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Playlist: BirdNote's Portfolio

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Bald Eagle, National Symbol

From BirdNote | 02:00

Stretch your arms as far as you can, and imagine a bird whose reach is even greater!

Bald_eagle_pb_300_small Sitting about three feet tall, the Bald Eagle has a wingspan of more than six feet. When you see a mature Bald Eagle, you’ll see a snowy-white head and tail with a dark brown body. Look closer and you’ll see lemon yellow eyes and a powerful set of legs and feet.

Night Singers

From John Kessler | 01:45

This Whip-poor-will is a true night bird - feeding, mating, and nesting in the dark. But a few songbirds that are active during the day also sing at night. Most renowned is the Nightingale of Europe and Asia. In North America, for about a week each spring, the Yellow-breasted Chat also sings in the darkness.

Whip-poor-will-stephen-mason-night-singers-285_2_small This Whip-poor-will is a true night bird - feeding, mating, and nesting in the dark. But a few songbirds that are active during the day also sing at night. Most renowned is the Nightingale of Europe and Asia. In North America, for about a week each spring, the Yellow-breasted Chat also sings in the darkness.

Message of the Mourning Dove

From John Kessler | 01:45

The Mourning Dove was named for the male's gentle voice, which may sound forlorn. Mourning Doves are common in suburban environments and along roadsides, adapting well to human habitation. On a warm, lazy, summer afternoon, the dove's voice seems to speak more of serenity than sadness, and of a familiar, peaceful connection to nature.

Mourning-dove-tom-grey-285_small The Mourning Dove was named for the male's gentle voice, which may sound forlorn. Mourning Doves are common in suburban environments and along roadsides, adapting well to human habitation. On a warm, lazy, summer afternoon, the dove's voice seems to speak more of serenity than sadness, and of a familiar, peaceful connection to nature.

Are Birds' Nests Reused?

From John Kessler | 01:45

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. Europe’s migratory White Storks — like those pictured here — get the award for best reuse. One nest site, still used in 1930 and likely seeing many repairs, dated back to 1549. That’s a continuous series of stork pairs nesting in one spot for 381 years!

White-stork-family-chuck-courson-285_small 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. Europe’s migratory White Storks — like those pictured here — get the award for best reuse. One nest site, still used in 1930 and likely seeing many repairs, dated back to 1549. That’s a continuous series of stork pairs nesting in one spot for 381 years!

Birds That Say Their Own Names

From John Kessler | 01:45

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 of the Whip-poor-will, another bird that calls its own name.

Common-poorwill-brian-currie-names-285_small 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 of the Whip-poor-will, another bird that calls its own name.

How Toucans Stay Cool

From John Kessler | 01:45

The Toco Toucan of South America has evolved to stay cool in the sweltering heat of the tropics. Relative to its body size, the Toco Toucan has the largest bill of any bird in the world, accounting for a third of the body’s entire surface area. It’s also laced with blood vessels and wholly without insulation — features that make it a superb structure for getting rid of excess body heat.

Toco-toucan-gabriela-ruellan-285_small The Toco Toucan of South America has evolved to stay cool in the sweltering heat of the tropics. Relative to its body size, the Toco Toucan has the largest bill of any bird in the world, accounting for a third of the body’s entire surface area. It’s also laced with blood vessels and wholly without insulation — features that make it a superb structure for getting rid of excess body heat.

A Crow That Makes Tool

From BirdNote | 01:45

A crow named Betty learned how to take a straight piece of wire and bend one end into a hook. She then used the hooked end to haul a tiny bucket of meat from the bottom of a long tube. A postage stamp was issued in honor of this New Caledonian Crow. Watch a video of Betty - we've provided a link below. Other crows solved even more complex problems!

New-caledonian-crow-stamp-tools-285_small A crow named Betty learned how to take a straight piece of wire and bend one end into a hook. She then used the hooked end to haul a tiny bucket of meat from the bottom of a long tube. A postage stamp was issued in honor of this New Caledonian Crow. Watch a video of Betty - we've provided a link below. Other crows solved even more complex problems!

