BirdNote

By Tune In to Nature.org

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Subscribers: 331
Reviews: 3

Kacy
 Jun 23, 2019
I so look forward to listening to this podcast every day. It's a great way to greet the morning!

Lance
 May 14, 2019

Pavel
 Sep 1, 2018
My apologies for not writing this review sooner. You produce one of my favorite podcasts. Great for birders and general audience as well. Thanks!

Description

Escape the daily grind and immerse yourself in the natural world. Rich in imagery, sound, and information, BirdNote inspires you to notice the world around you. Join us for daily two-minute stories about birds, the environment, and more.

Episode Date
Hornaday's Bird
There used to be millions of Greater Sage-Grouse across the West, but the birds’ numbers have been in decline since settlers arrived from the East. Today, scientists and environmentalists are sounding the alarm about the shrinking population, but they aren’t the first to do so. In 1916, William T
Sep 18, 2020
Asian Songbirds Nest in Alaska
Several species of migratory songbirds make their homes in Asia during the winter, then journey across the Bering Strait to summer in Alaska and Northwestern Canada. The Bluethroat, Arctic Warbler, and Eastern Yellow Wagtail are among the species that make the trip. Today Alaska and Siberia are
Sep 17, 2020
Bee Hummingbird
The Bee Hummingbird, found only in Cuba, is the smallest bird in the world. An absolute miniature, even among hummingbirds, it measures only two and a quarter inches long. Often mistaken for bees, they weigh less than a dime. The female builds a nest barely an inch across, and lays eggs about the
Sep 16, 2020
Grouse Tracking
Biologist Michael Schroeder and journalist Ashley Ahearn scour the freshly fallen snow for the footprints of Greater Sage-Grouse in rural Washington State. With fewer than 1,000 of the birds left in the state, they are a rare sight. Learn more about the history of the most controversial bird in the
Sep 15, 2020
Bird in Flight, Strong but Light
The feathers of a bird are, for their weight, among the strongest structures in the world. The bones of this Magnificent Frigatebird weigh less than its feathers! To further reduce weight while maintaining strength, many bird bones are fused. In addition, the pectoral and pelvic girdles and ribs are
Sep 14, 2020
Canyon Spectacle - Swakane Canyon
Canyons, whether large or small, can host a spectacular variety of birds! Consider Swakane Canyon, in central Washington State. It cuts west from the Columbia River into the Entiat Mountains for nine miles, while gaining nearly 3,000 feet. Steep slopes wall in the canyon floor, several hundred yards
Sep 13, 2020
Migration - Long, Short, and In-Between
In September, this Arctic Tern flies from Alaska all the way to Antarctica. Rufous Hummingbirds follow pathways of mountain wildflowers, from as far north as Alaska south to Mexico. Ruby-crowned Kinglets, migrate altitudinally from the mountains to the lowlands. Each of these birds migrates, but on
Sep 12, 2020
Whip-poor-will
In September, 1851, Henry David Thoreau wrote: "The Whip-poor-wills now begin to sing in earnest about half an hour before sunrise, as if making haste to improve the short time that is left them. As far as my observation goes, they sing for several hours in the early part of the night . . . then
Sep 11, 2020
Sound Escapes - Echos in Pipestone Canyon
Back when he was a bike messenger in downtown Seattle, Gordon Hempton was drawn to the sonic richness of a remote canyon in eastern Washington State. “Pipestone Canyon was my oasis from all the urban din and construction activity,” he says. The canyon walls echo and amplify the sounds of the animals
Sep 10, 2020
Northern Gannets Plunge-Dive
Just off the North Atlantic coast, hungry Northern Gannets are gathering to feed on fish. From 100 feet in the air, the gannets plummet head-first into the water at 60 miles per hour! Such high-speed collisions would knock most creatures out. But gannets have evolved air sacs in both the neck and
Sep 09, 2020
Chestnuts and Warblers
The Golden-winged Warbler builds its nest in thickets beneath an open sky, which was a rare habitat in the old-growth forests of eastern North America. But the chestnut blight at the turn of the 20th century wiped out billions of trees, an estimated one fourth of the forest in Appalachia. And the
Sep 08, 2020
Sound Escapes - Loon Love Songs
In the spring, Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota bursts into song. For nature sound recordist Gordon Hempton, the greatest sound is the arrival of loons. A fond and venerable bit of folklore holds that loons mate for life. In their calls, Gordon hears true love. “It was full of
Sep 07, 2020
Juvenile Shorebirds Head South
Like most juvenile shorebirds, this young Black-bellied Plover was abandoned by parents that began their southbound flights from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge a few weeks earlier. It will join other young Black-bellied Plovers as they make their way south. This little flock of birds could
Sep 06, 2020
Zone-tailed Hawks Mimic Vultures
Zone-tailed Hawks of the American Southwest look a lot like Turkey Vultures. And they often soar among groups of Turkey Vultures. By consorting with vultures, Zone-tailed Hawks gain a distinct advantage as predators. While doves and lizards would quickly flee the flight silhouette of a Red-tailed
Sep 05, 2020
Swifts Roost in Chimneys
What could bring crowds of people out after sunset on a September evening to stare at ... a chimney? Swifts, of course! Scores of swifts form a funnel-shaped cloud above the right kind of chimney, then they begin their descent. First one, then a few more, then dozens, then hundreds swirl right down
Sep 04, 2020
Sound Escapes - Zabalo, a Living Eden
Gordon Hempton started a nonprofit that designates “quiet parks” around the world. These special places are to be protected from noise pollution, where you can experience true, profound quiet. On Earth Day 2019, the first Quiet Park was created on the Zabalo River in Ecuador. “There’s no other way
Sep 03, 2020
Swallows on Wires
Once nesting season ends, swallows know it's time to party! Whether they nest as single pairs or in large colonies, both adults and juveniles now gather on electrical wires by the dozens, socializing before they migrate. Migrating by day - and foraging for insects as they go - swallows (including
Sep 02, 2020
Short-billed Dowitcher
Dowitchers are a common type of sandpiper seen across North America. Two species, the Short-billed and the Long-billed, stop to feed busily on wetlands during migration from their Arctic breeding grounds to their wintering areas. The origin of the name is unknown. Theories include that it echoes
Sep 01, 2020
Wilson’s Warbler near Summer’s End
By early August, the rich yellow of the feathers of the Wilson's Warbler seems to flash in every forest thicket. Despite predators and weather, many pairs of adults have raised four young, which now flit about on their own. The young males hatched this spring learned their father's songs this summer
Aug 31, 2020
Singing Like a Bird and Feeling Good
Every now and then, don’t you just want to belt it out? Imagine singing like a Black-headed Grosbeak! Or what about a Carolina Wren? Picture warbling like a House Finch. All this just too rambunctious for you? The call of the American Bittern more your style? Or this Yellow-headed Blackbird? Maybe
Aug 30, 2020
A Vast Unseen Migration
During late summer, these Sooty Shearwaters will join a vast migration, when millions of seabirds fly over the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Jaegers that nested on the Arctic tundra are flying south to tropical oceans. Arctic Terns and skuas make an epic journey to Antarctic waters. Shearwaters in
Aug 29, 2020
Happy Birthday, Roger Tory Peterson
August 28th is the birth anniversary of Roger Tory Peterson. He was born in 1908 and died in 1996. RTP, as he was known, wrote A Field Guide to the Birds. His favorite bird? The King Penguin. He explains his fascination with birds: "...They are attractive, they sound off with spirit, and they can
Aug 28, 2020
The Gyrfalcon - A Circumpolar Raptor
Gyrfalcons are circumpolar, nesting in the far north of Asia, North America, and Europe, including Iceland and Greenland. They evolved as a distinct species in the Pleistocene Era, around 100,000 years ago. Their large size and warm feathering gave them an edge for nesting high in the Arctic
Aug 27, 2020
Shelterbelts and Their Birds
Many species of birds nest in shelterbelts — also known as windbreaks — parallel rows of trees and shrubs planted to shelter houses, farms, and livestock from strong winds and drifting snow. Because shelterbelts often provide more food and lack the predators found in woodlands, they are great places
Aug 26, 2020
Bicknell's Thrush
The Bicknell’s Thrush is known for scarcity… and promiscuity. Unlike most songbirds, the female thrush establishes a territory and then mates with males that happen by. She then lays eggs that have been fertilized by multiple different males. Many of those males will stick around and help feed the
Aug 25, 2020
Northern Cardinal - Meet the Cardinal
Is there any doubt about the identity of America's best known red bird? Surely it's the cardinal or, as you'll find it in a bird book, the Northern Cardinal. The beautiful bird seen on so many bird feeders takes its name from the cardinals found in the Vatican, whose hats and robes are red. Only the
Aug 24, 2020
Birds as Omens - From The Iliad
For us, an eagle in flight is an image of beauty and power. But for the ancient Greeks, an eagle in flight was an omen - a message from the gods. In Homer's epic, The Iliad, the Greeks have vowed to conquer Troy. But midway through the siege, mighty Hector and the Trojans battle them to the edge of
Aug 23, 2020
Clair de Loon
August 22 is the birthday of renowned French composer, Claude Debussy. Born in 1862, Debussy is known for his impressionistic sonic portraits, like La Mer, about the sea. But one of his best known works is an earlier piano piece, Clair de Lune. The song is quiet and haunting. Which got us thinking
Aug 22, 2020
August Molt
By August, many birds have just completed the intense rigors of nesting and raising young and now undergo a complete molt. Molt is a cyclic process of feather growth. As new feathers grow in, they push the old ones out. Why molt? Because feathers wear out. Songbirds that migrate long distances need
Aug 21, 2020
Does a Robin Hear Its Worm?
How does a robin know a worm is in one exact spot? Does it see the worm or hear it? Smell it? Sense its movements through its feet? To find the answer, researchers buried worms in soil in a tray. They covered the soil with a thin but opaque sheet of cardboard, followed by more soil, so the robin
Aug 20, 2020
Another BirdNote Quiz
This quiz features - an American Robin ... - an Olive-sided Flycatcher, like this one ... - a Red-tailed Hawk ... - a Steller's Jay, which you're most likely to hear west of the Rockies ... - and a Blue Jay, usually seen east of the Rockies. Support for BirdNote comes from American Bird Conservancy
Aug 19, 2020
Sound Escapes 2 - Olympic National Park
Gordon Hempton transports us to some of the most incredible places on Earth through his nature recordings. But Washington State’s Olympic National Park is the source of his sonic inspiration, especially as it comes to life in the spring. Sound Escapes was made possible by the generous support of Jim
Aug 18, 2020
Groove-billed Anis, Communal Nesters
Groove-billed Anis gather in loose groups. And with good reason. They nest communally. As many as four or five pairs of birds may use one nest, a bulky cup of twigs lined with fresh leaves. When the dominant female ani begins to lay her own eggs, the other females lay simultaneously. Up to 20 chalky
Aug 17, 2020
Pied-billed Grebes - With Martin Muller
Birds, while guided by instinct, seem able to adapt to specific situations. Martin Muller is an expert on waterbirds called Pied-billed Grebes. One spring day, on an urban lake in Seattle, Martin observed a pair of grebes switching roles in order to protect their young and defend their territory
Aug 16, 2020
The Bird Is the Word
The songs on this show, in order, are: * Bird on a Wire, sung by Judy Collins * Selection from Igor Stravinsky's Firebird Suite * Selection from Lynyrd Skynyrd's Free Bird * Selection from the Trashmen's Surfin' Bird. Thanks to Lori Tingey for her photo of a funky chicken.
Aug 15, 2020
Audubon's Oriole
The Audubon’s Oriole can be heard in the dense woodlands of South Texas, including the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Most of its range lies in Mexico, where it’s known as Calandria Capucha Negra, or lark with a black hood. Dense woodland habitats where the orioles breed have become more fragmented
Aug 14, 2020
Sapsuckers and Sap
Sapsuckers, a specialized group of woodpeckers (that includes this Red-naped Sapsucker), don’t actually suck sap. After pecking neat rows of small holes in trees to cause the sugary liquid to flow, the birds lick it up with tongues tipped with stiff hairs. So why doesn’t a sapsucker’s beak get stuck
Aug 13, 2020
Wild Farm Alliance
Farmers have used chemicals to fight insect pests for centuries. Chemical use took on a startling face in the 1940s with the creation of DDT, which had horrifying effects on bird populations. But today, the Wild Farm Alliance is out to prove that farmers don’t have to resort to pesticides
Aug 12, 2020
Male Mallards Disappear
By late summer, the male Mallard’s need for fancy feathers to attract the females has passed. These birds have molted, and their bright feathers are replaced with mottled brown ones. Subdued colors help camouflage the male ducks, protecting them from predators. Come fall, the male Mallards will molt
Aug 11, 2020
Night Voices of Summer
At the close of a summer day, the songbirds go silent. As if on cue, the birds of the night make their voices known. In an Eastern woodland, the eerie trills and whinnies of an Eastern Screech-Owl are among the first sounds of the night. Meanwhile, as night falls west of the Rockies, a Western
Aug 10, 2020
Shorebirds Watch Their Feet
Greater Yellowlegs — not surprisingly — have bright yellow legs and feet. And why? While foraging through shallow water, a yellowlegs (like this one) can keep track of its legs by the color, which contrasts with the sometimes dark and irregular bottom. A Sanderling, on the other hand, has black legs
Aug 09, 2020
The Crow and the Gull
Crows and gulls are opportunists - grabbing a bite wherever, whenever, however they can. Listener Nick Woodiwiss of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, wrote to BirdNote about a funny scene between an American Crow and a Glaucous-winged Gull on the beach. It seems that crows and gulls are frequent
Aug 08, 2020
Grassland Meander
In summer, the grasslands of southern Saskatchewan resound with bird song. This Boboslink is among the birds that combine their voices in a rich, ringing chorus. Through these grasslands flows the Frenchman River, twisting and looping — the epitome of a meandering river. The southern reaches of the
Aug 07, 2020
Life on the Beach with Wilson's Plovers
Along the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll find undeveloped sandy flats and shallow lagoons. This is prime habitat for Wilson’s Plovers to nest and raise their chicks. But life on the beach can be tough for birds. In many parts of its U.S. range on the Gulf and south Atlantic coasts, Wilson’s Plover habitat
Aug 06, 2020
Sound Escapes 2 - Inviting You to Listen
We’re proud to share a new season of our podcast, Sound Escapes. Host Gordon Hempton transports us to some of the most incredible places on Earth through his nature recordings. Sound Escapes is made possible by the generous support of Jim and Birte Falconer of Seattle.
