California Academy of Sciences - To Explore, Explain, and Protect the Natural World

Luis F. Baptista

Curator and Chairman
Department of Ornithology and Mammalogy

B.S., M.S. University of San Francisco (1965, 1968). Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley (1971). Max Planck Society and NATO Postdoctoral Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Behavioral Physiology, West Germany (1972, 1973). Assistant Professor of Biology and Curator, Moore Laboratory of Zoology (1972-1978); Associate Professor (1978-1980). Associate Curator, California Academy of Sciences (1981-1987); Curator, California Academy of Sciences (1987-2000). American Representative, International Ornithological Committee; Fellow, American Ornithologist's Union; Fellow, California Academy of Sciences; Corresponding Member, Deutsche Ornithologen Gesellschaft; Honorary Member, Cooper Ornithological Society, Wilson Ornithological Society, Animal Behavior Society. Obituary in San Francisco Chronicle.

"My childhood interests in keeping and watching birds were encouraged by my parents and nurtured into a successful career by my mentor and friend Robert T. Orr. He taught me about natural history, curating, collections and about avian systematics. In graduate school, I discovered ethology as a discipline. I concentrated on White-crowned Sparrows as a subject of study, combining my interests in studying avian speciation and bird behavior."

"Over the last 20 years my colleagues and I have studied singing behavior song and its "development" in White-crowned Sparrows. We have documented subspecific differences in song as well as local "dialects". At dialect boundaries we find occasional "bilingual" birds and at one boundary a "creole" dialect evolved after 2 decades. Using DNA-fingerprinting we are studying the possible role of female singing in soliciting extra-pair copulations."

"More recently we have been studying dialects in songs of lekking Costa Rican hummingbirds. Song studies are being augmented with DNA-fingerprinting techniques to document gene flow versus "meme"-flow between dialectal populations."

"I began studying Old World mannakins and New World grassquits when I was a post-doctoral fellow in Germany. I took this work to the field--to Trinidad, Tobago, Puerto Rico, Saint Lucia, and Curacao. With Tilton Fellow Pepper Trail we found that based on morphology, anatomy and tarsal scutellation, several New World finch species probably belonged to the radiation that included Darwin's Finches. This has since been confirmed with DNA studies."

"In 1978, the handsome Zenaida graysoni dove of Socorro Island, Mexico, was found to be extinct in the wild. I began a program to breed captive populations for release into the wild, once predators were removed. Restoration of the island by predator removal and reforestation is under way, in cooperation with Mexican wildlife biologists and the New Zealand Wildlife Service, and we look forward to returning these doves to their ancestral home, restored to its pristine original state. On June 6, 1994, the President of Mexico declared Soccoro Island a biosphere reserve."

Read more about the project to restore the Socorro Island Dove

Birds and Beethoven

Charitable contributions can be sent to the Luis Baptista Memorial Fund, California Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA 94118.

Welty, J. C. and L. F. Baptista. 1988. The Life of Birds, 698 pp., 4th Edition, Saunders College Publishing, Philadelphia.

Baptista, L. F. and P. W. Trail. 1988. On the origin of Darwin's Finches. Auk, 105:663-671

Baptista, L. F. and K. L. Schuchmann. 1990. Song learning in the Anna Hummingbird (Calypte anna). Ethology, 84:15-26.

Baptista, L. F. and S. L. L. Gaunt. 1994. Advances in studies of avian sound communication. Condor, 96:817-830.

DeWolfe, B. B. and L. F. Baptista. 1995. Singing behavior, song types on their wintering grounds and the question of leap-frog migration in Puget Sound White-crowned Sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys pugetensis). Condor, 97:376-389.

Baptista, L. F. 1996. Nature and its nurturing in avian vocal development, pp. 39-60 In D. E. Kroodsma and E. H. Miller, [eds.], Ecology and Evolution of Acoustic Communication in Birds, Cornell University Press.

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