by Sally Blanchard

 As a bird watcher, there have been times that I have looked at Spike, my caique, and thought that he looked like a little falcon. Perhaps that was at least partly because I saw two little falcons in Costa Rica; an Orange-breasted Falcon and the smaller but closely related Bat Falcon or because I had seen a falcon several years before that also had "orange pantaloons."  Many years ago I was driving to one of my favorite birdwatching locations east of Tucson. As I rounded a bend in a hilly area, I saw a falcon doing what is termed kiting right over the road. I knew immediately that it was a falcon I had never seen before mostly because of the color of its belly and legs. I had studied birds enough to know that it was an Aplomado Falcon, which is rarely seen in the United States. It is one of those visions that became etched in my brain because of the way the sun was shining on the bird. 

Now there is some interesting information that may show that parrots and falcons are actually related to each other ...

This is an interesting bit of information that I found at the following website

Falcons Closer to Parrots than to Hawks

Posted by: Loren Coleman on June 27th, 2008

The secret kinship of falcons and parrots is one of many surprises in a landmark genetic study of 169 bird species being published by Chicago Field Museum researchers.

A consequence of the study in the June 27, 2008 edition of the journal Science is a re-ordering of the field guides that many of America’s 80 million bird-watchers use. Most bird guides are based on scientific classifications, which experts said the new work could change in numerous ways.

“This is the most important single paper to date on the higher-level relationships of birds,” said Joel Cracraft, curator of birds at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, who was not part of the study.

The Field Museum launched a five-year effort with seven other institutions to do an unprecedented genetic analysis discovering many cases in which seemingly similar birds were merely distant relatives, or birds long assumed to be unrelated were closely linked.

Grebes, a type of diving bird, are not related to loons, as ornithologists had long believed. Surprisingly, grebes appear closely related to flamingos.

The analysis also showed falcons are more closely related to parrots than to other hunters such as hawks and eagles. If true, the finding would mean that falcons do not even belong in the scientific order originally named for them.

The new lineage helps showcase how evolution works, experts said. Although falcons do not appear closely related to hawks, each species developed similarly shaped beaks and talons to hunt prey—an evolutionary process that biologists call convergence.

Working the new results into the guidebooks that birders use could take years, but many experts said some change is likely. Such books normally take their cue from the American Ornithologists’ Union, which releases an updated checklist of bird species each year.

Carla Cicero, curator of birds at the University of California-Berkeley’s museum of ornithology and a member of the committee that decides on changes to the checklist, said the committee typically waits for many teams to duplicate new findings before changing its bird classifications.

Still, “there are going to be a lot of changes, I can tell you that,” Cicero said.

Although conclusions like the falcon-parrot link may rattle some bird specialists, Joel Greenberg, an expert bird-watcher and editor of an anthology of Chicago nature writing, said such surprises can deepen the delight of studying birds.




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