Aug 05, 2020
Woodpeckers as Keystone Species
Woodpeckers - including this Northern Flicker - are master carpenters of the bird world. They're called "keystone" species for their crucial role in creating habitat suited to other woodland wildlife. Abandoned woodpecker nest-holes become nests or roosts for small owls, cavity-nesting ducks, swifts
Aug 04, 2020
Working Turnstones Turn Stones
In John James Audubon’s “Birds of America,” he profiled the peculiar sandpiper we know today as the Ruddy Turnstone. As he describes it, the bird bends its legs to half their length, places its bill beneath the object to be turned, and with a sudden quick jerk of the head pushes it over. True to its
Aug 03, 2020
Shifts in Habitat = Shifts in Species
We asked David Sibley, creator and illustrator of The Sibley Guide to Birds, how changes in the environment are affecting birds such as this Brown Thrasher. He says, “A shift of habitat has caused a shift in the species” he's observed in the Northeastern US. For example, Wild Turkeys, Pileated
Aug 02, 2020
Flammulated Owl
The Flammulated Owl is a study in camouflaged grays and browns, with cinnamon-brown shoulder straps and large brown eyes. This astute aerial predator stands a little more than six and a half inches tall, from its sharp-clawed feet to its stubby, ear-like tufts. It winters in southern Mexico or
Aug 01, 2020
A Trip to the Field Museum
Students from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago took a class trip to the city’s Field Museum for a natural history illustration class. The students had to draw three bird heads and three birds’ feet. Junior Michelle Flitman chose first the Rufous Hornbill, a bird native to the Philippines
Jul 31, 2020
Soaring with Redtails
A Red-tailed Hawk soars on broad, rounded wings, the epitome of effortless flight. Without flapping, it traces a leisurely, rising circle. The hawk is riding a thermal, a column of warm rising air generated near the earth's surface by heat from the sun. The Red-tail periodically circles to stay
Jul 30, 2020
Small Birds Mob Big Ones
When smaller birds join forces to ward off larger birds, it's called mobbing. This behavior — like calling your family for help — is used by many bird species. The best time to observe mobbing is spring and early summer, when breeding birds are trying to protect their nests and young. Birds
Jul 29, 2020
Indigo Bunting - Bird of the Ecotone
Many birds – like this Indigo Bunting – can be found in ecotones, the borders between two habitats. Indigo Buntings breed in the ecotone between forest and meadow. They are common at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge in Indiana, where grassland and forest are interspersed to produce superb
Jul 28, 2020
Peregrine-Shorebird Interaction
Have you ever seen a Peregrine Falcon attack a flock of shorebirds, igniting a breathtaking aerial display? Falcon researcher Steve Herman calls this pattern of evasion "instantaneous synchronicity." The shorebird flock will often form a cone, with the sharpest point shifting continuously to face
Jul 27, 2020
Peregrine-Shorebird Interaction
Have you ever seen a Peregrine Falcon attack a flock of shorebirds, igniting a breathtaking aerial display?
Jul 27, 2020
Wilson's Phalarope
If any bird is an anomaly, it's the Wilson's Phalarope. In a birdbook, Wilson's Phalaropes are found among the sandpipers. But they forage while swimming. Spinning like tops, they create an upwelling, pulling food to the surface. The breeding of Wilson's Phalaropes is anomalous, too. Females are the
Jul 26, 2020
Wilson's Phalarope
If any bird is an anomaly, it's the Wilson's Phalarope. In a birdbook, Wilson's Phalaropes are found among the sandpipers. But they typically forage while swimming. Spinning like tops, they create an upwelling, pulling food to the surface. The breeding of Wilson's Phalaropes is anomalous, too.
Jul 26, 2020
Birds Have No External Ears
Unlike mammals, birds have no external ear structures. Their ear openings are hidden beneath feathers on the side of the head, just behind and slightly below the eyes. (It's easy to imagine where this House Finch's ear is, isn't it?) In mammals, the external ear structure helps funnel sound in, and
Jul 25, 2020
Birds Have No External Ears
Unlike mammals, birds have no external ear structures. Their ear openings are hidden beneath feathers on the side of the head, just behind and slightly below the eyes.
Jul 25, 2020
Poorwills at Night
Close kin to the Whip-poor-will, the nocturnal Common Poorwill can be heard in summer in the rocky scrublands of the West at the deep end of dusk. And the Common Poorwill's greatest claim to fame? It was the first bird confirmed to hibernate, based on evidence verified in 1946. Since then, we have
Jul 24, 2020
Poorwills at Night
Close kin to the Whip-poor-will, the nocturnal Common Poorwill can be heard in summer in rocky scrublands of the West at the deep end of dusk. And the Common Poorwill's greatest claim to fame? It was the first bird confirmed to hibernate, based on evidence verified in 1946.
Jul 24, 2020
A Plover's Journey
Pacific Golden-Plovers, known as Kolea, winter in grassy, open areas of the Hawaiian islands by the tens of thousands. The birds return each fall to the same patch. Kolea spend nine months in Hawaii, but by late April, they form large flocks and head north, over the Pacific Ocean to, as the poet W.S
Jul 23, 2020
A Plover's Journey
Pacific Golden-Plovers, known as Kolea, winter in grassy, open areas of the Hawaiian islands by the tens of thousands. The birds return each fall to the same patch.
Jul 23, 2020
A Drive Along on a Bar Ditch
In the rural Southeast, roadside ditches – known as “bar ditches” – carry on for miles. The term bar ditch probably comes from their construction, when dirt was "borrowed" to build up the road. The ditches are full of water and full of life, these narrow wetlands. Herons stalk the shallow water
Jul 22, 2020
A Drive Along on a Bar Ditch
In the rural Southeast, roadside ditches – known as “bar ditches” – carry on for miles. The term bar ditch probably comes from their construction, when dirt was "borrowed" to build up the road. The ditches are full of water and full of life, these narrow wetlands.
Jul 22, 2020
Birds as Pollinators
Birds are part of the complex web of Nature, and each fits into this web in its own way. Some even pollinate flowers! While feeding at a flower, this Rainbow Lorikeet gets pollen on its forehead and throat. When it visits another flower of the same species, it transfers the pollen to that flower
Jul 21, 2020
Birds as Pollinators
Birds are part of the complex web of Nature, and each fits into this web in its own way. Some even pollinate flowers! While feeding at a flower, this Rainbow Lorikeet gets pollen on its forehead and throat.
Jul 21, 2020
Tony Angell on the Raven
Tony Angell reflects: "It's a cloudless summer day as I listen to ravens behind me in the woods. There's an endless repertoire of croaks, krawks, barks, yelps, and yodels. Other ravens across the bay respond in kind, and I imagine that this is a day of poetry and perhaps a few jokes shared between
Jul 20, 2020
Tony Angell on the Raven
Tony Angell reflects: "It's a cloudless summer day as I listen to ravens behind me in the woods. There's an endless repertoire of croaks, krawks, barks, yelps, and yodels.
Jul 20, 2020
Two Phoebes Share the West
In the American West, there are two species of phoebe that share the same expansive country. But they occupy different habitats. The Say’s Phoebe prefers dry, open country ranging from tundra to desert. This Black Phoebe is a close cousin to the Say’s. But it is nearly always hunting alongside
Jul 19, 2020
Two Phoebes Share the West
In the American West, there are two species of phoebe that share the same expansive country. But they occupy different habitats. The Say’s Phoebe prefers dry, open country ranging from tundra to desert. This Black Phoebe is a close cousin to the Say’s.
Jul 19, 2020
An Evening in Sapsucker Woods - With A.A. Allen
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology maintains the largest collection of bird sounds in the world. In 1958, Arthur Allen, the lab’s founder, described An Evening in Sapsucker Woods: “There is a charming spot in the Finger Lakes country of central New York that we know as Sapsucker Woods. Friends have
Jul 18, 2020
An Evening in Sapsucker Woods - With A.A. Allen
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology maintains the largest collection of bird sounds in the world. In 1958, Arthur Allen, the lab’s founder, described An Evening in Sapsucker Woods: “There is a charming spot in the Finger Lakes country of central New York that we know as Sapsucker Woods.
Jul 18, 2020
A Little Bird Told Me
Ever wonder how the avian idiom, “A little bird told me,” came about? The consensus is that the saying springs from the Old Testament of the Bible -- a maxim from Ecclesiastes. By the mid-16th century, the “little bird” showed up in collections of proverbs. In 1711, the satirist Jonathan Swift wrote
Jul 17, 2020
A Little Bird Told Me
Ever wonder how the avian idiom, “A little bird told me,” came about? The consensus is that the saying springs from the Old Testament of the Bible -- a maxim from Ecclesiastes. By the mid-16th century, the “little bird” showed up in collections of proverbs.
Jul 17, 2020
Kestrels Love Nest Boxes
This American Kestrel evolved to nest in tree cavities or small caves in cliffs. We humans have made life difficult for kestrels. Development has shrunk the open spaces they need. We’ve cleared away dead trees they rely on for nests and sprayed pesticides that eliminate the insects the birds eat
Jul 16, 2020
Kestrels Love Nest Boxes
This American Kestrel evolved to nest in tree cavities or small caves in cliffs. We humans have made life difficult for kestrels. Development has shrunk the open spaces they need.
Jul 16, 2020
Great Horned Owl Family in Summer
In late July, the Great Horned Owl chicks that we have been following are four and a half months old, and must fend for themselves much of the time. The young birds continue to learn valuable lessons by watching the adults hunt. Their first hunting forays were clumsy. But by late July, they've
Jul 15, 2020
Great Horned Owl Family in Summer
In late July, the Great Horned Owl chicks that we have been following are four and a half months old, and must fend for themselves much of the time. The young birds continue to learn valuable lessons by watching the adults hunt. Their first hunting forays were clumsy.
Jul 15, 2020
Savannah Sparrow
Savannah Sparrows are abundant in open habitats throughout North America. In spring, they migrate north from the Southern US and Mexico to open agricultural fields, meadows, coastal grasslands, saltmarshes, and even tundra to breed and raise young. They nest on the ground and walk, run, or hop to
Jul 14, 2020
Savannah Sparrow
Savannah Sparrows are abundant in open habitats throughout North America. In spring, they migrate north from the Southern US and Mexico to open agricultural fields, meadows, coastal grasslands, saltmarshes, and even tundra to breed and raise young.
Jul 14, 2020
Steller's Birds
In July, 1741, Georg Wilhelm Steller set foot on land later known as Alaska, the first European to do so. Steller was a German naturalist on the St. Peter, a Russian ship exploring the Bering Sea. He was shipwrecked on Bering Island for over a year, and later wrote a book about the creatures that
Jul 13, 2020
Steller's Birds
In July, 1741, Georg Wilhelm Steller set foot on land later known as Alaska, the first European to do so. Steller was a German naturalist on the St. Peter, a Russian ship exploring the Bering Sea.
Jul 13, 2020
Gaping Blackbirds
Gordon Orians describes an unusual adaptation in blackbirds called gaping: "...the ability to forcibly open the bill against some pressure, so that a bird can push its bill into the base of a grass clump, and forcibly open it, which reveals the insects that may be down hidden in the base. ... Most
Jul 12, 2020
Gaping Blackbirds
Gordon Orians describes an unusual adaptation in blackbirds called gaping: "...the ability to forcibly open the bill against some pressure, so that a bird can push its bill into the base of a grass clump, and forcibly open it, which reveals the insects that may be down hidden in the base
Jul 12, 2020
Birdwatching 104 - A Summary
How do birdwatchers identify one species from another? First, they look carefully at the bird. What's the overall color? Is its bill long or short, thin or stout? What about its markings -- a ring around its eye or stripe on its head? What's your bird doing? Bird behavior can help you sort out one
Jul 11, 2020
Birdwatching 104 - A Summary
How do birdwatchers identify one species from another? First, they look carefully at the bird. What's the overall color? Is its bill long or short, thin or stout? What about its markings -- a ring around its eye or stripe on its head? What's your bird doing?
