Celebrating our students: Dr. Gavin Leighton

By Macaulay Library Team
(Left) Hairy Woodpecker (Eastern) | Picoides villosus [villosus Group ┬ęChris Wood/Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab (ML29444821); (Right) Downy Woodpecker | Picoides pubescens ┬ęBala Chennupati/Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab (ML82280201)

Dr. Gavin Leighton, postdoc, is studying why plumage among bird species that are not closely related is similar. Is it because one species will benefit from looking like the other? Downy Woodpeckers and Hairy Woodpeckers look similar to each other: is it because Downy Woodpeckers would experience less aggression from Hairy Woodpeckers by looking like them? Do do this, he, and his collaborators, Dr. Eliot Miller and Dr. Alex Lees, collected information about which species won (dominated) an interaction with other species at feeders through Project Feederwatch at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. They found that Downy Woodpeckers get attacked at least as much, maybe more, by hairy Woodpeckers. But, in interactions with other species, Downy Woodpeckers are slightly more dominant than expected. Perhaps their benefit comes from deceiving other species.

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