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USU Ecology Center seminars to cover mysteries of bird migration

A blue and white kingfisher bird sits on a dead tree branch
Nel Botha NZ
A woodland kingfisher, a species covered in the Osinubi's seminars, sits atop a dead tree.

Samuel Temidayo Osinubi is a research associate for the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. He’ll be giving two public seminars next week covering bird migration as part of the USU Ecology Center seminar series.

Osinubi is fascinated by bird migration because, despite over a century of research, we still have so many unanswered questions. A good example, he said, is understanding the migratory instincts of the common cuckoo, a bird species that avoids having to care for its young by laying its eggs in other birds’ nests.

“It's born into the nest of a host parent that's not a cuckoo. But it knows it's a cuckoo, it already acts like a cuckoo. But then the coolest part is that it migrates,” Osinubi enthused. “And sometimes it's in the nest of a non-migrant bird, but it knows when to migrate, it knows the direction in which to go.”

Migration is complicated, and Osinubi said we still know very little about how rapid climate and landscape change is affecting migratory birds.

“They move across such a broad scale, that we really do need to understand what the effects are, what we're doing and how it's affecting them,” Osinubi explained.

Protecting migratory birds across countries poses a challenge, because birds don’t pay attention to the political boundaries humans have drawn. To make matters more complicated, the political and ecological definitions of migration don’t always align.

“One of the examples we often pull up is Russia is such a large, vast country. And we do have species that move just within Russia, and they go through several ecological zones, and return. So ecologically, we’d consider them to be migrants. But the joke there often is that the political definition requires birds, or any other animal, to have a passport,” Osinubi said.

Osinubi also hopes to highlight how collaboration with other scientists has benefited his research and can improve ecological research as a whole.

Osinubi’s seminars will be held on April 12th and 13th, from 4–5pm in the USU Life Sciences Building, room 133. Visit for more information.

Aimee Van Tatenhove is a science reporter at UPR. She spends most of her time interviewing people doing interesting research in Utah and writing stories about wildlife, new technologies and local happenings. She is also a PhD student at Utah State University, studying white pelicans in the Great Salt Lake, so she thinks about birds a lot! She also loves fishing, skiing, baking, and gardening when she has a little free time.