The Midwest Birding Symposium 2011: Welcome!

We've loaded clips from the following 2011 speakers:


We'll load clips from other MBS speaker presentations in the following months. Keep checking this page for updates!

Also, check out this movie clip:

MBS Speaker Topics and Clips

Al Batt

2011 MBS Topic: Why Is That Bird Laughing?

Listen to stories from a man of whom the President of the United States once said, "Who?" Find a tee-hee's nest with a ha-ha's egg in it as you listen to Al Batt's talk. You will learn why Al has never been asked to bring the potato salad to the Association of Normal People's Picnic. Some people claim that Al is a storyteller from Minnesota, but he's just a guy who loves birds.

Play (MP3 Format)

Dr. David M. Bird

2011 MBS Topic: "Watching Birds Naked"

Are birds really "bird-brains"? Do they taste "good"? Can eagles really see farther than humans? Why are most owls as blind as we are on a dark night? How does a kestrel use ultraviolet light to catch mice? Which birds smell the best?

These are just some of the questions that Dr. David Bird answers in his humorous but educational slide show on the sensory ecology of birds. Remove those beautiful coats of feathers and you'll discover that birds have some of the most incredible physical and physiological adaptations to keep them in tune with their environment and with each other. You'll never look at birds in the same way again!

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Kevin J. Cook

2011 MBS Topic: Answers for Your Bird & Nature Questions

Kevin Cook loves to answer questions about birds and nature. But he's not known for simply offering up a standard short answer—even if it's to a question he's been asked hundreds of times. Instead he enjoys exploring the inter-connectedness of nature and applying the things he discovers to the answers he provides. For this session, we encourage you to bring your nature questions to Kevin and listen to how he answers them. Just don't be surprised if he sends you off on an exploration of your own.

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Alvaro Jaramillo

2011 MBS Topic: Birding outside the Box Part II—Birding identification like a Pro!

Most bird identification lectures focus on field marks, and the specifics of separating Species A from Species B. Few ask exactly how we identify birds. What is our brain going through in order to do this? How does our brain get tripped up during bird identification? Have you ever encountered the "leaf bird" the "branch bird" or, worst of all, "the plastic bag snowy owl?" Why do experts identify birds almost without thinking, while the rest of us need to struggle? Are they different from the rest of us, or are there tricks?

The truth is that bird identification is pretty tricky stuff, but our brains are wired to shortcut much of the thinking involved in doing it—the trick is training yourself to do it like a pro. That is the aim of this presentation: a lighthearted but informative explanation of how the heck the pros do it.

(Affiliation: Alvaro's Adventures, Birding and Nature Tours)

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Jim McCormac

2011 MBS Topic: Birders Going Beyond Birds

Birds donít operate in a vacuum. It takes plants, insects, mammals and more to stoke their fires. The intricacies of ecology that cascade up to a gorgeous yellow-throated vireo or fiercely predatory short-eared owl are often so incredible it verges on fantasy. Knowledge of these relationships fuels the imagination and adds wonder to even the common. Learning bird ID and names is great, but itís just the beginning Ė learning what makes birds tick opens an entirely new dimension.

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Michael O'Brien

2011 MBS Topic: Things that Go Seep in the Night

When autumn winds blow from the north, the nighttime sky can be filled with high-pitched seeps, zips, dzrrts, and tsews of migrating birds. Attempting to identify these sounds is one of those esoteric, fringe elements of birding that most bird watchers all but ignore. However, this fringe is gaining popularity as identification criteria become more clearly understood. This program will provide tips on how to listen to nocturnal flight calls and learn to identify some of the more frequently heard species.

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Bridget Stutchbury

2011 MBS Topic: The Bird Dectective: Investigating the Private Lives of Birds

Bridget Stutchbury will speak about her recent book, The Private Lives of Birds, and will explain why some birds readily divorce their partners, why females sneak copulations with neighboring males, and why mothers sometimes desert their babies. She will reveal her latest research that uses geolocators to track individual wood thrushes and purple martins as they migrate to Central and South America for the winter.

(Affiliation: Dept. of Biology, York University)

Play (MP3 Format)

Connie Toops

2011 MBS Topic: Attracting Hummingbirds and Butterflies

Author and nature photographer Connie Toops has been designing backyard wildlife habitats for two decades. There's a rumor that Bird Watcher's Digest editor Bill Thompson, III, was born with binoculars in hand. Thompson & Toops teamed up to produce the new Bird Watcher's Digest/Peterson Field Guide Backyard Birding Guide: Attracting Hummingbirds and Butterflies (Houghton-Mifflin, April 2011). They offer a lighthearted tag-team presentation to answer questions about luring these fascinating creatures into your backyard.

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Julie Zickefoose

2011 MBS Topic: The Bluebird Effect

Theodore Roosevelt said that to truly know someone, you had to share a tent with them. If Julie Zickefoose can claim nothing else, she is intimately familiar with a number of different species of birds. In many cases, this is because she has cared for them when they are orphaned or injured. Her upcoming book, "The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds" is an illuminated memoir of a lifetime spent living with, healing and nurturing birds. In this illustrated talk, she'll share the experience of being a mother to hummingbirds, chimney swifts, waxwings and bluebirds, among many others. The job is not in high demand—the dawn-to-dusk hours and monotony, with feedings every half-hour—rule out many applicants. But the rewards are rich. The reward is in understanding how a bird thinks, how it develops, and how it might react to any given situation. It's an understanding so deep that it goes beyond words. That empathy with wild birds is her pay for a job very few choose to take on. That, and the stories that come out of the experience—stories begging to be shared.

Play (MP3 Format)

MBS Movies

The 2011 MBS: Highlights

This iMovie video created by Ann Oliver showcases all the highlights from the 2011 MBS. Click on the image above to start the movie (hosted in Facebook).