Jul 11, 2020
Birds That Say Their Own Names
Some birds, such as the Northern Bobwhite, take their names from their songs or vocalizations: "Bobwhite! Bobwhite!" The Killdeer is another bird named for its song: "Kill-dee, kill-dee, kill-dee." There are others. "Poorwill, poorwill, poorwill" calls this Common Poorwill. This bird is the cousin
Jul 10, 2020
Birds That Say Their Own Names
Some birds, such as the Northern Bobwhite, take their names from their songs or vocalizations: "Bobwhite! Bobwhite!" The Killdeer is another bird named for its song: "Kill-dee, kill-dee, kill-dee." There are others. "Poorwill, poorwill, poorwill" calls this Common Poorwill.
Jul 10, 2020
Kentucky Warbler
Kentucky Warblers nest in forested regions in much of the East, preferring woodlands with a dense understory, often near streams or other wetlands. These birds can use our help. As their forest habitat shrinks, it’s easier for Brown-headed Cowbirds to find and parasitize the warblers’ nests. While
Jul 09, 2020
Kentucky Warbler
Kentucky Warblers nest in forested regions in much of the East, preferring woodlands with a dense understory, often near streams or other wetlands. These birds can use our help. As their forest habitat shrinks, it’s easier for Brown-headed Cowbirds to find and parasitize the warblers’ nests.
Jul 09, 2020
Grosbeaks and Monarchs
Black-headed Grosbeaks are one of very few birds that regularly eat Monarch butterflies. Most birds and other animals find the butterflies unpalatable, if not downright toxic. The caterpillars of Monarchs consume milkweeds that contain toxic substances known as cardenolides. The poison is stored in
Jul 08, 2020
Grosbeaks and Monarchs
Black-headed Grosbeaks are one of very few birds that regularly eat Monarch butterflies. Most birds and other animals find the butterflies unpalatable, if not downright toxic. The caterpillars of Monarchs consume milkweeds that contain toxic substances known as cardenolides.
Jul 08, 2020
Sounds of the Boreal Forest
The boreal forest is a vast band of spruce and poplar, extending from coast to coast across Alaska and Canada. Called North America's "songbird bread-basket," for a brief time, it teems with song. Birdsongs heard on this show include a Common Loon (like this one), Swainson's Thrush, White-throated
Jul 07, 2020
Sounds of the Boreal Forest
The boreal forest is a vast band of spruce and poplar, extending from coast to coast across Alaska and Canada. Called North America's "songbird bread-basket," for a brief time, it teems with song.
Jul 07, 2020
White-throated Swifts
A pair of White-throated Swifts twists and turns, sailing through the air. Dashing headlong across the canyon toward an unyielding wall, the birds disappear at the last second into a slender crevice. This swift is aptly named — and doubly so. The White-throated Swift is among the fastest of all
Jul 06, 2020
White-throated Swifts
A pair of White-throated Swifts twists and turns, sailing through the air. Dashing headlong across the canyon toward an unyielding wall, the birds disappear at the last second into a slender crevice. This swift is aptly named — and doubly so.
Jul 06, 2020
Are Birds Nests Reused?
Let’s talk about nests. Every spring, robins build their cup-shaped nests using grass and mud. Orioles weave a hanging sack. It’s hard work, and yet once the chicks fledge, the structures probably won’t be reused. But bigger birds, such as herons, hawks, and eagles, often reuse a nest for many years
Jul 05, 2020
Are Birds Nests Reused?
Let’s talk about nests. Every spring, robins build their cup-shaped nests using grass and mud. Orioles weave a hanging sack. It’s hard work, and yet once the chicks fledge, the structures probably won’t be reused.
Jul 05, 2020
National Symbol - Turkey vs. Eagle
As an old tale goes, after the eagle was chosen for national emblem, Benjamin Franklin questioned the choice. In a letter to his daughter regarding a medal created by the Society of the Cincinnati, he wrote wrily: "The Bald Eagle is too lazy to fish for himself; when the Osprey has taken a fish
Jul 04, 2020
National Symbol - Turkey vs. Eagle
As an old tale goes, after the eagle was chosen for national emblem, Benjamin Franklin questioned the choice.
Jul 04, 2020
The Painted Bunting
Every spring and summer, birders go in search of the superbly colorful birds that come back to the temperate US from tropical regions — including the Painted Bunting. It just doesn’t seem possible that one bird could pack so much visual impact onto a body that’s only slightly larger than a goldfinch
Jul 03, 2020
The Painted Bunting
Every spring and summer, birders go in search of the superbly colorful birds that come back to the temperate US from tropical regions — including the Painted Bunting.
Jul 03, 2020
Rufous Hummingbirds in Summer
In July, the female Rufous Hummingbird has fledged her first two nestlings and is just about to fledge another. The chick is now as big as its mother, making the walls of the walnut-sized nest bulge outwards at maximum capacity. It takes about 40 days to fledge each brood, from egg-laying until the
Jul 02, 2020
Rufous Hummingbirds in Summer
In July, the female Rufous Hummingbird has fledged her first two nestlings and is just about to fledge another. The chick is now as big as its mother, making the walls of the walnut-sized nest bulge outwards at maximum capacity.
Jul 02, 2020
What Do Desert Birds Drink?
In the desert Southwest, water can be scarce. Yet some birds, like this Black-throated Sparrow, thrive in a scorching landscape. The birds obtain moisture from foods like nectar and fruit, as well as insects and other prey. They tuck into the shade in the heat of the day, so they won’t lose water in
Jul 01, 2020
What Do Desert Birds Drink?
In the desert Southwest, water can be scarce. Yet some birds, like this Black-throated Sparrow, thrive in a scorching landscape. The birds obtain moisture from foods like nectar and fruit, as well as insects and other prey.
Jul 01, 2020
Migration and Fat
If long migratory flights are amazing, what goes on inside a bird’s body during those flights seems absolutely astonishing. To store fat, birds may eat three times as much and forage over many more hours than normal, as they prepare for long-distance travel. Blackpoll Warblers double their weight in
Jun 30, 2020
Migration and Fat
If long migratory flights are amazing, what goes on inside a bird’s body during those flights seems absolutely astonishing. To store fat, birds may eat three times as much and forage over many more hours than normal, as they prepare for long-distance travel.
Jun 30, 2020
Crow Parents, Fearless Defenders
Although the American Crow may seem blasé about pillaging another bird's nest, it regards a threat to its own young as a punishable offense. To protect their nest, adult crows dive-bomb people, cats, and other animals, and even other birds. Young crows fledge when they are around five or six weeks
Jun 29, 2020
Crow Parents, Fearless Defenders
Although the American Crow may seem blasé about pillaging another bird's nest, it regards a threat to its own young as a punishable offense.
Jun 29, 2020
Olive-Sided Flycatcher - Preserving a Unique Voice
These days we're hearing the song of the Olive-sided Flycatcher less often. Clear-cutting and fire suppression in forests, along with acid rain, has reduced its available habitat. Pesticides affect the supply of food. American Bird Conservancy has named it a priority species for conservation
Jun 28, 2020
Olive-Sided Flycatcher - Preserving a Unique Voice
These days we're hearing the song of the Olive-sided Flycatcher less often. Clear-cutting and fire suppression in forests, along with acid rain, has reduced its available habitat. Pesticides affect the supply of food. American Bird Conservancy has named it a priority species for conservation.
Jun 28, 2020
Thick-billed Euphonia - Deceitful Mimic
Northern Mockingbirds can learn to mimic the sounds of just about any bird. They mimic to show off, not to deceive. But this Thick-billed Euphonia, a tiny songbird in South America, employs what scientists call “deceitful mimicry.” When frightened by a predator near its nest, a Thick-billed Euphonia
Jun 27, 2020
Thick-billed Euphonia - Deceitful Mimic
Northern Mockingbirds can learn to mimic the sounds of just about any bird. They mimic to show off, not to deceive.
Jun 27, 2020
Band-tail, Pigeon of the Woods
Band-tailed Pigeons are found mostly in low-altitude forests. Though about the size of city pigeons, they can be shy and sometimes hard to see. Strictly a bird of the western states, the Band-tailed Pigeon is decreasing in numbers. This is probably because the forests that the pigeons depend on have
Jun 26, 2020
Band-tail, Pigeon of the Woods
Band-tailed Pigeons are found mostly in low-altitude forests. Though about the size of city pigeons, they can be shy and sometimes hard to see. Strictly a bird of the western states, the Band-tailed Pigeon is decreasing in numbers.
Jun 26, 2020
Mysterious Disappearance of Evening Grosbeaks
In 1987, when Project FeederWatch began, Evening Grosbeaks were among the most common birds at birdfeeders during the Northeast winter. Now they're completely absent in many of those same areas. In the West, too, they're showing up in reduced numbers. Why have so many Evening Grosbeaks disappeared
Jun 25, 2020
Mysterious Disappearance of Evening Grosbeaks
In 1987, when Project FeederWatch began, Evening Grosbeaks were among the most common birds at birdfeeders during the Northeast winter. Now they're completely absent in many of those same areas. In the West, too, they're showing up in reduced numbers.
Jun 25, 2020
American Golden-Plover Lays Claim to the Tundra
A male American Golden-Plover proclaims its nesting territory with an aerial display known as the "butterfly flight." After flying up 50 feet, the plover switches to slow motion, raising its wings languidly until the wingtips nearly touch over its body, then lowering them gradually until they almost
Jun 24, 2020
American Golden-Plover Lays Claim to the Tundra
A male American Golden-Plover proclaims its nesting territory with an aerial display known as the "butterfly flight." After flying up 50 feet, the plover switches to slow motion, raising its wings languidly until the wingtips nearly touch over its body, then lowering them gradually until they alm
Jun 24, 2020
What's Behind Those Lustrous Red Feathers?
Male Northern Cardinals, Scarlet Tanagers, and House Finches all have striking red plumage that’s thought to play a role in attracting mates. Males with the brightest red feathering tend to have the best luck with the females. Scientists think that a male’s redness signals to females that he has
Jun 23, 2020
What's Behind Those Lustrous Red Feathers?
Male Northern Cardinals, Scarlet Tanagers, and House Finches all have striking red plumage that’s thought to play a role in attracting mates. Males with the brightest red feathering tend to have the best luck with the females.
Jun 23, 2020
White-headed Woodpecker
The White-headed Woodpecker is widely scattered and nowhere common in the Pacific Northwest. Like other woodpeckers, the White-headed Woodpecker digs out juicy insect larvae from the trees by pounding with its sharp bill. But by holding its bill at an angle, the White-headed Woodpecker also flakes
Jun 22, 2020
White-headed Woodpecker
The White-headed Woodpecker is widely scattered and nowhere common in the Pacific Northwest. Like other woodpeckers, the White-headed Woodpecker digs out juicy insect larvae from the trees by pounding with its sharp bill.
Jun 22, 2020
Common Potoo with Nancy Rumbel
The Common Potoo is a nocturnal bird of Central and South America, known for its camouflage plumage and upright perching. Nancy Rumbel, who composed the theme music for BirdNote, improvises here with the call of the Common Potoo. Using the pentatonic scale of the potoo, Nancy responds with her
Jun 21, 2020
Common Potoo with Nancy Rumbel
The Common Potoo is a nocturnal bird of Central and South America, known for its camouflage plumage and upright perching. Nancy Rumbel, who composed the theme music for BirdNote, improvises here with the call of the Common Potoo.
Jun 21, 2020
Summer Solstice - Dawn Songs
On the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, birds across the North American continent greet the dawn — from the Florida Keys and the marshes of Chesapeake Bay, from the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, home of this Audubon's Oriole, and the great plains of North Dakota, to the mountains of New
Jun 20, 2020
Summer Solstice - Dawn Songs
On the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, birds across the North American continent greet the dawn — from the Florida Keys and the marshes of Chesapeake Bay, from the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, home of this Audubon's Oriole, and the great plains of North Dakota, to the mountains of Ne
Jun 20, 2020
Hermit Thrush: Ethereal Singer
High in the mountains of the West and North, where the long summer days stay cool, the song of the Hermit Thrush stands out. The song has been described as "ethereal," "serene," or "flutelike." Writer Ralph Hoffman writes about the song of the Hermit Thrush: "It is the opening note that gives the
Jun 19, 2020
Hermit Thrush: Ethereal Singer
High in the mountains of the West and North, where the long summer days stay cool, the song of the Hermit Thrush stands out.
Jun 19, 2020
Two Meadowlarks and a Poem
In his poem “Trying to Fall Asleep in South Dakota,” poet Tom Gannon wrote about meadowlarks. He might have been hearing a Western Meadowlark, which nests across South Dakota in the summer. But if he’d been in the south-central part of the state, it might have been an Eastern Meadowlark. Their songs
Jun 18, 2020
Two Meadowlarks and a Poem
In his poem “Trying to Fall Asleep in South Dakota,” poet Tom Gannon wrote about meadowlarks. He might have been hearing a Western Meadowlark, which nests across South Dakota in the summer. But if he’d been in the south-central part of the state, it might have been an Eastern Meadowlark.
