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Margaret Morse Nice and the Song Sparrow

A humble little bird with a big role in history
© Tyler Ingram View Large

Few backyard birds in North America are more widespread than the Song Sparrow. But it was the study of this seemingly unremarkable bird that helped shape modern ornithology. In 1928, Margaret Morse Nice began carefully observing Song Sparrows near Columbus, Ohio, where she lived. For eight years, Nice banded and made detailed accounts of the birds' lives and behavior. The emphasis on bird behavior — and painstaking observation of living birds in the wild — helped shift the focus away from collection, description, and distribution. And it all started with that little brown bird with the melodious song. 

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Transcript: 

BirdNote®   

Margaret Morse Nice and the Song Sparrow

Written by Bob Sundstrom

[Song Sparrow song]

The Song Sparrow - a humble little bird with a big role in history. 

 [Song Sparrow song]

This is BirdNote. Few backyard birds in North America are more widespread than the Song Sparrow. But it was study of this seemingly unremarkable bird that helped shape modern ornithology, and made the reputation of a pioneer of American bird study. 

[Song Sparrow song]

In 1928, Margaret Morse Nice began carefully observing Song Sparrows near Columbus, Ohio, where she lived. For eight years, Nice banded and made detailed accounts of the birds' lives and behavior. Her observations led her to create probably the most in-depth natural history of any North American animal at that time. 

The legacy of Margaret Morse Nice's work lies in her pioneering approach to the study of animal behavior. She helped shift the focus away from collection, description and distribution. The new thinking put an emphasis on bird behavior – and painstaking observation of living birds in the wild. 

Today, one of the most prestigious honors one can achieve in ornithology is the Margaret Morse Nice Medal. And it all started with that little brown bird with the melodious song. 

[Song Sparrow song]

Today's show brought to you by The Bobolink Foundation. 

                                                          ###

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Song Sparrow song [176250] recorded by G A Keller; Song Sparrow song  [127084] recorded by W L Hershberger.

BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler. 

Producer: John Kessler 

Executive Producer: Dominic Black

© 2014 Tune In to Nature.org    December 2016   Narrator: Mary McCann ID#    nicemm-01-2014-12-11   nicemm-01  

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