The Call of the Loon

From BirdNote | 01:45

The call of the Common Loon brings to mind a summer visit to northern lakes with sunny blue skies. A "yodel" call is given by males on their breeding territories. The call of the Common Loon that we hear during winter is quite different from the breeding call in summer. Common Loons have another, more cheerful tremolo call, which they make while flying. You can learn more about the boreal forest, where many Common Loons breed, at BorealBirds.org

Common-loon-paul-bannick-call-285_small The call of the Common Loon brings to mind a summer visit to northern lakes with sunny blue skies. A "yodel" call is given by males on their breeding territories. The call of the Common Loon that we hear during winter is quite different from the breeding call in summer. Common Loons have another, more cheerful tremolo call, which they make while flying. You can learn more about the boreal forest, where many Common Loons breed, at BorealBirds.org

One Square Inch of Silence

From BirdNote | 01:45

Gordon Hempton, the Sound Tracker, seeks those rare places untouched by human noise, where birds and nature create a complex, quiet music. In the Hoh Valley, in a rain forest in Olympic National Park, is a place he calls One Square Inch of Silence. It’s the least noise-polluted place in all of the Lower 48. And Gordon is working to preserve it. To experience One Square Inch of Silence, download the mp3, below. Gordon says, “It demonstrates what we are giving up, not just for ourselves, but for future generations if we do not set aside a quiet place now, or to hear it positively, what I believe we are going to save for all time.”

One-square-inch-isaac-leon-285_small Gordon Hempton, the Sound Tracker, seeks those rare places untouched by human noise, where birds and nature create a complex, quiet music. In the Hoh Valley, in a rain forest in Olympic National Park, is a place he calls One Square Inch of Silence. It’s the least noise-polluted place in all of the Lower 48. And Gordon is working to preserve it. To experience One Square Inch of Silence, download the mp3, below. Gordon says, “It demonstrates what we are giving up, not just for ourselves, but for future generations if we do not set aside a quiet place now, or to hear it positively, what I believe we are going to save for all time.”

Binoculars and Birders' Exchange

From BirdNote | 01:45

Across Central and South America, conservationists, teachers, and researchers are benefiting from groups like Birder’s Exchange, a program of the American Birding Association. The program collects new and used binoculars, scopes, books, and tripods, and passes them on to people working to conserve birds and their habitats. Supporting this program is a win-win-win. You clear a space in your closet. The local naturalists and educators are better equipped do their work. And the birds win when communities value the habitat and the diversity that they depend on.

Bananaquit-binocs-brendan-ryan-cc-285_small Across Central and South America, conservationists, teachers, and researchers are benefiting from groups like Birder’s Exchange, a program of the American Birding Association. The program collects new and used binoculars, scopes, books, and tripods, and passes them on to people working to conserve birds and their habitats. Supporting this program is a win-win-win. You clear a space in your closet. The local naturalists and educators are better equipped do their work. And the birds win when communities value the habitat and the diversity that they depend on.

Voices of Our National Public Lands

From BirdNote | 01:45

Today is National Public Lands Day. Comprising nearly 850 million acres of land and 3.5 million square miles of ocean, our public lands and waters provide habitats vital to more than 1,000 species of birds, including this Bachman’s Sparrow. The diversity and richness of bird voices across the United States is something to crow about! Check out a wildlife refuge or national park near you – any day of the year – and experience the beauty and bounty of our natural resources.

Bachmans-sparrow-voices-npld-jfischer-285_small Today is National Public Lands Day. Comprising nearly 850 million acres of land and 3.5 million square miles of ocean, our public lands and waters provide habitats vital to more than 1,000 species of birds, including this Bachman’s Sparrow. The diversity and richness of bird voices across the United States is something to crow about! Check out a wildlife refuge or national park near you – any day of the year – and experience the beauty and bounty of our natural resources.

Ravens and Crows - Who Is Who?

From BirdNote | 01:45

Is that big black bird a crow or a raven? How can you tell? Ravens (seen right here) often travel in pairs, while crows (left) are seen in larger groups. Also, study the tail as the bird flies overhead. A crow's tail is shaped like a fan, while the raven's tail appears wedge-shaped. Another clue is to listen closely to the birds' calls. Crows give a cawing sound, but ravens produce a lower croaking sound. To learn more about crows and ravens, you can visit All About Birds. Or, get information when you take a class from your local Audubon society.