Jun 18, 2020
How Much Birds Sing
A typical songbird belts out its song between 1,000 and 2,500 times per day. Even though most bird songs last only a few seconds, that's a lot of warbling! A Yellowhammer, a European bunting, may sing over 3,000 times a day. But the Yellowhammer doesn't even come close to the North American record
Jun 17, 2020
How Much Birds Sing
A typical songbird belts out its song between 1,000 and 2,500 times per day. Even though most bird songs last only a few seconds, that's a lot of warbling! A Yellowhammer, a European bunting, may sing over 3,000 times a day.
Jun 17, 2020
Paradise-Whydah
A few times each year, the Eastern Paradise-Whydah puts on its party clothes. This small finch is found in East Africa, and males and females generally share the same nondescript appearance. But when it’s time to mate, the male sprouts extravagant, long, black tail feathers two or three times the
Jun 16, 2020
Paradise-Whydah
A few times each year, the Eastern Paradise-Whydah puts on its party clothes. This small finch is found in East Africa, and males and females generally share the same nondescript appearance.
Jun 16, 2020
Do Woodpeckers Harpoon Their Prey?
Because many woodpeckers have pointed tongues, it was once assumed that they “harpoon” their prey. But what they actually do is more complex. Like a safe-cracker in a movie, birds like this Hairy Woodpecker use a killer combination of sensitivity and force. First, as it scales a tree trunk, the
Jun 15, 2020
Do Woodpeckers Harpoon Their Prey?
Because many woodpeckers have pointed tongues, it was once assumed that they “harpoon” their prey. But what they actually do is more complex. Like a safe-cracker in a movie, birds like this Hairy Woodpecker use a killer combination of sensitivity and force.
Jun 15, 2020
Instrumental Bird Sounds
Birds communicate with a fascinating array of instrumental sounds, and nearly all are made with their feathers or bills. The territorial drumming of a woodpecker - like this Black-backed Woodpecker - is one example. American Crows clatter their beaks to make rattling sounds. And the remarkable
Jun 14, 2020
Instrumental Bird Sounds
Birds communicate with a fascinating array of instrumental sounds, and nearly all are made with their feathers or bills. The territorial drumming of a woodpecker - like this Black-backed Woodpecker - is one example. American Crows clatter their beaks to make rattling sounds.
Jun 14, 2020
Voices and Vocabularies - Great Horned Owls
Great Horned Owls have a lot to say! When a pair of Great Horned Owls calls in a duet, the female usually hoots first, and the male replies at a lower pitch. Great Horned Owls may also pierce the darkness with an eerie shriek, which may signal a hungry owlet begging for food or a female defending
Jun 13, 2020
Voices and Vocabularies - Great Horned Owls
Great Horned Owls have a lot to say! When a pair of Great Horned Owls calls in a duet, the female usually hoots first, and the male replies at a lower pitch.
Jun 13, 2020
Helpers at the Nest
Brown Jays, like this juvenile, make nesting a family affair. The entire flock takes care of a single nest, which holds four eggs laid by one female in the flock. Each bird brings food to the young. And when the young first leave the nest, the helpers teach them to find food and recognize danger
Jun 12, 2020
Helpers at the Nest
Brown Jays, like this juvenile, make nesting a family affair. The entire flock takes care of a single nest, which holds four eggs laid by one female in the flock. Each bird brings food to the young.
Jun 12, 2020
Tallgrass Prairie
Tallgrass prairie, a sea of grass, once stretched from Manitoba to Texas, a landscape of almost unimaginable natural abundance. Heading west, Lewis and Clark came upon savannahs as far as the eye could see, covered with herds of bison, elk, pronghorn, and deer. Only a tiny fraction of the original
Jun 11, 2020
Tallgrass Prairie
Tallgrass prairie, a sea of grass, once stretched from Manitoba to Texas, a landscape of almost unimaginable natural abundance. Heading west, Lewis and Clark came upon savannahs as far as the eye could see, covered with herds of bison, elk, pronghorn, and deer.
Jun 11, 2020
The Song of the Woodlark
Woodlarks are birds of the rolling heathlands and forest glades of southern England, as well as other parts of Europe. Like most kinds of larks, Woodlarks are all but impossible to spot on the ground. Fortunately, they sing from the air, as they fly in graceful, circular patterns, their warbled
Jun 10, 2020
The Song of the Woodlark
Woodlarks are birds of the rolling heathlands and forest glades of southern England, as well as other parts of Europe. Like most kinds of larks, Woodlarks are all but impossible to spot on the ground.
Jun 10, 2020
Tony Angell, on a Feeding Frenzy of Gulls
Naturalist, sculptor, and illustrator Tony Angell writes: "It was early summer and I looked across the open sea. Its surface gently heaved, suggesting the presence of some great being stirring within. ... In the bay below, a gang of a hundred gulls swirled, surged, and plunged into a herring ball
Jun 09, 2020
Tony Angell, on a Feeding Frenzy of Gulls
Naturalist, sculptor, and illustrator Tony Angell writes: "It was early summer and I looked across the open sea. Its surface gently heaved, suggesting the presence of some great being stirring within. ...
Jun 09, 2020
Loons Go Fishing
You're fishing on a northern lake, when a black-and-white shape torpedoes under your boat. Alerted by the sound of your reel, a Common Loon follows the trout in hot pursuit. If the fish is small, the loon may take it right off the end of your line. If you succeed in bringing the fish to hand, the
Jun 08, 2020
Loons Go Fishing
You're fishing on a northern lake, when a black-and-white shape torpedoes under your boat. Alerted by the sound of your reel, a Common Loon follows the trout in hot pursuit. If the fish is small, the loon may take it right off the end of your line.
Jun 08, 2020
Scarlet Tanagers Under the Canopy
In summer, the forests of the eastern United States are home to a bounty of birds, including this gorgeous Scarlet Tanager, which spends most of the year in tropical South America. The male’s body is a dazzling red, in contrast to his black wings and tail.
Jun 07, 2020
Tiniest Bird on the Continent
The tiniest bird in continental North America: the Calliope Hummingbird - a 3-1/4-inch jewel, weighing in at just a tenth of an ounce. These birds migrate north each spring from Western Mexico. From its perch, a male Calliope Hummingbird surveys its territory.
Jun 06, 2020
Kipukas and Akis
One of Hawaii’s rarest forest birds is this ‘Akiapola’au. Some of the roughly 1,000 'Akis left on earth live and breed in kipukas on the lower slopes of Mauna Loa, Hawaii’s largest active volcano.
Jun 05, 2020
Wood Ducks Succeed
Your eye may be drawn to the gorgeous male Wood Duck, but it is the call of the modestly plumaged female you’ll hear. This call tells the male where his mate is, important as the pair stays together through much of the winter and spring.
Jun 04, 2020
Precision Flight in Flocks: How Does It Work?
A flock of shorebirds flying wingtip to wingtip seems to act like a single organism, rolling and twisting in exquisite patterns. Flocks like these use a combination of two organizational patterns. One is a “cluster”: lots of birds flying together in a loose, three-dimensional cloud.
Jun 03, 2020
Kakapo Boom Through the Night
Kakapos are large, flightless parrots unique to New Zealand. Hoping to attract females, several males gather in a “lek.” They sing at the same time, and the deep-pitched notes carry a long distance. Females may wander in from as much as a mile away.
Jun 02, 2020
Tree Swallows and Feathers
Tree Swallows glisten in the June sunlight, as they swoop and glide, their arcs interlacing in the air. When a white feather flutters down among them, one swallow snatches the feather in its bill and flies upward, as another gives chase.
Jun 01, 2020
Mark Twain and Tropicbirds
When Mark Twain visited Hawaii in 1866, he was able to inspect a live volcano, Halema’uma’u, which he described as “a crimson cauldron.” Twain concluded his impressions of the hellish scene by writing, “The smell of sulfur is strong, but not unpleasant to a sinner.” That eruption came to an end i
May 31, 2020
Designing a Spider Web to Evade Bird Collision
One of the lesser known hazards of a bird’s life — when flitting from shrub to shrub — is collision with spiders’ webs. And when a bird flies through a web, it’s the spider’s hard work that takes the hit.
May 30, 2020
Do Crows Sing?
It’s been said that if someone knows only three birds, one of them will be the crow. They’re common, easy to see, and even easier to hear. But crow voices are complicated. Altogether, crows may use 30 sound elements in different combinations, and one of the most intriguing is their song.
May 29, 2020
Sibelius and the Swans
In April 1915, Finnish composer Jean Sibelius wrote in his diary about seeing 16 Whooper Swans overhead. He was entranced by both the sight and the sound of the swans. He watched them depart — “like a gleaming silver ribbon,” — and declared the image one of the great experiences of his life.
May 28, 2020
Powder Down
Hidden below the outer breast feathers of herons, pigeons, doves, tinamous, bustards and some parrots are patches of special down feathers. These feathers are never molted, and they grow continuously. The tips break down into a dust the consistency of talcum powder.
May 27, 2020
Bird Poop and Fish Eggs
Scientists have long suspected that bird poop may play a role in the dispersal of fish species to new bodies of water.
May 26, 2020
Boboslinks and Grasslands
Male Bobolinks are first to arrive on their breeding grounds in the grasslands. Why are there fewer Bobolinks than in decades past? Probably because the landscape of North America has changed so much. Bobolinks originally nested on native prairies of the Midwest and southern Canada.
May 25, 2020
Salmonberry Bird
The native names of birds sometimes distill the essence of their appearance or behavior. In the Cherokee language, for instance, the Meadowlark is called "star," because of the way the bird's tail spreads out when it soars.
May 24, 2020
Rufous Hummingbirds' Marvelous Nest
The nest-building skills of the female Rufous Hummingbird are amazing. She first weaves a cup of soft, fluffy plant material, then envelops it with moss and binds it with strands of spider web. The final touch: a layer of lichen flakes to provide perfect camouflage.
May 23, 2020
The Diminutive Downy Woodpecker
As part of their spring courtship, Downy Woodpeckers perform a spectacular "butterfly flight." The birds seem to dance in the air, holding their wings high, and flapping slowly and lazily like butterflies.
May 22, 2020
Preening 101
If a bird’s feathers get too dried out, they become brittle. To prevent that from happening, most birds have a gland located above the base of the tail that produces oil. They use their beaks to massage oil from the gland into their feathers to keep them supple.
May 21, 2020
Larkspurs: Flowers and Birds
Open a flower guide, and you may find larkspur, owl’s clover, parrot’s beak, wake-robin, peacock plant, and storksbill. And there’s chickweed, hawkweed, ragged robin, cuckoo flower, and hens-and-chicks. At least one flower packs in two bird names: the dove’s-foot cranesbill.
May 20, 2020
Lazuli Bunting
With its beautiful colors, the Lazuli Bunting might just have inspired Navajo artists. In summer, these beautiful singers inhabit the brushy canyons of Western mountains. And where the Lazuli Bunting sings, you'll often hear the music of Vesper Sparrows and Western Meadowlarks.
May 19, 2020
Do Alligators Protect Herons?
Raccoons sometimes invade nesting colonies of herons, spoonbills, and other wading birds to eat their eggs and chicks. But some of these birds have found ways to deter the masked bandits.
May 18, 2020
Spring Serenade in the Ozarks, With Steve Hilty
The Buffalo National River in the Ozark Mountains of northern Arkansas was the first "national river" in the US. The river, part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, runs undammed for 135 miles. Its forest habitat is a great place for birds and other wildlife.
May 17, 2020
Galápagos Archipelago - Melville's Encantadas
Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, described the Galápagos, a group of volcanic islands in the Pacific, as: "an archipelago of aridities, without inhabitant, history, or hope of either in all time to come." Charles Darwin also found the Galá
May 16, 2020
Why Act on Behalf of Other Species?
With so many pressing human needs in the world, for food, water, and places to live, why should we act on behalf of the wellbeing of other animals? For George Archibald of the International Crane Foundation, it’s a matter of ethics.
May 15, 2020
Peacocks in India
Peacocks have been domesticated for thousands of years and now occur everywhere in the world. But to see wild peacocks, you'll need to go to India and Sri Lanka. Where hunted, peacocks are shy and rarely seen, and give loud alarm calls when startled.
May 14, 2020
Decoy - Shrike Trickery
Northern Shrikes are unapologetically cool, with their black masks, elegant gray plumage, and predatory lifestyle. But these little raptors, although technically songbirds, sometimes sound less than appealing.
May 13, 2020
Dippers on the Elwha
In 2014, the dams on the Elwha River in Washington State were removed. As the river ran free again, salmon from the Pacific were able to spawn upstream for the first time in 100 years, dramatically improving conditions for American Dippers.
May 12, 2020
Beaks and Grosbeaks
Beaks suited for opening tough, hard seeds—thick, conical beaks—evolved in more than one lineage of birds. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are related to cardinals, which also have powerful beaks.
