Feathered Fun

On Wednesday, March 5, 4th grader and avid birder Hudson Brown sat down for some lively discussion about all things avian with Professor John Marzluff of the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS).


Hudson Brown, Richard Lasser and John Marzluff outside of Anderson Hall.

Brown, who is 9 years old and lives in Queen Anne, has already developed a remarkable knowledge of birds. His family—including his grandfather Richard Lasser, who joined him at SEFS—has been fanning that curiosity by taking Hudson to visit other experts in the area, including a stop to meet with Professor John Klicka at the Burke Museum (who tested, and was apparently duly impressed by, Hudson’s ability to identify hundreds of specimens in the museum’s collections and tucked in basement drawers).

For this visit, Marzluff toured Hudson around his lab and then showed him the vast corvidae family, from ravens and magpies to nutcrackers, in his massive Handbook of the Birds of the World. The aspiring ornithologist, in turn, had plenty questions of his own. His family had recently returned from Hawaii’s Big Island, and Hudson was curious about how the Hawaiian crow got so endangered, and if there was any way to get rid of mongoose on the islands—to which Marzluff responded that he’d once caught and grilled mongooses (though he didn’t recommend it).

We ran out of time long before Hudson ran out of questions, but Marzluff gave him several ideas for how to continue exploring and developing his interest in birds. We also sent him home with a new SEFS t-shirt and hope to see him again soon!

Photos © SEFS.

Hudson and Marzluff


Young Scientist Meets Professor John Marzluff

This past Tuesday, April 30, Professor John Marzluff entertained a special visitor: 10-year-old Olivia Rataezyk of Issaquah, Wash., a big admirer of his work with corvids.

Olivia and Professor Marzluff

Professor Marzluff points out a crow’s nest to Olivia outside of Anderson Hall.

Olivia had come to campus with her mom to learn more about Marzluff’s research, and also to share some of her own. In preparation for her visit, the young scientist came armed with a notebook of questions and a copy of In the Company of Crows and Ravens, written by Professor Marzluff and Tony Angell. Olivia then kept Marzluff on his heels with a series of challenging inquiries—including if crows ever laugh or deliberately try to humor their friends, or whether crows ever intentionally kill one of their own.

She also more than impressed the professor with some of her own research. One of Olivia’s projects includes color-coding different sizes of peanuts to see whether crows in her backyard will learn to trust the color system and favor one particular color, which she assigned to the largest peanuts. Results are still pending, but her methodology appeared to pass muster with Marzluff.

After exploring Marzluff’s lab—where Olivia got to see his famous crow masks and learn how to live-trap the birds—and then a quick tour outside of the herons nesting across from Anderson Hall, Marzluff bid farewell to a beaming Olivia by signing her book and posing for a photo with the aspiring wildlife biologist. She then headed home with a brand-new School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) sweatshirt.

We sure hope to see Olivia again soon—eventually, perhaps, as a SEFS student!

Olivia and Professor Marzluff
Marzluff and Olivia, clutching her freshly autographed book, at the end of her visit.

Photos © Karl Wirsing/SEFS.