Crow-raven-285-tgrey_small Is that big black bird a crow or a raven? How can you tell? Ravens (seen right here) often travel in pairs, while crows (left) are seen in larger groups. Also, study the tail as the bird flies overhead. A crow's tail is shaped like a fan, while the raven's tail appears wedge-shaped. Another clue is to listen closely to the birds' calls. Crows give a cawing sound, but ravens produce a lower croaking sound. To learn more about crows and ravens, you can visit All About Birds. Or, get information when you take a class from your local Audubon society.

Responsible Birdfeeding

From BirdNote | 01:45

A clean feeder is a life-and-death matter to some birds. To protect the birds at your feeder, clean it at least once a week, more often if necessary. Rake the ground underneath, too. Pine Siskins are especially prone to salmonellosis, a bacterial disease. You can learn more about feeding backyard birds at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. California Partners in Flight has more suggestions about feeding birds safely.

Pine-siskin-birdfeeding-ann-mcrae-285_small A clean feeder is a life-and-death matter to some birds. To protect the birds at your feeder, clean it at least once a week, more often if necessary. Rake the ground underneath, too. Pine Siskins are especially prone to salmonellosis, a bacterial disease. You can learn more about feeding backyard birds at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. California Partners in Flight has more suggestions about feeding birds safely.

Where Swallows Go in Winter

From BirdNote | 01:45

Through all of spring and summer, swallows dart and sail overhead, their airborne grace a wonder to behold. But by October, the skies seem empty. Most swallows have flown south, in search of insects. The eight species of swallows that nest in the US - including this Cliff Swallow - migrate south to Central or even South America. Watch for them again next spring!

Where-cliff-swallow-maggie-smith-285_small Through all of spring and summer, swallows dart and sail overhead, their airborne grace a wonder to behold. But by October, the skies seem empty. Most swallows have flown south, in search of insects. The eight species of swallows that nest in the US - including this Cliff Swallow - migrate south to Central or even South America. Watch for them again next spring!

Monk Parakeets

From BirdNote | 01:45

If you live in North America, parrots might seem like exotic creatures. North America’s once-common native species, the Carolina Parakeet, has been extinct since the early 20th Century. But more and more parrots are making this continent their home. Escaped Monk Parakeets now have self-sustaining populations in many areas across the country: Chicago; Dallas; New Orleans; Portland, Oregon; and Bridgeport, Connecticut, among others. And Monk Parakeets are not alone. By 2015, at least a dozen other foreign parrot species were nesting in the US, especially in Florida and California.

Playing
Monk Parakeets
From
BirdNote

Monk-parakeet-ken-slade-285_small If you live in North America, parrots might seem like exotic creatures. North America’s once-common native species, the Carolina Parakeet, has been extinct since the early 20th Century. But more and more parrots are making this continent their home. Escaped Monk Parakeets now have self-sustaining populations in many areas across the country: Chicago; Dallas; New Orleans; Portland, Oregon; and Bridgeport, Connecticut, among others. And Monk Parakeets are not alone. By 2015, at least a dozen other foreign parrot species were nesting in the US, especially in Florida and California.

Geese in V-formation

From BirdNote | 01:45

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. Most observers believe that each bird behind the leader is taking advantage of the lift of a corkscrew of air coming off the wingtips of the bird in front. This corkscrew updraft is called a tip vortex, and it enables the geese to save considerable energy during long flights. The V-formation may also enhance birds’ ability to see and hear each other, thus avoiding mid-air collisions. Small birds probably do not create enough of an updraft to help others in the flock and don’t fly in vees.

Geese-in-vee-formation-ted-bobosh-285_small 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. Most observers believe that each bird behind the leader is taking advantage of the lift of a corkscrew of air coming off the wingtips of the bird in front. This corkscrew updraft is called a tip vortex, and it enables the geese to save considerable energy during long flights. The V-formation may also enhance birds’ ability to see and hear each other, thus avoiding mid-air collisions. Small birds probably do not create enough of an updraft to help others in the flock and don’t fly in vees.

