Upcoming Meetings

PROGRAMME for 2022

Thursday 6 October at 6.00pm in conjunction with the Linnean Society Prof Jared Diamond on What’s so special about New Guinea birds?

Abstract: The tropical island of New Guinea has for a long time played a preeminent role in ornithology, which caused it to be chosen as the site for the BOU’s Jubilee Expedition in 1909. Part of the reason is New Guinea’s many species of extraordinary birds, such as its birds of paradise, whose male ornamental plumages carry sexual selection to extremes; its bowerbirds, whose males build the most elaborate display structures among animals; its megapodes, the only birds that incubate their eggs by natural heat sources rather than by body heat; its diversity of parrots and kingfishers, orders that probably evolved in New Guinea; its Greater Melampitta, the only passerine known to roost underground; and its many bird groups convergent on but unrelated to the nuthatches, creepers, warblers, finches, wrens, and sunbirds of the rest of the world. Another reason is New Guinea’s equatorial location combined with its high mountains, resulting in a range of habitats from tropical rainforest in the lowlands to glaciers on the highest peaks at 5000 m. Still another reason is its simple geographic layout : a single central cordillera with montane allospecies arranged from west to east, separating northern and southern lowlands with lowland allospecies arranged in a ring. New Guinea shouldn’t be thought of as the world’s largest tropical island, but instead as the smallest continent. New Guinea has proved to be ideal terrain for studying speciation, ecological segregation, and other biological phenomena. New Guineans themselves are walking encyclopedias of knowledge about their birds. The illustrated talk will explain these and other features that make New Guinea birds special. The only disadvantage to visiting New Guinea is that, thereafter, you’ll find the rest of the world boring by comparison.

Biography: Jared Diamond is a Pulitzer-prize-winning author of five best-selling books, translated into 43 languages, about human societies and human evolution: Guns, Germs, and Steel, Collapse, Why Is Sex Fun?, The Third Chimpanzee, and The World until Yesterday.  As a professor of geography at UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles), he is known for his breadth of interests, which involves conducting research and teaching in three other fields: the biology of New Guinea birds, digestive physiology, and conservation biology.  His prizes and honors include the U.S. National Medal of Science, the Pulitzer Prize for Non-fiction, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Science, and election to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.  He is a director of World Wildlife Fund/U.S.  As a biological explorer, his most widely publicized finding was his rediscovery, at the top of New Guinea’s remote Foja Mountains, of the long-lost Golden-fronted Bowerbird, previously known only from four specimens found in a Paris feather shop in 1895.

Jared Diamond’s lecture will be streamed live into the Linnean Society Meeting Room (For clarification: he will not be present in the room). You have the option of watching it in-house in Burlington House or remotely. Please make sure that you book the correct ticket!

This ‘streamed’ lecture will be followed by a wine reception in the Society’s library.

Please register here.

Red Birds of Paradise displaying.  © W.David Bishop


Arfak Mountains, Papua New Guinea. © W.David Bishop