May 11, 2020
Mother Birds
Happy Mother's Day, from the whole BirdNote team!
May 10, 2020
Gulls or "Seagulls"?
Gulls seem so much a part of the sea that we often just call them "seagulls," a colloquial title for these graceful, ubiquitous creatures. Twenty-two species breed in North America. The Pacific coast is home to the aptly named Western Gulls.
May 09, 2020
Great Horned Owl III
This Great Horned Owlet - about 2-1/2 months old and already as big as its parents - is quite well feathered, although its underparts remain downy. Its wing and tail feathers are developing nicely, and it has begun to make short flights.
May 08, 2020
Beavers and Meadows
Viva Las Vegas -- When explorer Antonio Armijo came upon the place in 1829, he found bubbling springs, abundant beavers, and grassy beaver meadows. No casinos. Armijo named the site Las Vegas – Spanish for “the meadows.” Beavers do much to shape the natural landscape.
May 07, 2020
Common Eiders Favor Close Relatives
Some species of birds try to save energy by tricking others into incubating their eggs. But if the parasitic female is a related species, she may have an advantage.
May 06, 2020
Robins and Earthworms: The Backstory
When glaciers pushed south into what is now the U.S. around 20,000 years ago, they scraped off the soil layer and spelled the end of native earthworms except in the southern states.
May 05, 2020
Boreal Birds Need Half
The boreal forest of North America provides breeding habitat for billions of birds, such as this Semipalmated Plover. But the forest is under pressure. Many boreal birds are declining  — while development and resource extraction are intensifying. Fortunately, there’s an upside.
May 04, 2020
Skylark - With Aretha Franklin
Imagine: Singing for three minutes while soaring to 100 feet in the air, like the Skylark. None of the native birds of North America has such a long song or sings so persistently in flight.
May 03, 2020
The Perfect Nestbox
Many native cavity-nesters - including this Black-capped Chickadee - will nest in a manmade birdhouse, or nestbox. Look for a nestbox that's plain wood. If the birdhouse comes with a perch, remove it. It just makes it easier for a predator bird to land and go after the eggs or young.
May 02, 2020
Which Bird Has the Most Feathers
In general, the bigger the bird, the higher the number of feathers. Someone counted the feathers on a Tundra Swan and came up with 25,216. At least 80% were on the swan’s neck. Penguins, on the other hand, have lots of small feathers all over their bodies.
May 01, 2020
Double-Crested Cormorant
Sitting on a piling, wings outstretched, the Double-crested Cormorant looks like a black Celtic cross. Cormorants dive from the water's surface, pursuing prey under water, propelled by powerful webbed feet.
Apr 30, 2020
People Improving the Lives of Birds
Over the years, BirdNote has paid tribute to people who improve the lives of birds. We find inspiration in the efforts of stewards such as Jim Brown, who’s preserving important habitat for birds such as this Lewis's Woodpecker, along the Clark Fork River in Montana.
Apr 29, 2020
Osprey Stance
When humans ride a skateboard or snowboard or surf a wave, most prefer the same foot forward every time. A new study finds that Ospreys, too, often exhibit a favorite foot forward in flight. Today's show brought to you by the Bobolink Foundation.
Apr 28, 2020
Marbled Godwits
It's April, and godwits are on their way north. They have wintered along the coasts, including the Texas Gulf Coast, and along the Pacific from California to Washington. While most breed in the prairie provinces of Canada, some nest as far north as Alaska's Aleutian Islands.
Apr 27, 2020
John James Audubon Birthday
April 26th is the birthday of John James Audubon - flamboyant, groundbreaking artist, dedicated observer, adventurer, and writer. John James Audubon grew up in France, but moved to Philadelphia at 18.
Apr 26, 2020
A Natural Feast for Hummingbirds
Hoping to attract hummingbirds to your yard or balcony? One way is to grow native plants. Native plants provide cover, and they offer nectar in spring and summer. They also attract insects, the most important part of a hummingbird’s diet.
Apr 25, 2020
Bird Songs of April
The month of April inspires poets, sometimes with contradictory results. Poet TS Eliot describes April as "the cruelest month." Shakespeare strikes an upbeat note, writing "April hath put a spirit of youth in everything." Let April speak for itself. Listen to the birds.
Apr 24, 2020
Rusty Blackbirds - A Rusty Recovery
It’s basic black with an inelegant voice. It nests in places we rarely visit. And in relative obscurity, the Rusty Blackbird has suffered one of the most dramatic population declines ever recorded among our songbirds.
Apr 23, 2020
Earth Day
Northern Bobwhite ... Evening Grosbeaks ... Boreal Chickadees ... Common Terns ... and Northern Pintails, like this one ... the populations of all are in decline, mostly due to habitat loss.
Apr 22, 2020
Emily K. Michael - Trading Threes
Because she’s blind, Emily K. Michael experiences birds through their songs and calls. As a birder and poet, she describes hearing three Northern Cardinals singing to each other, as she walked her dog.
Apr 21, 2020
Voices and Vocabularies - Cardinals' Duet
Among most North American songbirds, it’s males alone who sing. But during the nesting season, we also hear female cardinals. Just when she sings and whether or not she matches his song may determine when the male brings food to the nest. 
Apr 20, 2020
Kingdom of Rarities - Featuring Eric Dinerstein
Why are some creatures rare and others common? What forces – natural and manmade – cause rarity? Eric Dinerstein travels far and wide for answers. He wonders how different the world could be with a few changes: “. . .
Apr 19, 2020
The Ten Commandments of Subirdia
In his book Welcome To Subirdia, bird expert John Marzluff offers a guide for living in close proximity to birds and other wildlife.
Apr 18, 2020
Backyard Bird Science
One of the best studies of a North American bird ever written was published by a citizen-scientist named Margaret Morse Nice. Margaret Nice banded more than 800 Song Sparrows in a 40-acre tract in Ohio. Most of us have neither the time nor the 40 acres, but there is still much we can do.
Apr 17, 2020
Stefania Gomez - Swifts
Each September, thousands of Vaux's Swifts roost in the chimney of Chapman Elementary School in Portland, Oregon, a stopover on their southern migration. Crowds gather every night to watch the spectacle.
Apr 16, 2020
A Giant Parrot of New Zealand
New Zealand was once home to a massive parrot that stood three feet tall, about hip-high to most adult humans. It’s estimated that the bird weighed around fifteen pounds, and it probably didn’t fly.
Apr 15, 2020
American Woodcock
At sunset, the male American Woodcock - a plump, robin-sized bird - walks slowly on short legs from the cover of the forest to a nearby clearing. After a few sharp calls, the woodcock takes flight. As it spirals upward, slim, stiff feathers at its wingtips create a curious twittering.
Apr 14, 2020
Thomas Jefferson's Mockingbirds
Mockingbirds, masters of mimicry, are prone to ramble on and on. Sometimes they even sing at night. Thomas Jefferson kept Northern Mockingbirds in his office and sleeping quarters, while president in the early 1800s.
Apr 13, 2020
The Lark Ascending
In “The Lark Ascending,” composer Ralph Vaughan Williams conjures up a bucolic vision of pastoral England. Small fields, hedgerows, an early summer’s morning. And the display flight of a Eurasian Skylark: Alauda arvensis.
Apr 12, 2020
Spring Rain Refreshes a Desert
Springtime in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in southeastern California. Cacti and wildflowers glisten with raindrops, and birds begin to sing. A House Finch, a Bewick's Wren, a Cactus Wren, a Mourning Dove, and this Costa's Hummingbird all add their sounds.
Apr 11, 2020
Spider Silk - Duct Tape for Bird Nests
The spider’s web is an intricate piece of precision engineering. Made from large proteins, it’s sticky, stretchy, and tough. So it’s no surprise that many small birds — including this Anna’s Hummingbird — make a point of collecting strands of spider silk to use in nest construction.
Apr 10, 2020
A Wide World of Crows
Crows are found on every continent except South America and Antarctica. And while there are a lot of similarities, there are a lot of differences, too. Imagine a powder-gray crow with a pink beak. There’s one thing they have in common, though: they’re all smart.
Apr 09, 2020
Seabirds Drink Salt Water
Seabirds have no problem drinking sea water. The salt they take in is absorbed and moves through their blood stream into a pair of salt glands above their eyes. The densely salty fluid is excreted from the nostrils and runs down grooves in the bill.
Apr 08, 2020
A Cardinal That's Half Male, Half Female
In Texas, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, people have reported seeing Northern Cardinals that are red on one side and brown on the other, indicating that a bird is half male and half female. This anomaly occurs in other species of birds, as well, not just cardinals. Insects, too!
Apr 07, 2020
Hummingbird Migration Myths
Does a hummingbird migrate by hitching a ride on the back of a goose? Not exactly.
Apr 06, 2020
Sage Thrasher and Sagebrush
The glorious song of the male Sage Thrasher rings out every spring from tracts of sagebrush throughout the West. Sagebrush was once widespread in the Great Basin region, and so were the thrashers.
Apr 05, 2020
Walk Down an Arroyo
Arroyo means "stream" in Spanish. With mesquite, yucca, and cactus along their edges, arroyos in the Southwest fill with water only a few times a year, mostly during the heavy rains of late summer. There's a remarkable diversity of wildlife here, including this Pyrrhuloxia.
Apr 04, 2020
You Could Take a Pigeon to the Movies
A movie runs at 24 frames per second, just right for humans to sense as normal speed. Pigeons process the visual world several times faster. The frantic car chase that puts us at the edge of our seats would likely appear—to a pigeon—more like a slideshow or PowerPoint.
Apr 03, 2020
House Sparrow - Introduction
The House Sparrow was first introduced into the US from England in the 1850s and has spread across the country. The name "House Sparrow" fits it well, because – from Bangor, Maine to San Diego, and Alaska to the Panama Canal – it's found nearly everywhere people live. 
Apr 02, 2020
Eoornis - A Bird of the Gobi Desert
The critically endangered Eoörnis of the Gobi Desert was first described in scientific literature in the late 1920s. This bird is known informally as the Woofen-poof — because of the sound it makes when it takes off from the desert sand.
Apr 01, 2020
Winter Wren in a Carolina Cathedral, With Gordon Hempton
Gordon Hempton, the Sound Tracker, records the sounds of nature in pristine places. Mesmerized by a Winter Wren singing in the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest of the Carolinas, Gordon chased the bird up and down a mountain before capturing its song at close range.
Mar 31, 2020
The Beauty of Webbed Feet
Webbed feet are ideal for birds that swim, on the water’s surface or under. In fact, they’re such a nifty adaptation that they evolved, independently, in several bird groups. Ducks and geese, gulls, cormorants, loons, pelicans, penguins, puffins and boobies all have webbed feet.
Mar 30, 2020
Music Inspired by Chicks Hatching - Mussorgsky and Ravel
Inspired by a talented friend's painting called "Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks," Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky wrote a piano piece as part of his famous work Pictures at an Exhibition. The composition was later orchestrated by Maurice Ravel.
Mar 29, 2020
Thirsty Rufous Hummingbird
Hummingbirds need to consume five times their body weight each day. This Rufous Hummingbird of the West is looking for flowering plants to quench that mighty thirst on its spring migration. A feeder would work, too. Put a hummingbird feeder up in your yard, and see who turns up!
Mar 28, 2020
Great Tinamou, Eerie Voice in the Jungle
The eerie sound of the Great Tinamou can be heard in the lowland jungle throughout much of Central and South America. Secretive — and almost impossible to see — Great Tinamous call early and late in the day. And their voices carry a long distance.
Mar 27, 2020
Red-winged Blackbird Harem
As spring begins, the male Red-winged Blackbird brandishes his red epaulets to warn other males away from his patch of cattails. At the same time, he sings to lure females into his marsh...many females, in fact. One male may attract up to a dozen females.
Mar 26, 2020
Dawn Song - Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson: "The Birds begun at Four o'clock..." As the first rays of sunlight fill the trees on a spring morning, a symphony of birdsong erupts. As early morning light extinguishes the stars, male birds begin to belt out their songs. One of the magical gifts of spring is the dawn song.
Mar 25, 2020
Syrinx and the Satyr
Birdsong owes its beauty and variety to a complex structure called the syrinx. The name comes from an ancient Greek story. Syrinx was a beautiful wood nymph, and she was trying to escape the advances of the satyr Pan. Just as Pan caught her, Syrinx was transformed into reeds.
Mar 24, 2020
Elf Owl
By late February or March, Elf Owls depart Mexico to breed in the US. These miniscule owls weigh less than an ounce and a half — a bit less than a golf ball. During the breeding season, Elf Owls live in woodlands and desert cactus habitats from southwest Texas into southern Arizona.
Mar 23, 2020
Spring, The Sky Rippled with Geese - With Maria Schneider
Birds provide a lot of inspiration for composer Maria Schneider, whose album titled Winter Morning Walks won three Grammy awards in 2014. One song from that album, “Spring, The Sky Rippled With Geese,” features Ted Kooser’s poem of the same title.
Mar 22, 2020
Drumming with Woodpeckers - West
Early spring in the West resounds with the percussive hammering of woodpeckers. Their rhythmic drumming functions as other birds' songs do, to broadcast over a long distance a clear statement of territory and mating rights.
