Who wants to collect blackbird poop for sperm?

"You want to collect my WHAT for who?!!!?"

Once again an interesting request, this time from Stefan Luepold has shown up on Cornell's Bird Job Email:

REQUEST FOR SPERM SAMPLES FROM ICTERIDS--I plan to collect a large number of sperm samples from birds to study whether differences in mating systems and other ecological factors can explain the diversity in sperm size and shape we find across different species. The icterids (meadowlarks, grackles, orioles, cowbirds, blackbirds, bobolinks, etc.) form an ideal group of birds for this study because mating systems vary considerably even between closely related species, indicating different selection pressures on different species. I am now looking for bird banders or researchers who are handling birds during this breeding season and are willing to collect samples from different icterid species. During the breeding season male birds produce sperm almost continuously and some of these sperm pass into the birds’ cloaca and are excreted with the feces. Collecting these feces is an easy and harmless technique for obtaining sperm from wild birds. If you are interested, please contact Stefan Luepold (s.luepold@sheffield.ac.uk) for more details on the project and instructions for the collection of fecal samples. I will be happy to provide the material needed to collect and preserve the samples.