It all started with caterpillars. UNC biologist Allen Hurlbert has long been fascinated with small forest songbirds, many of which peck and gobble caterpillars seasonally. And it was these small packets of protein and fat — perfect for certain birds — that spurred him to create the first comprehensive database of North American bird diets.
“I’m an avian ecologist,” said Hurlbert, a professor of biology in the College of Arts & Sciences. “Which means I spend a lot of time in the woods measuring the availability of bird food. We do a lot of insect surveys — like the citizen science project Caterpillars Count! — in particular.”