Yogi Berra's Wit and Wisdom

From BirdNote | 01:45

The late Yogi Berra, renowned New York Yankees catcher, is sometimes remembered less for his exceptional play and more for his turns of phrase. One of which was reported as, “You can observe a lot by just watching.” When it comes to observing birds such as this Golden-crowned Kinglet, Berra was right on the money. To give yourself the best chance to watch nature unfold, pick a spot outdoors and sit quietly for 15 minutes. Now you’re part of the background. The birds will likely return to singing, to perching in the open, to flying just above your head.

Yogi-golden-crowned-kinglet-gt-285_small The late Yogi Berra, renowned New York Yankees catcher, is sometimes remembered less for his exceptional play and more for his turns of phrase. One of which was reported as, “You can observe a lot by just watching.” When it comes to observing birds such as this Golden-crowned Kinglet, Berra was right on the money. To give yourself the best chance to watch nature unfold, pick a spot outdoors and sit quietly for 15 minutes. Now you’re part of the background. The birds will likely return to singing, to perching in the open, to flying just above your head.

The Eagle Eye

From BirdNote | 01:45

The eye of an eagle is one of the most sensitive of any animal, and may weigh more than the eagle's brain. The secret to the exceptional vision lies in its retina. The density of rods and cones within a raptor's eye may be five times that of a human's. As the Golden Eagle rides hot-air thermals high into the air, it can spot even the slightest movement of its favorite prey, a rabbit, over a mile away. Learn more about this far-seeing raptor at Cornell's AllAboutBirds.

Playing
The Eagle Eye
From
BirdNote

Golden-eagle-don-baccus-285_small The eye of an eagle is one of the most sensitive of any animal, and may weigh more than the eagle's brain. The secret to the exceptional vision lies in its retina. The density of rods and cones within a raptor's eye may be five times that of a human's. As the Golden Eagle rides hot-air thermals high into the air, it can spot even the slightest movement of its favorite prey, a rabbit, over a mile away. Learn more about this far-seeing raptor at Cornell's AllAboutBirds.

Project FeederWatch

From BirdNote | 01:45

Project FeederWatch, sponsored by Cornell 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.

Feederwatch-ilonal-285_small Project FeederWatch, sponsored by Cornell 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.

Birds in The Winter Garden

From BirdNote | 01:45

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. Maybe even a Song Sparrow, like this one! With a little planning, your garden can be a haven for birds year round.

Song-sparrow-winter-mikeh-285_small 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. Maybe even a Song Sparrow, like this one! With a little planning, your garden can be a haven for birds year round.

How Much Do Birds Eat?

From BirdNote | 01:45

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. For a human that weighs 150 pounds, that’s 18 pounds of chow, or roughly six extra-large pizzas. And that perky little chickadee at your feeder eats the equivalent of 35% of its weight. You, as a 150-pound chickadee, will be munching 600 granola bars a day. And a hummingbird drinks about 100% of its body weight per day. That means you’ll be sipping 17½ gallons of milk.

Black-capped-chickadee-eat-jon-hayes-285_small 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. For a human that weighs 150 pounds, that’s 18 pounds of chow, or roughly six extra-large pizzas. And that perky little chickadee at your feeder eats the equivalent of 35% of its weight. You, as a 150-pound chickadee, will be munching 600 granola bars a day. And a hummingbird drinks about 100% of its body weight per day. That means you’ll be sipping 17½ gallons of milk.

Why Some Birds Sing in the Winter

From BirdNote | 01:45

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. And as far north as British Columbia, Pacific Wrens are singing in earnest by mid-February. So the singing season never entirely stops.

Fox-sparrow-sing-greggt-285_small 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. And as far north as British Columbia, Pacific Wrens are singing in earnest by mid-February. So the singing season never entirely stops.

Rare Sounds Saved by Macaulay Library

From BirdNote | 01:45

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. The Macaulay Library maintains the largest collection of bird sounds in the world - more than 160,000! These recordings give voice to more than two-thirds of the world's roughly 10,000 bird species. Some of the birds recorded are now extremely rare or perhaps even extinct - like this Bachman's Warbler, a former resident of the southeastern United States that hasn't been seen since 1988.

