mice), beetles and worms.

Life Expectancy: Sixteen years

Mochuelo Común ( Athene noctua )(1).jpgReproduction: Pairs will breed annually with a clutch of usually 3 to 5 eggs. Males will bring food to female birds who incubate the eggs. The young leave the nest at about seven weeks, and can fly a week or two later. Usually there is a single brood but when food is abundant, there may be two. Pairs can bond for many years and even until one of the pair die. The pairs will often remain together all year round.

Conservation: Breeding Bird Survey data suggest that Little owl numbers are declining, with the UK population estimated to be down by 24 per cent between 1995 and 2008. They are currently listed as a Least Concern species on the IUCN red list.

The Coolest Thing Ever About This Species: The little owl is closely associated with the Greek goddess Athena and the Roman goddess Minerva, and hence represents wisdom and knowledge.

ThatBiologist Everywhere!





Top 10 UK Birds

Top 10s

Hello! Today I want to introduce you to some of my favourite bird species. Birds are just the most fascinating things to watch and ever since my parents put a bird feeder in their garden I’ve learnt a lot about the different bird species. So without further a do here are 10 of my favourites!

  1. Barn Owl (Tyto alba) – Barn Owls are my favourite owl, aside from being the most beautiful owl they are also impressive hunters with incredible hearing. This hearing means they can catch prey with sound alone! Barn owl hovering
  2. Robin (Erithacus rubecula) –  Male robins can actually be quite an aggressive and territorial bird with other birds which can lead to fatalities. Over winter each robin will have a territory of approximately half a hectare. Robin on flower pot
  3. Buzzard (Buteo buteo) – These birds are one of the most widespread in the UK and can live up to 12 years old. They are an amazing bird of prey and if ever you get a chance to see them hunting its well worth a watch!Buzzard in flight head on
  4. Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) – These little pond dwelling birds hold a special place in my heart because the lake at Bath Spa University had loads of them. They were the first bird species I could properly identify. I mean it also helps that they are adorable! Image result for moorhen
  5. Swan (Cygnus olor) – I feel like this list wouldn’t be complete without Swans. Again there was a resident pair at Bath Spa Uni that had signets ever year. They were very protective of their nests as swans are and I once had to run defence for my friend who was working on the lake and distract the swan!Mute swan swimming
  6. Crow (Corvus corone) – I have had my issues with crows in the past but they still are incredibly intelligent animals! They can recognise faces and even hold grudges! Image result for carrion crow
  7. House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) – Sparrow populations have declined by up to 62% in the last 25 years and now they are on the IUCN red list. House sparrow (female)
  8. Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) – These are undeniably one of the most stunning bird species on this list and can be seen almost everywhere in the UK apart from the very north and west of Scotland.Image result
  9. White-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla)- This is the largest UK bird species and went extinct in the 20th century from hunting and egg-collecting but has since been reintroduced. They are truly fantastic birds of prey and stunning to watch. Image result for white tailed eagle uk
  10. Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) – Another beautiful little bird that are a delight to sit and watch. In the winter they have family flocks that can be up to 20 birds in size!

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Hope you’ve enjoyed this little foray into the avian world! What’s your favourite bird let me know in the comments!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!




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Alex Evans – Conservation Conversations

Conservation Conversations

alex-evansToday I’m so excited to share another episode of conservation conversations. My guest today is completing his PhD at the University of Leeds in the energetic’s of animal locomotion. Alex Evans has been focusing on how birds and beetles fly. Something that I happen to think is pretty cool. Anyway here are his answers to my questions!

  1. Starting off with something simple, what is your favourite species and why?

My all-time favourite species is unquestionably the secretary bird. As a large terrestrial raptor with long legs and fancy crest, the secretary bird is iconic throughout Southern Africa for hunting snakes and kicking their skulls in. I first saw a secretary bird at San Diego zoo about 7 years ago, and I was instantly fascinated by it. Since then, I’ve become a bit obsessed with them – I have a secretary bird on my phone wallpaper, my work desktop and I’ve even got a LEGO secretary bird on my desk watching me work at all times. (Stunning) There was some great research done by Steve Portugal last year on the force and speed of their kicks and it further confirmed how awesome they are. Unsurprisingly, I’m also a big fan of seriemas and their ‘terror bird’ ancestors, a group of giant prehistoric flightless birds that ran around South America gobbling up horses. I have a thing for big carnivorous birdies.

