The evolution of cooperative breeding in birds is one of the most enduring and fascinating puzzles of modern behavioral biology. I have been studying the bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus; a tiny bird common throughout the American west) since 1986. In the Chiricahua mountains of southeastern Arizona, bushtits live in large social flocks and are often seen visiting or helping at each other’s nests. My research has focused on examining 1) why some bushtits end up as helpers at nests and others don’t and 2) why some nests attract helpers and others don’t. UMF students have the opportunity to join in the field project in Arizona and/or study the structure and thermal properties of bushtit nests (collected in Arizona) during the academic year in Maine. I will be spending part of the spring 1999 semester in the field with students continuing this research.
For more information. contact Dr. Sarah Sloane