Kauai-oo-rob-shallenberger-285_small 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. The Macaulay Library maintains the largest collection of bird sounds in the world - more than 160,000! These recordings give voice to more than two-thirds of the world's roughly 10,000 bird species. Some of the birds recorded are now extremely rare or perhaps even extinct - like this Bachman's Warbler, a former resident of the southeastern United States that hasn't been seen since 1988.

How Birds Become Red

From BirdNote | 01:45

Most birds have the capacity to make red feathers, even those that lack red plumage. This discovery was revealed by scientists who studied Red-factor Canaries — a “hybrid” bird that is part canary, part Red Siskin, like this one. Both species have the “redness gene.” But Red-factor Canaries have a thousand times more red pigment in their skin. And why? Red-factor Canaries inherited the siskin’s “genetic switch” that turns on the redness gene in their skin. So just having the gene is not enough: if the genetic switch in the skin is turned off . . . no red feathers.

Red-siskin-siskini-285_small Most birds have the capacity to make red feathers, even those that lack red plumage. This discovery was revealed by scientists who studied Red-factor Canaries — a “hybrid” bird that is part canary, part Red Siskin, like this one. Both species have the “redness gene.” But Red-factor Canaries have a thousand times more red pigment in their skin. And why? Red-factor Canaries inherited the siskin’s “genetic switch” that turns on the redness gene in their skin. So just having the gene is not enough: if the genetic switch in the skin is turned off . . . no red feathers.

Birds on a Cold Night

From BirdNote | 01:45

During December, birds spend the long, cold nights in a protected place, sheltered from rain and safe from nighttime predators. Small forest birds, such as nuthatches and creepers, may spend the night huddled together in tree cavities. Birds like this male Mallard fluff up their feathers for insulation, hunker down over their legs and feet, and turn their heads around to poke their beaks under their shoulder feathers.

Cold-night-mallard-martina-gabner-285_small During December, birds spend the long, cold nights in a protected place, sheltered from rain and safe from nighttime predators. Small forest birds, such as nuthatches and creepers, may spend the night huddled together in tree cavities. Birds like this male Mallard fluff up their feathers for insulation, hunker down over their legs and feet, and turn their heads around to poke their beaks under their shoulder feathers.

Black Kites - Do Birds Start Fires?

From BirdNote | 01:45

In the savanna country of northern Australia, the vegetation is well adapted to the area’s recurrent fires. As flames sweep across the savanna, Black Kites watch for prey like grasshoppers and lizards that flee the fire. But there’s now evidence that Black Kites may actually create fires by carrying burning twigs in their talons and dropping them on a patch of savanna away from the original wildfire. The kites then pick off the escaping prey. Setting a new area ablaze allows that individual kite to feed in a space where there aren’t so many rival predators.

Black-kites-and-fire-shane-bartie-285_small In the savanna country of northern Australia, the vegetation is well adapted to the area’s recurrent fires. As flames sweep across the savanna, Black Kites watch for prey like grasshoppers and lizards that flee the fire. But there’s now evidence that Black Kites may actually create fires by carrying burning twigs in their talons and dropping them on a patch of savanna away from the original wildfire. The kites then pick off the escaping prey. Setting a new area ablaze allows that individual kite to feed in a space where there aren’t so many rival predators.

Birdbaths in Winter

From BirdNote | 01:45

Does the image of a frozen birdbath bring to mind a small yellow bird with ice skates? Birds need water in all seasons, for drinking and for bathing. When the water is frozen, you can thaw it with hot water. Or go the slightly more expensive route and add a heater.

Birdbath-frozen-john-ryan-285_small Does the image of a frozen birdbath bring to mind a small yellow bird with ice skates? Birds need water in all seasons, for drinking and for bathing. When the water is frozen, you can thaw it with hot water. Or go the slightly more expensive route and add a heater.