  1. So now I’m going to quiz you about your career in this sector, firstly why did you decide to get into conservation?

From secondary school onwards, I knew that I wanted to get involved with the life sciences, largely due to many visits to natural history museums and many more David Attenborough documentaries. I started off doing my undergraduate degree in Biology, but switched to Zoology after the first year to focus on animals and went on to do an MSc in Biodiversity & Conservation. Following on from my MSc, my PhD project was initially an investigation into the ecophysiology of migrating birds, but has since developed into a wider exploration of how effectively animals can convert the energy from their food into physical movement. It’s become less focused on conservation and more focused on fundamental research, but I feel that the more we learn about how energy from the environment is utelised internally by birds for foraging, migrating, hunting or escaping predators, the more we can understand about their behaviour and ecology.

  1. Sometimes working in conservation or the environment sector can be difficult, what inspires you to keep going in your career?

There’s still so much to be done. Once I’ve finished my PhD, I know that I’ll have started to ask more questions than I’ll have answered, and that’s good motivation to keep exploring the field.

  1. What’s next on your career bucket list?

Getting my first scientific paper published! I am just about to send a paper based on my MSc dissertation back to a journal following reviewer’s comments, so I’m very excited for that to go ahead! Fingers crossed!

  1. What’s been your career highlight so far?

I recently won an award for giving the best PhD summary talk at a research symposium organised by my funding body. It was so nice to feel appreciation for the hard work I’ve put into the last few years and it definitely felt good to share my research with people from outside the bubble of my department.

  1. Our world is pretty amazing with lots of wonderful things happening in the natural world. What natural phenomenon would you like to see or have seen?

There’s so many exotic locations and wild animals I would love to see first-hand, but there’s still loads to see here in the UK. I’ve never seen a live badger, largely because I’d usually rather be tucked up in bed when they’re out and about, but that’s an animal I would love to see here in the wild. For Christmas I got a book with the 100 best bird-watching spots around the world, so I may or may not be planning my honeymoon with a few of those in mind as well…

  1. If you could let the general public know one thing about conservation what would it be?

Everyone can do their small part to conserve the natural world. Making your garden hedgehog-friendly or building solitary bee hotels are two quick and easy ways you can improve the availability of habitats for local wildlife in a time when natural spaces and green corridors are dwindling.

  1. Now if you could change one thing about how the world works what would you change and why?

I would put an end to any discussion that climate change is not happening. The fact that it has become a political issue is beyond absurd. It is happening, we’re causing it and we can all help to do something about it if we’re not too busy fighting over its existence. (I completely agree!)

Now for some favourites!

  1. Favourite sound?

When I finish up a plate of mac n’ cheese and think it’s all gone, then my wife says “there’s more in the kitchen…”. Pure music to my ears.

  1. Favourite fact?

Hmm, not sure if I have a favourite – but animal penis facts are always a winner. Echidna penises are like little trees, with one shaft and four heads, which they alternate between when bonking. Look them up, you won’t regret it.

  1. Favourite snack?

I love me a good cookie.

  1. Favourite word?

I always used to like ‘cornucopia’ but I don’t think I’ve had a reason to say it for years.

  1. Favourite curse word? 

I’m a fan of immature mashups like pissfart and shitdicks.

  1. Least favourite word?

Ugh, I know it’s not really a word but I can’t stand people saying “at the end of the day” to justify doing anything they want, it just grates on me.

And finally…

  1. What’s your best piece of advice for someone who wants to do better for the environment?

I think the first and most important step is to inform yourself and don’t just rely on the news as your only source of information about the environment. There are plenty of great science websites, social media forums, blogs, podcasts, YouTube videos and many more forms of media that share the latest conservation discoveries and discussions. A lot of important conservation issues often go overlooked (take the EU referendum as an example) because people are unaware of the environmental impact of their choices.

Thank you so much to Alex for answering these questions. I feel like I now know all I need to about echnida penises! If you want to hear more from Alex and his tales of living that PhD life then I strongly recommend you following him on twitter at @alexevans91. Or you can find more of him at his blog Bird Brained Science.

ThatBiologist Everywhere!