J Ryeland, MRE Symonds, MA Weston (2017) Measurement techniques for curved shorebirds bills: a comparison of high-tech and low-tech methods. Wader Study 124: 49-54 PDF
What’s it about?
Some birds have curvy beaks – particular some wading shorebirds like red-necked avocets. Measuring things like bill length can be tricky when things get curvy. How to do it? We look at the relatively strengths of simple string and ruler approaches vs. digital imaging. Answer: they’re both fine, but better not to mingle them
What’s the story behind it?
For our paper which looked at the relationship between bill size and use of back rest behaviour, we realised that getting good measures of bill size for curvy-billed species was not actually easy – and that the literature for the bill lengths for these species was inconsistent in how the bills were measured (often just taking a straight-line measure from the tips of the bill to the base – thereby ignoring the curvature). Julia ended up going to measure them in museums and having to work out the best way to measure them to get data for our other paper. However, we thought that the methodological process involved in this would be useful to write-up. A nice sideline paper from her honours work. (Incidentally, the editorial team at Wader Study are super friendly and encouraging – exactly the kind of people who you might want to deal with if you are a student trying to publish one of your first papers – provided its on wading birds that is).
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