Mar 21, 2020
Bearded Vultures Return Home to Europe
With its enormous size and black tuft of a beard, the Lammergeier, or Bearded Vulture, has a stark appearance. These distinctive birds erroneously acquired a reputation for killing livestock and stealing babies, which led to relentless persecution and eventual disappearance from much of Europe.
Mar 20, 2020
Vernal Equinox
Today marks the Vernal Equinox. And birds are singing in the new season. Listen to the sounds of the Greater Prairie-Chicken, Limpkin, Vesper Sparrow, Black Scoter, Horned Lark, Sandhill Crane, Western Meadowlark, Black Oystercatcher, and Western Screech-Owl.
Mar 19, 2020
New Zealand's Kakapo
The Kakapo of New Zealand is a kind of parrot, but one that doesn’t fly. At five pounds, it’s the world’s heaviest parrot. And like many parrots, it’s long-lived -- up to 90 years. Still, the species is highly endangered.
Mar 18, 2020
Green Birds on St. Patrick's Day
You'd think that with so much green in nature, many birds would be a'wearin' the green for camouflage. Not just on St. Patrick's Day, but every day. Yet very few of our birds cavort in Irish green.
Mar 17, 2020
Secretive Varied Thrush
Except in winter, when it gathers in loose flocks to move to lower elevations, this shy bird prefers solitude. The intricate pattern of color on its wings resembles dappled sunlight on the forest floor. Naturalist Louis Agassiz Fuertes called the song of the Varied Thrush, "...
Mar 16, 2020
Hummingbird Feeder Homebrew
The familiar components of a hummingbird feeder include a bottle, sugar water, and something red to attract the birds. (But not the water, please! Food coloring can be harmful to hummers.
Mar 15, 2020
Lark Sparrow
The Lark Sparrow is large, gorgeous, and unmistakable. Because of its beauty, a Lark Sparrow was chosen for the cover of Sparrows and Buntings: A Guide to the Sparrows and Buntings of North America and the World.
Mar 14, 2020
Voices and Vocabularies - The Basics
Birds’ voices invite us to step into nature and learn more about the singers. Hearing what’s distinctive in one bird’s voice — compared to another — helps us identify our avian neighbors without seeing them. Amazing!
Mar 13, 2020
Those Raucous Jays
A raucous call and a bold flash of blue at your feeder means a jay has arrived. East of the Rockies, your visitor is quite likely a Blue Jay (left). Out west, you're probably seeing a Steller's Jay. These daring blue dandies sound the alarm, announcing the approach of a predator.
Mar 12, 2020
Birds and Glass - Making Homes Safer
Forty-four percent of bird/window collisions happen with low-rise and residential buildings. Birds just don't understand glass and fly into windows at incredible speed. Biologist Matt Shumar has some easy ways to make your home safer for birds. First, reduce lighting, which attracts birds.
Mar 11, 2020
European Starling Nightmare
You can find European Starlings in huge flocks from coast to coast, and from Northern Canada deep into Mexico. Yet not one of these iridescent-black, yellow-billed starlings is native to the Americas. One hundred starlings were released in Central Park in New York City in 1890.
Mar 10, 2020
Birds and Glass - Ovenbird Release
During the migration season, many birds are injured when they collide with glass skyscrapers in New York City. Those that survive may end up at the Wild Bird Fund, the city’s only wildlife rehab center. Good news!
Mar 09, 2020
Tune Up Your Ears - West
By March in the West, Song Sparrows and other songbirds that don't migrate are already singing heartily to attract mates. Many other birds - including this Warbling Vireo - will return north from the tropics in April and May, announcing themselves in song as soon as they arrive in nesting areas.
Mar 08, 2020
Turkey Vultures on the Move
Before we see or feel spring, we often hear it first — in the testimony of a Red-winged Blackbird, the energy of a Song Sparrow, or the serenade of an American Robin. But across much of North America, an earlier sign of spring is the return of Turkey Vultures.
Mar 07, 2020
Wetland Birds Thrive
While nearly a third of North American bird species are in decline, many birds that depend on wetlands are thriving. Duck breeding populations in 2009 were an estimated 25% above historical averages.
Mar 06, 2020
Birds and Glass - At the Wild Bird Fund
Rita McMahon started New York City’s only wild bird rehab center in 2005. Today, the Wild Bird Fund has grown to see more than 7,000 birds each year. What’s the biggest problem during migration season? Collisions with glass. And New York City has a lot of glass.
Mar 05, 2020
Snatching Berries on the Wing
When American Robins gather to pluck berries, you can expect to see a lot of fluttering. The robins are heavy, making it a lot harder to perch and creep along a thin stem. And they have long, strong legs because they spend so much time walking and hopping on the ground in search of food.
Mar 04, 2020
Birds and Glass - Community Science
Birds do not understand glass. They see the reflection of open sky or trees and fly into windows at incredible speeds. These collisions, in both cities and residential areas, may claim the lives of as many as one billion birds in the US each year. But there's hope!
Mar 03, 2020
Amazing Pied-billed Grebe
The small, nondescript Pied-billed Grebe has an astonishing talent. The grebe is the master of its own buoyancy. It can squeeze out both the air trapped in its feathers and in its internal air-sacs and sink effortlessly.
Mar 02, 2020
Why Birds Sing
Why do birds sing? Ornithologists have learned that the longer hours of light that come with spring trigger the release of hormones in birds. These hormones prompt the enlargement of the birds' gonads which, in turn, stimulate male birds to sing.
Mar 01, 2020
Leaping with Sandhill Cranes
With a graceful leap, wings outstretched, Sandhill Cranes welcome the longer days. The stately cranes are courting, renewing an annual dance they perform in earnest as the days lengthen into spring.
Feb 29, 2020
American Kestrel
The American Kestrel is the smallest, most numerous, and most widespread North American falcon. This bird is built for speed, its long pointed wings often bent back at the tip. While hunting, kestrels hover above an open field.
Feb 28, 2020
Flocking and Foraging
In winter, a foraging flock might include several species of birds: chickadees, kinglets, and even a Downy Woodpecker. Many bird species eat alone, so you might wonder why these birds have chosen to dine together. Different species foraging in a group to find food enhances the success of all.
Feb 27, 2020
Jacana - Lily-trotter
The strange wading birds known as jacanas are nick-named "lily-trotters" for their ability to walk on lilypads. In Jamaica, they're known as "Jesus birds," because they appear to be walking on water — a feat made possible by their long toes. But that's not all that's cool about jacanas.
Feb 26, 2020
Kirtland’s Warbler - A Conservation Success
State and federal efforts, combined with the work of community volunteers, have brought the Kirtland’s Warbler back from the brink of extinction in the 1970s. Today, about 2300 pairs nest in the northern Midwest and into Ontario. It was taken off the Endangered Species List in 2019.
Feb 25, 2020
Why the Black Skimmer Skims
That’s not a distant dog barking. It’s a Black Skimmer in flight, at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia. This striking, black-and-white bird with a red bill and red feet has a most unusual way of feeding. It flies low along the surface of the water with its beak open.
Feb 24, 2020
Crow Funeral - with Tony Angell
Tony Angell, along with Professor John Marzluff of the University of Washington, wrote the book, Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans.
Feb 23, 2020
How Birds' Names Change
Have you ever heard of a marsh hawk or a sparrow hawk? These long-familiar bird names have passed into history. The study of birds, like any science, remains a work in progress.
Feb 22, 2020
Pigeons Love Cities - But We Loved Them First
Though some might see them as winged rats in today’s cities, pigeons have a long-standing bond with people -- especially in our urban environment. From Mesopotamia, 7000 years ago, to the urban skyscrapers of today, pigeons have been a constant.
Feb 21, 2020
Nest Cavities - Book Early
Swallows and bluebirds — like this Western Bluebird — are among the earliest northbound migrants to arrive, heralding spring a month before the equinox. Both species will nest only in cavities, such as old woodpecker holes or man-made nestboxes.
Feb 20, 2020
Cranes' Voices Across the Globe
There are fifteen species of cranes across the globe, found everywhere but Antarctica and South America. During the winter, cranes forage and rest together by the thousands. Listen in to the voices of cranes from all over the world.
Feb 19, 2020
Mockingbirds Are Southerners
It wasn’t until the 19th century that Northern Mockingbirds began nesting in the Northeastern states. In the 20th century, the birds expanded their range into Ohio and the upper Midwest. Much of California saw the arrival of mockingbirds in the 20th century, too.
Feb 18, 2020
Regal Great Blue Heron
Tall and prehistoric-looking, the Great Blue Heron is the largest heron in North America. Great Blue Herons are often seen flying high overhead with slow wing-beats. When foraging, they stand silently along riverbanks, on lake shores, or in wet meadows. Quickly then, they stab at their prey.
Feb 17, 2020
The Crane Wife
Throughout history, the Japanese have viewed the crane as a symbol of good fortune. Because cranes mate for life, they also represent fidelity and honor. Visit SavingCranes.org, to learn more about the International Crane Foundation and the fight to save the Japanese Red-crowned Crane.
Feb 16, 2020
Northern Saw-whet Owls - Common but Unknown
Northern Saw-whet Owls reveal we have much to learn about the world of birds. Author and naturalist Scott Weidensaul shares his insight: “Here’s a species that up until the early to mid-1990s was considered to be rare in most of its range . . .
Feb 15, 2020
Annual Great Backyard Bird Count
The annual Great Backyard Bird Count, February 14-17, 2020, is sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Birdwatchers across the country count birds and then report the numbers on-line.
Feb 14, 2020
Conserving Canada's Boreal Forests
The vast Canadian boreal forest provides breeding habitat for almost half of North America's migratory ducks, geese, and songbirds - including this Olive-sided Flycatcher.
Feb 13, 2020
Charles Darwin and the White Tern
On a stop at the Cocos Islands near Sumatra, the naturalist Charles Darwin described his first encounter with a special little bird.
Feb 12, 2020
When Does a Crossbill's Bill Cross?
A young crossbill starts life with a wedge-shaped beak. As it grows up and starts to feed itself by removing conifer seeds from their tough packaging, the tips of its bill begin to grow rapidly — and then they cross.
Feb 11, 2020
Common Poorwills Can "Hibernate"
Common Poorwills don’t sing much when the mercury drops. But they can do something else that is remarkable. As the winter cold deepens, these petite members of the nightjar family can enter a hibernation-like state — and stay like that for hours — or even weeks!
Feb 10, 2020
Left Foot or Right? Handedness in Birds
A parrot’s eyes are located on the sides of its head. So, if it wants to look at something — say, a delicious piece of fruit — it has to cock its head one way or the other do it. And if it looks with its left eye, then uses its left foot. Scientists call this handedness.
Feb 09, 2020
Riding with Red-tails
Traveling home after a flight into Seattle’s Sea-Tac airport, you might share a ride on the shuttle with a Red-tailed Hawk! To protect passengers, planes, and birds, airport biologists Steve Osmek and Bud Anderson capture raptors for relocation away from the airport.
Feb 08, 2020
Who, or What, Was Mother Goose?
Mother Goose was sometimes illustrated as an old country woman wearing a tall hat and riding on the back of a goose. Or sometimes as just a big, motherly goose wearing reading glasses and a bonnet, a friendly figure children could trust.
Feb 07, 2020
Ecuador's Nature Reserves
Ecuador is home to 1,600 species of birds — twice the number in all of North America. Artist and naturalist Paul Greenfield, a long-time resident of Ecuador, has helped create conservation reserves, large and small. He feels that smaller reserves may have the best chance for long-term success.
Feb 06, 2020
Great Blue Heron Meets T. Rex
The Great Blue Heron is tall and slender with a bill like a sword and the graceful, measured moves of a dancer. And it’s mostly quiet. But when this bird does make noise, it can be downright scary.
Feb 05, 2020
Habitat and the Tipping Point Part II
As our climate changes, restoring coastal wetlands will be increasingly important for the welfare of people and birds. As manager of the McKinney National Wildlife Refuge in Long Island Sound, Rick Potvin oversees coastal and island habitat for wildlife.
Feb 04, 2020
Franklin's Gull - The Half-time Seagull
Gulls are often called "seagulls," but many spend a lot of time far away from the sea. The Franklin's Gull breeds in freshwater wetlands more than 5,000 miles from its winter home at the ocean.
Feb 03, 2020
Storks and Babies
Storks and babies have been linked together for centuries. But how did that old legend get started? Researchers suggest that the legend goes back to pagan times, when civilizations were keen to have high birthrates.
Feb 02, 2020
Ecosystem Engineers on America's Serengeti
Some birds require habitats created by other animals. Two such landscape shapers were the American bison and the prairie dog. With the extermination of millions of bison and prairie dogs, species such as this Mountain Plover and the Burrowing Owl, which require barren ground, greatly declined.
Feb 01, 2020
Winter Brings Falcons
A Merlin — like this one — hunts boldly from a high perch. A Peregrine Falcon dives on a hapless pigeon, with an air speed approaching 200 miles per hour. The Gyrfalcon can fly down even the fastest waterfowl in a direct sprint. A Prairie Falcon blends in with its background.
