Blue Jay

Associated Smithsonian Expert: Gary R. Graves, Ph.D.

Dr. Gary Graves had an early childhood fascination with birds that eventually led him to his role as curator of birds at the National Museum of Natural History.

Photo by Don Hurlburt, Smithsonian Institution

Dr. Gary Graves is a research zoologist and curator of birds at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History where his research focuses on the ecology, biogeography, and evolution of birds. His early childhood fascination with birds led to graduate studies at Louisiana State University and Florida State University: "I am unapologetically curious about natural history and the ways that natural history observations catalyze important ecological and evolutionary discoveries." His dissertation work focused on speciation of birds in the Andes Mountains of Peru. He has also conducted fieldwork in Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Colombia, Polynesia, Canada, and in more than half the states in the USA. His current research efforts are split between the analysis of complex data sets based on the collective resources of the World's great museums and conducting field research in Jamaica, the great forests of the eastern USA, and in the Sonoran Desert.

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This image was obtained from the Smithsonian Institution. The image or its contents may be protected by international copyright laws.
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Raggiana Bird of Paradise (Paradisaea raggiana)
Courtesy of markaharper1, via Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA

VIDEO LIBRARY

About Passerine Birds (Order Passeriformes): Habitat

Passerine birds are the most diverse and abundant group of birds. Containing the majority of living bird species, they inhabit every continent on Earth except Antarctica. What unites them is their tendency to perch and a body form to match. Passerine birds have three toes forward and one backward, which allows them to hold onto perches. Whether perching on branches, cliffs, rocks, fences, or other surfaces, rough skin on the bottom of the foot provides traction. A tendon on the back of each leg tightens to bend the bird's foot so that it curls around the perch. Many passerines spend the night on perches without falling off. Stiff tail feathers help them balance on vertical perches such as tree trunks. Their ability to perch makes a huge range of habitats available to them. A robin in New York City and a bird of paradise in a forest in New Guinea are both passerines.