Wing-clapping

From BirdNote | 01:45

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. When a male displays to a female or attempts to warn off an intruder, he snaps his wings together below his body in a burst of two to six claps per second, producing a sound that sounds remarkably like . . . applause.

Playing
Wing-clapping
From
BirdNote

Wing-clapping-short-eared-owl-greggt-285_small 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. When a male displays to a female or attempts to warn off an intruder, he snaps his wings together below his body in a burst of two to six claps per second, producing a sound that sounds remarkably like . . . applause.

Ecosystem Engineers on America's Serengeti

From BirdNote | 01:45

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. The American Prairie Foundation is restoring prairie, removing fences and reintroducing bison. Prairie dog colonies are expanding. We can restore both birds and some of "America's Serengeti!" Learn more about this work at Americanprairie.org.

Mountain-plover-serengeti-van-truan-285_small 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. The American Prairie Foundation is restoring prairie, removing fences and reintroducing bison. Prairie dog colonies are expanding. We can restore both birds and some of "America's Serengeti!" Learn more about this work at Americanprairie.org.

Raven's Love Song

From BirdNote | 01:45

Ravens are seen as tricksters in many traditions. But Common Ravens have a softer side. During courtship, a pair will often sit side by side, sometimes preening each other's feathers. And during that ritual, one or both may make soft warbling sounds. Raven nestlings sometimes make this same sound after they've been fed. Compared to the usual raucous raven calls, this one is soothing. It's called a comfort sound. You can hear more raven songs at macaulaylibrary.org.

Ravens-love-song-mark-hoover-285_small Ravens are seen as tricksters in many traditions. But Common Ravens have a softer side. During courtship, a pair will often sit side by side, sometimes preening each other's feathers. And during that ritual, one or both may make soft warbling sounds. Raven nestlings sometimes make this same sound after they've been fed. Compared to the usual raucous raven calls, this one is soothing. It's called a comfort sound. You can hear more raven songs at macaulaylibrary.org.

Mating for Life

From BirdNote | 01:45

Most bird species in North America mate for a single breeding season. Some may team up again the following year, just because both stay in - or return to - the same territory. Fewer than one-fifth of Song Sparrow pairs, like these, are reunited. Hawks, eagles, and ravens have wide territories, thus few contacts with the opposite sex. Maintaining a relationship through the winter may assure breeding in the next season.

Playing
Mating for Life
From
BirdNote

Bald-eagle-pair-mating-life-mikeh-285_small Most bird species in North America mate for a single breeding season. Some may team up again the following year, just because both stay in - or return to - the same territory. Fewer than one-fifth of Song Sparrow pairs, like these, are reunited. Hawks, eagles, and ravens have wide territories, thus few contacts with the opposite sex. Maintaining a relationship through the winter may assure breeding in the next season.

Winter Wren in a Carolina Cathedral, With Gordon Hempton

From BirdNote | 01:45

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. But when he listened to the recording, he realized the wren sounded better at a distance. “The old-growth forest actually sweetens the sound,” he says. “You need that space, those acoustics . . . to bring it into true music for you.”
The sounds in today’s show were recorded by Gordon Hempton and provided courtesy of QuietPlanet.com.

Winter-wren-eugene-beckes-285-3-17_small 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. But when he listened to the recording, he realized the wren sounded better at a distance. “The old-growth forest actually sweetens the sound,” he says. “You need that space, those acoustics . . . to bring it into true music for you.” The sounds in today’s show were recorded by Gordon Hempton and provided courtesy of QuietPlanet.com.

Dawn Song - Emily Dickinson

From BirdNote | 01:45

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. Early in the morning, sparrows, chickadees, thrushes, finches, wrens, blackbirds, and warblers - like this Yellow Warbler - all sing at once.

Dawnsong-yellow-warbler-daniellat-285-3-17_small 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. Early in the morning, sparrows, chickadees, thrushes, finches, wrens, blackbirds, and warblers - like this Yellow Warbler - all sing at once.

Voices of the Equinox

From BirdNote | 01:45

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.

Equinox-western-screech-owl-steve-metz-285_small 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.