Jan 31, 2020
Rhea Nesting Is Mind-boggling
A typical bird nest will have maybe four to six eggs neatly arranged by the parent to hunker down on. But in one Rhea nest, you may find between 50 and 80 eggs! And they’re not all from the same set of parents.
Jan 30, 2020
Wing-clapping
For most birds, wings are for flying. But for Rock Pigeons, they’re also for clapping. When the pigeons erupt into flight, some may slap their wings together above their bodies in a “wing clap.” A male Rock Pigeon will also do this when courting. Short-eared Owls have evolved wing-clapping, too.
Jan 29, 2020
Recording Cerulean Warblers with Charlotte Goedsche
Since 1998, Charlotte Goedsche has been studying the Cerulean Warblers that breed in the mountains near Asheville, North Carolina. And she has learned some fascinating things! For example, Charlotte can identify individual Cerulean Warbler males like this one, by listening to their songs.
Jan 28, 2020
Sounds of the Amazon
It's winter and time for a vacation. Let's head to the Amazon! With names like the Screaming Piha, the Blue-crowned Motmot, and the Black-necked Red-Cotinga, these are not your average birds. Insects are the background chorus for the Cuvier's Toucan and the Musician Wren.
Jan 27, 2020
Laysan Albatrosses Nest at Midway Atoll
Midway Atoll is the winter home of nearly a million nesting albatrosses. Laysan Albatrosses return to Midway in November to breed. Roughly 450,000 pairs wedge their way into a scant 2½ square miles of land surface. And why do Laysans nest in winter?
Jan 26, 2020
Canada Jays Save Food for Later
While camping in the mountains, you might see this Canada Jay (formerly known as the Gray Jay — but before that, as the Canada Jay!), boldly swooping into your camp. This handsome jay’s big, black eyes seem to miss nothing — especially food.
Jan 25, 2020
Burrowing Snowbirds
Light, fluffy snow can be up to 90% trapped air — just the thing to keep birds and other animals warm. Ptarmigan spend winter nights in cozy caves they excavate in snow. During truly harsh weather, they will hunker down in their caves through the short arctic day, too.
Jan 24, 2020
The Verdin’s Winter Roosts
For small songbirds, surviving a cold winter night can be challenging. Their bodies lose heat faster than those of larger birds. So little birds have found resourceful ways to stay warm — like huddling close together with other birds.
Jan 23, 2020
Nictitating Membranes - Nature's Goggles
For most birds, keen eyesight is critical for survival. But many birds lead lives that can be very hard on the eyes — like flying at breakneck speed, racing for cover into a dense thicket, or diving under water to capture prey.
Jan 22, 2020
Herons Go Fishing
Any fisherman will tell you that to catch a fish, you need the right bait, the perfect spot by the water’s edge, and patience. While they don’t use the traditional line-and-tackle, Striated Herons have mastered these fishing techniques.
Jan 21, 2020
The Peregrine Falcon Makes a Comeback
Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, which came out in 1962, linked the pesticide DDT to the decline of many birds, including songbirds. But Peregrine Falcons and other raptors had declined, too.
Jan 20, 2020
Gliding with Tropicbirds
With the strong, direct flight of a falcon, a tropicbird can catch a flying fish on the wing, or plunge like an arrow into the sea and — with its serrated bill — capture a squid.
Jan 19, 2020
A Brief History of Cars Named for Birds
Birds can be sleek, aerodynamic, and powerful — all in one package. Automakers picked up on this early: a cool bird name will sell cars. So far, more than twenty models of cars have been named for birds — some real, some mythical — and they go way back.
Jan 18, 2020
Reddish Egret - Lagoon Dancer
The Reddish Egret, a particularly glamorous heron, is best known for its startling antics in capturing fish. When fishing, the egret sprints across the lagoon, weaving left and right, simultaneously flicking its broad wings in and out, while stabbing into the water with its bill.
Jan 17, 2020
Patrick Comins, on Being a Conservationist
Patrick Comins, executive director of Audubon Connecticut, explains what being a conservationist means to him. "If you've ever seen a Scarlet Tanager you don't even have to describe how wonderful they are. It's this variety and diversity of birds that really got me interested.
Jan 16, 2020
The Oilbird's Lightless Life
Nature has produced some exceptionally strange animals. One such creature is the Oilbird of northern South America.
Jan 15, 2020
Rachel Carson, Environmental Champion
When Rachel Carson was preparing to publish Silent Spring, her most intimate friend Dorothy Freeman was worried that Carson would be persecuted. But Carson had done her homework -- and her research -- and she was ready for the battle to come.
Jan 14, 2020
Trogons Nest with Wasps
The "Violaceous" Trogon (recently split into three species), which nests in Mexico, Central America, and northern South America, often excavates its dwelling within a large, active wasp or termite nest.
Jan 13, 2020
Short-eared Owl
Flapping with deep, slow wing-motion, a Short-eared Owl appears almost to float above the ground. This owl has an extensive world range, including North and South America, Europe, and Asia. Still, it's declining, due to development, agriculture, and overgrazing.
Jan 12, 2020
Western Tanagers Are Flashes of Bright Color
Western Tanagers dart from tree to tree, on the lookout for delicious bugs. They’ll find them by scanning the tree bark — or maybe snatching them from mid-air during flight — a tactic called hawking.
Jan 11, 2020
Attu and Its Island-hopping Rock Ptarmigan
Attu, at the western end of Alaska’s Aleutian chain, is home to the Rock Ptarmigan. Although grouse are not long-distance fliers, Rock Ptarmigans can cross open water, so they occur from one end of the Aleutians to the other.
Jan 10, 2020
Great Horned Owls Nest
High in a leafless cottonwood, a female Great Horned Owl incubates two eggs. As light snow falls on her back, her mate roosts nearby. Since December, this pair has been hooting back and forth regularly at night.
Jan 09, 2020
Capuchinbirds
The peace of the vast Guyanan jungle is abruptly broken with the dawn chorus of male Capuchinbirds, one of the most bizarre birds in South America. The singing male bows forward, then suddenly stretches to his full length, raising a monk-like cowl of feathers around his naked blue-gray head.
Jan 08, 2020
Rachel Carson and the Veery
Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, and her beloved friend Dorothy Freeman shared a love of nature … and especially of one particular bird: the Veery, a type of thrush. Plain looking as it is, the Veery has a particularly beautiful song.
Jan 07, 2020
Why Do Birds Come to Birdfeeders?
A tube of black oil sunflower seeds isn’t “natural”…and neither is a suet cake. Yet as soon as you hang them up, the neighborhood birds, like these female finches, find them. Those grosbeaks at your feeder probably never ate sunflower seeds in nature.
Jan 06, 2020
John Burroughs
John Burroughs was probably the most popular nature writer of the late 19th Century. Many consider Burroughs the founder of the modern nature essay. Yet Burroughs wrote not about nature on a grand scale, but about glimpses of nature close to home.
Jan 05, 2020
Winter Sounds of the Lower Rio Grande
In the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, where the Rio Grande River borders Mexico, birds commonly found in Central America reach their northern-most range. Here you can find fascinating birds like this Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, a tiny flycatcher with a long name!
Jan 04, 2020
On a Cold, Cold Night
When the bitter cold of winter arrives, songbirds face an emergency: how to keep warm through the night. On normal nights, many prefer sleeping solo in a sheltered spot. But in severe cold, some kinds of birds may have a greater prospect of survival by roosting with others.
Jan 03, 2020
Cerulean Warblers Link Conservation on Two Continents
In winter, the Cerulean Warbler forages in tree-tops of the Andes Mountains. In May, at the other end of a 2,500-mile migration, the very same bird sings from the tree-tops in the Appalachian Mountains. The Cerulean Warbler is one of the most threatened birds in the US.
Jan 02, 2020
A New Year Dawns
Listen to the earth awaken, as dawn circles the globe. Acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton recorded these sounds around the globe. He's with SoundTracker.
Jan 01, 2020
Hitchcock's Movie, The Birds
In Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 thriller, "The Birds," Bodega Bay, California, is inexplicably besieged by crazed birds. After the birds attack and kill several residents, the townspeople flee in terror.
Dec 31, 2019
Sandhill Cranes - Interview with Hank Lentfer
Hank Lentfer, author and lifelong Alaskan, helped establish a 4,000-acre refuge for Sandhill Cranes—the Gustavus Forelands Preserve. Today, some 20,000 Sandhill Cranes use the preserve to rest and refuel. Along the way, they've helped Hank make his own journey—one from despair to hope.
Dec 30, 2019
Rare Sounds Saved by Macaulay Library
The tranquil song of the Kaua'i O'o graced the high, dense forests of Kaua'i until 1987, when it was heard no more. The voice of only one member of this family of birds, now all extinct, remains immortalized on tape.
Dec 29, 2019
Crested Caracara
The Crested Caracara, one of North America's most charismatic birds of prey, is common in Texas, and an isolated population lives in Florida. They stride through the grass on long legs, as they hunt for small animals of all kinds.
Dec 28, 2019
Environmental Success at Long Beach - Patrick Comins
We're on Long Beach West on Long Island Sound, with Patrick Comins. Thousands of migratory shorebirds - including Dunlin like these - stop over here on their long migratory journeys. But this ecological gem could have been lost. Good news! Today it's part of the Stewart B.
Dec 27, 2019
Beaks and Bills
A bird’s bill is an incredible multi-tool — good for preening feathers, building a nest, self-defense, scratching, displaying, building a nest, and egg-turning.
Dec 26, 2019
Carol of the Birds - With Nancy Rumbel
To celebrate the season, Nancy Rumbel, who composed and played the BirdNote theme music, performs "Carol of the Birds." This version was arranged by Nancy herself, with the accompaniment of Pine Siskins, Black-capped Chickadees, a Red-winged Blackbird, Song Sparrow, House Finch, American Goldfinc
Dec 25, 2019
Winter on the Columbia
A stiff December breeze blowing down the Columbia River delivers an exhilarating chill. A stretch of river near Bridgeport, in north-central Washington, is held tightly by a series of dams, creating massive lakes - lakes which, in winter, harbor thousands of water-birds.
Dec 24, 2019
Earthworms - A Superfood in Cold Storage
This American Robin has caterpillars and an earthworm in its beak. But which food source is the real prize? Everyday earthworms are higher in protein than beef or chicken. You’d have to eat about a pound of soybeans to equal the protein in just three ounces of earthworms.
Dec 23, 2019
Geese Launching at Bosque del Apache
In winter, flocks of wintering Snow Geese, Ross’s Geese, and Sandhill Cranes stop at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Just before sunrise, the geese are a mass of kinetic and potential energy, like a symphony orchestra tuning up for a big performance.
Dec 22, 2019
Long-distance Champions of Migration - With Scott Weidensaul
Arctic Terns are the long-distance champions of migration. Thanks to satellite transmitters and geolocators, we know that some Arctic Terns travel more than 50,000 miles annually!
Dec 21, 2019
Carrier Pigeons Go to War
In World War I, carrier pigeons were crucial in relaying messages from the front to positions behind the lines. The most renowned was Cher Ami - or Dear Friend - flown by the US Army Signal Corps during the Battle of Verdun in France.
Dec 20, 2019
The Cardinal: A Southerner Moves North
Holiday cards often feature gorgeous red cardinals against a snowy landscape. So it’s easy to assume the birds have always been a colorful presence in bleak Northern winters. But cardinals used to be Southern birds.
Dec 19, 2019
William Turner and the First Bird Book
The first printed bird book, The Principal Birds of Aristotle and Pliny, was published in 1544.
Dec 18, 2019
Wilson's Warblers Benefit from Shade-grown Coffee
Early this fall, the tiny Wilson's Warbler began its long migration to Belize, where it winters. Navigating by the stars, the 1/4-ounce bird made a series of night flights spanning more than 2500 miles. This warbler returns to the same coffee plantation each year.
Dec 17, 2019
A Bird in the Hand
You’ve probably heard the old saying: “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Well, it’s a very old saying, and it’s gone through some changes over the years. In each era, the pragmatic wisdom is clear: Hold on to the sure thing rather than taking a gamble on something better.
Dec 16, 2019
Margaret Morse Nice and the Song Sparrow
Few backyard birds in North America are more widespread than the Song Sparrow. But it was the study of this seemingly unremarkable bird that helped shape modern ornithology. In 1928, Margaret Morse Nice began carefully observing Song Sparrows near Columbus, Ohio, where she lived.
Dec 15, 2019
Rock Sandpipers Are Tough - Homer Spit Christmas Bird Count
It's winter on Homer Spit in southern Alaska, and Rock Sandpipers feed along the gravelly shore. These small shorebirds probe for food. Anything that moves is fair game, especially amphipods, the little crustaceans that hop about when exposed.
Dec 14, 2019
Why Some Birds Sing in the Winter
By late January, some resident birds, such as the Northern Mockingbird, are beginning their spring singing. When you step outside on a particularly sunny day this winter, a Fox Sparrow like the one pictured here may be warming up for the coming spring.
Dec 13, 2019
Wingspan - A Stealth Ecology Lesson
The board game Wingspan came out this year to a lot of buzz. The bird-themed game is fun — but it’s also having a surprising impact. It’s gotten nonbirders hooked on birds. And it’s also gotten birders hooked on board games. Meanwhile, everybody’s learning something!
Dec 12, 2019
The Majestic Gyrfalcon
Gyrfalcons are the largest falcons in the world, with a wingspan of almost four feet and weighing almost five pounds. The name “Gyrfalcon” derives from an Old Norse word for “spear.” During the summer, you’ll find Gyrfalcons on the tundra, where they feed on arctic birds.
Dec 11, 2019
Birds and Bird Conservation Matter - Interview with David Yarnold
We asked David Yarnold, President of National Audubon, why bird conservation matters. He says that preserving wild places and preserving the links in nature's chains allow wildlife to thrive.
Dec 10, 2019
The Pecking Order
Birds in flocks almost invariably develop a pecking order. An alpha chicken can peck any other in the flock, and a beta chicken can peck all others but the alpha bird. Juncos and other small birds have a pecking order, too.
Dec 09, 2019
American Bittern - Thunder-Pumper
American Bitterns nest in marshes across the northern half of the United States and throughout much of Canada, and they winter along both US coasts south into Central America. But in some places, bitterns are in serious trouble.
Dec 08, 2019
Why Birds Stand on One Leg
Birds' legs have an adaptation called "rete mirabile" that minimizes heat loss. The arteries that transport warm blood into the legs lie in contact with the veins that return colder blood to the bird's heart. The arteries warm the veins.
Dec 07, 2019
Are Northern Forest Owls Coming South This Winter?
The boreal forest stretches across Canada and Alaska, a huge expanse of woods, wetlands and wilderness. And it’s full of magnificent forest owls that depend on mice and other rodents for food.
Dec 06, 2019
Wingspan Takes Flight
The goal is to attract birds to your aviary by collecting things they like to eat. Your birds are worth points, and they score you more points when they lay eggs, gather food, or do other bird-y things.
Dec 05, 2019
Encounter with a Cassowary
In a tropical woodland in eastern Australia, you glimpse a Southern Cassowary, a huge flightless bird that must rate as the most prehistoric looking of all birds.
Dec 04, 2019
Pelicans Go Fishing
There are two kinds of pelicans in North America – the American White Pelican and the Brown Pelican. And they’ve evolved different tactics to catch their prey.
Dec 03, 2019
The Benefits of a Raven's Black Feathers
It turns out, a raven's black plumage works quite well in the desert. Black feathers do conduct the sun’s warming rays, but they concentrate that solar heat near the feathers’ surface.
Dec 02, 2019
Snow Geese: Too Much of a Good Thing
When small family farms gave way to large, industrial agricultural operations, the Snow Geese followed. Waste grain left over from harvests has allowed Snow Goose populations to jump. Now, there are so many Snow Geese they degrade their Arctic summer habitat, threatening other birds.
Dec 01, 2019
How Much Do Birds Eat?
There used to be a saying about somebody who doesn’t eat much — “she eats like a bird.” But how much does a bird typically eat? As a rule of thumb, the smaller the bird, the more food it needs relative to its weight. A Cooper’s Hawk, a medium-sized bird, eats around 12% of its weight per day.
Nov 30, 2019
Giblets and Gizzards
A bird’s stomach is divided into two parts. The first part is a lot like our stomach; it’s filled with digestive juices to break down food. But the second part — that’s the bird’s gizzard. It’s a strong, muscular pouch that breaks down hard foods like seeds and nuts.
Nov 29, 2019
The Wild Turkey - One Well-Traveled Bird
It’s likely that the Mayans of southern Mexico were the first to domesticate turkeys.
Nov 28, 2019
The Red-shouldered Hawk - One Gorgeous Bird of Prey
Sharp, insistent cries signal the presence of one of North America’s most beautiful birds of prey: the Red-shouldered Hawk.
Nov 27, 2019
A Blizzard of Snow Geese
An immense field appears to be covered with snow, blanketed in white. But a closer look reveals more than 10,000 Snow Geese. Snow Geese nest on Wrangel Island, in the Chukchi Sea off northern Siberia. Don't miss the amazing video by Barbara Galatti!
Nov 26, 2019
How Long Does a Robin Live?
If a young American Robin survives its first winter, its chances of survival go up. But robins still don’t live very long. The oldest robins in your yard might be about three years old (although thanks to banding, we know of one bird that lived to be almost 14).
Nov 25, 2019
Boreal Chickadees Stay Home for the Winter
Boreal Chickadees live in the boreal forest year-round. How do they survive the harsh winter? First, during summer, they cache a great deal of food, both insects and seeds. Then in fall, they put on fresh, heavier plumage.
Nov 24, 2019
Birds Winter at the Salton Sea
California's Salton Sea is hot and smelly - and it's also a Mecca for thousands of wintering birds. This inland sea formed when the Colorado River breached floodgates in 1905, forming a lake 45 miles long.
Nov 23, 2019
Convocations, Coveys and Charms
Everybody’s heard of a gaggle of geese and a covey of quail. But what’s a group of penguins called? And a “conspiracy” of ravens? Maybe the way we label birds says more about us than it does about them.
Nov 22, 2019
Winter Birds Love Suet
Birds at a suet feeder... What a burst of vitality on a chilly morning! What's the attraction? A cake of suet, suspended from a branch in a small wire feeder. Suet is beef fat, a high-energy food critical for birds' survival in the colder months.
Nov 21, 2019
City Owls
Some owls, like Barred Owls and Great Horned Owls, live in the city. As hunters, they find a lot to eat in the city — like rats or squirrels! Both favor urban parks, cemeteries, and botanical gardens — places with big trees — and both roost during the day.
Nov 20, 2019
Birds of Prey and Nesting Territories
Red-tailed Hawks typically have a nesting territory of about a half-mile to a full square mile, depending on how much food there is. Bald Eagles’ nesting territories range from 2½ square miles to as much as 15 square miles, for the same reason.
Nov 19, 2019
Amazing Feet
What looks like feet on a bird are actually its toes. That backward-looking knee is more like an ankle. A bird’s feet are suited to its unique way of living. Eagles capture live prey with long talons, while water birds use webbed feet to guide and propel themselves.
Nov 18, 2019
The Birds and Plants of Hawaii
Three-quarters of Hawaii's native flowering plants probably came from seeds that hitched rides with birds. Sticky or barbed seeds adhere to the feathers. Other seeds travel in mud caked on a bird's feet. And still others cross the ocean in the stomachs of birds.
Nov 17, 2019
The Eyes of an Owl
Peer into an owl's face – there is something almost human about its large, forward-facing eyes. The Great Gray Owl, which stands two feet tall and weighs 2 and 1/2 pounds, has eyes larger than those of most humans! Enormous eyes enable owls to see in near darkness.
Nov 16, 2019
Leave the Leaves
To help backyard birds through the winter, do less. Leave the leaves or rake them under plantings. The tasty insects and spiders underneath will be food for the towhee and this Song Sparrow. Don’t deadhead. Pine Siskins and goldfinches love to snack on dead flowerheads.
Nov 15, 2019
Project FeederWatch
Project FeederWatch, sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon, is a window on the birds of winter. Through Project FeederWatch, scientists are able to track the movements of birds - including this Pine Siskin - and understand trends in population and distribution.
Nov 14, 2019
American Wigeon
The American Wigeon is a grazer. Its bill is narrow, with a pointed tip like that of a goose. When feeding on water plants, a wigeon grabs a leaf and rips it off with its strong bill, rather than using the straining apparatus typical of dabbling ducks.
Nov 13, 2019
The Eagle Eye
Ever heard the term “eagle eye”? An eagle’s vision is incredibly sharp, and its eyes can weigh more than its brain. The secret to the bird’s exceptional vision is the density of visual cells – the rods and cones – of its retina.
Nov 12, 2019
Get Involved
Go outside this weekend. Feel the wind in your hair. Listen to a bird. Discover a new park. Then get involved! Volunteer to lead your own bird walk. Help build a trail.
Nov 11, 2019
Goldeneyes and Whistling Wings
On a still winter afternoon, you may hear Common Goldeneyes flying low across the water. Whistlers, their wings sibilant, make the sound - as Ernest Hemingway wrote - of ripping silk. Common Goldeneyes nest in cavities, in northern boreal forests.
Nov 10, 2019
Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers
These Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers appear nearly identical, but the Hairy Woodpecker is larger than the Downy, with a distinctly longer bill. And it doesn't have the black spots on its outer tail feathers like the Downy.
Nov 09, 2019
As the Crow Flies
Traveling "as the crow flies," eating "like a bird," and being "free as a bird" are just a few of the sayings we use to describe everyday human actions and feelings. But these often don't take into account the birds' real activities, relative to their size.
Nov 08, 2019
Anna's Hummingbird: Thriving in Our Shadow
The Anna’s Hummingbird has undergone a major range expansion since the 1930s. And that’s largely due to humans.
Nov 07, 2019
Return of the Snowbird
You may see Dark-eyed Juncos in the summer, but come fall, many more — those that have been nesting in the mountains or farther north — arrive to spend the winter. These juncos often visit birdfeeders for winter feasting. Dark-eyed Juncos forage on the ground.
Nov 06, 2019
The Haunting Voice of the Common Loon
The call of the Common Loon brings to mind a summer visit to northern lakes. A "yodel" call is given by a male on his breeding territory. With his neck outstretched, the male waves his head from side to side, sending his eerie calls across forests and open water.
Nov 05, 2019
The Butcherbird
The Northern Shrike breeds in the tundra and taiga of the north, but migrates south into the lower 48 for the winter. It has a pleasing and rhythmical song, which it sings even in winter. But its song belies a rather bloodthirsty feeding habit.
Nov 04, 2019
Common Redpoll
The tiny Common Redpoll, one of the smallest members of the finch family, weighs only as much as four pennies, yet it survives the cold and darkness of winter in the far North. Most birds depart in autumn to warmer climes.
Nov 03, 2019
Birds in the Winter Garden
Put your winter garden to work as a haven for birds. Leaves and brush left to compost provide foraging and roosting places, smother this year’s weeds, and feed next spring’s plant growth. Watch for juncos and towhees in the leaf litter, and wrens in the brush.
Nov 02, 2019
The Stealthy Shoebill
Deep in the dense, remote swamps of Central Africa lives the Shoebill, a massive, blue-gray stork-like bird, standing up to five feet tall. The bird takes its name from its large bill, which is shaped like an oversized Dutch wooden shoe.
Nov 01, 2019
Spooky Shearwaters
Some early sailors, visiting remote Pacific islands, surely feared that the ungodly wailing on shore meant they had been tricked to the gates of Hell itself. In truth, they stood among courting pairs of seabirds called Wedge-tailed Shearwaters.
Oct 31, 2019
Ring-necked Pheasants in the Wild
The Ring-necked Pheasant is likely the best-known bird in North America that isn’t native to the continent. Indigenous to Asia, Ring-necked Pheasants were introduced to Oregon in 1881.
Oct 30, 2019
Ptarmigan Toes
With its rubbery-sounding rattles and clownish red eyebrows, the ptarmigan is quite the stand-out northern bird. As winter approaches, the ptarmigan’s feet grow feathers, and its claws grow longer. All that added surface area means the ptarmigan practically has its own set of snowshoes.
Oct 29, 2019
What the Pacific Wren Hears
What does the Pacific Wren hear in a song? It's a long story. What we hear as a blur of sound, the bird hears as a precise sequence of sounds, the visual equivalent of seeing a movie as a series of still pictures.
Oct 28, 2019
Clean Nestboxes in October
It’s a wistful moment when your backyard birds — like these Black-capped Chickadees — depart their nestboxes. By October, it’s time for one last duty as nestbox landlord: to clean it out.
Oct 27, 2019
Purple Martins Head South to the Amazon
The Purple Martin is the largest swallow that nests in the US and Canada. During fall, Purple Martins from western North America migrate to a distinct wintering area in southeastern Brazil — a travel distance of more than 5,000 miles!
Oct 26, 2019
Geese in V-formation
Autumn…and geese fly high overhead in V-formation. But what about that V-formation, angling outward through the sky? This phenomenon — a kind of synchronized, aerial tailgating — marks the flight of flocks of larger birds, like geese or pelicans.
Oct 25, 2019
A World of Parrots
Parrots have strong, hooked beaks that are great for cracking tough seeds. Their feet allow them to climb and to hold on to objects, like food. Parrots are known for their legendary intelligence and ability to talk. And they come in almost every color of the rainbow!
Oct 24, 2019
Swallows and Mud - A Myth?
The swallows that make mud nests in spring and catch flying insects all summer are now far south in Mexico, and Central and South America. It's only as recently as the end of the nineteenth century that ornithologists agreed that swallows, including this Cliff Swallow, migrate.
Oct 23, 2019
Pinyon Jay
Pinyon Jays take their name from pinyon pines. Extracting the seeds from cones, the jays fill their throats. Then they fly to a caching site, sometimes miles away, to push each seed into the leaf litter. Collectively, they cache millions of seeds, some of which sprout before they can be eaten.
Oct 22, 2019