Pigeon Babies Do Exist

From BirdNote | 01:45

Rock Pigeons are one of the most common urban birds. But why do we never see baby pigeons? Some baby birds - like down-covered ducks, geese, and chickens - leave their nest shortly after hatching and do a lot of growing up while following their parents around. Others, like pigeons, depend on their parents to feed and protect them, well into their youth. They stay in the nest - under bridges and awnings, for instance - until they're nearly as big as the adult birds.

Rock-pigeon-mark-coates-285-3-17_small Rock Pigeons are one of the most common urban birds. But why do we never see baby pigeons? Some baby birds - like down-covered ducks, geese, and chickens - leave their nest shortly after hatching and do a lot of growing up while following their parents around. Others, like pigeons, depend on their parents to feed and protect them, well into their youth. They stay in the nest - under bridges and awnings, for instance - until they're nearly as big as the adult birds.

Unlikely Places to Go Birding

From BirdNote | 01:45

Birding is often best in the least likely places. At sewage treatment plants, watch for ducks and gulls - and raptors keeping watch over them all. Another place might be your local landfill or dump. The Brownsville, Texas dump was, for years, the only place in the US you could find this Tamaulipas Crow. For a more sedate birding adventure, visit a cemetery. Especially in rural areas and in the Midwest, cemeteries are often repositories of native plants, and thus magnets for migratory birds, which find food - and cover - in those green oases.

Tamaulipas_crow_jean-sebastien_guenette_285_small Birding is often best in the least likely places. At sewage treatment plants, watch for ducks and gulls - and raptors keeping watch over them all. Another place might be your local landfill or dump. The Brownsville, Texas dump was, for years, the only place in the US you could find this Tamaulipas Crow. For a more sedate birding adventure, visit a cemetery. Especially in rural areas and in the Midwest, cemeteries are often repositories of native plants, and thus magnets for migratory birds, which find food - and cover - in those green oases.

Thomas Jefferson's Mockingbirds

From BirdNote | 01:45

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. One of Jefferson’s pet mockingbirds — named Dick— would perch on his shoulder and take morsels of food from his master’s lips. He would even sing along when Jefferson played the violin. Keeping native birds as pets is now illegal, but you don’t need to bring one in the house. Just open your windows — and listen.

Northern-mockingbird-aaron-maizlish-285_small 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. One of Jefferson’s pet mockingbirds — named Dick— would perch on his shoulder and take morsels of food from his master’s lips. He would even sing along when Jefferson played the violin. Keeping native birds as pets is now illegal, but you don’t need to bring one in the house. Just open your windows — and listen.

A Natural Feast for Hummingbirds

From BirdNote | 01:45

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. Just add a source of water for drinking and bathing, and you’ll have a hummingbird haven. This Anna's Hummingbird is feasting on red-flowering currant. Check out some guides to native plants of the East and the West. Or find a Master Gardener near you who can help you choose plants for your garden.

Annas-hummingbird-michelle-lamberson-285_small 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. Just add a source of water for drinking and bathing, and you’ll have a hummingbird haven. This Anna's Hummingbird is feasting on red-flowering currant. Check out some guides to native plants of the East and the West. Or find a Master Gardener near you who can help you choose plants for your garden.

How Humans Affect Competition Among Birds

From BirdNote | 01:45

Evolutionary time is long — the earliest ancestors of birds emerged around 50 million years ago. Against that yardstick, the length of time humans have been living in cities is a blip. But that blip has resulted in huge changes for urban birds, crows in particular, as John Marzluff explores in his book, Welcome to Subirdia. “We change climate, we change foods, we change the distribution of habitats,” says Marzluff. “We add new predators; we take away other predators. We bring in competitors . . . It’s a potent selective force on birds.”

Crow-with-crab-john-marzluff-285_small Evolutionary time is long — the earliest ancestors of birds emerged around 50 million years ago. Against that yardstick, the length of time humans have been living in cities is a blip. But that blip has resulted in huge changes for urban birds, crows in particular, as John Marzluff explores in his book, Welcome to Subirdia. “We change climate, we change foods, we change the distribution of habitats,” says Marzluff. “We add new predators; we take away other predators. We bring in competitors . . . It’s a potent selective force on birds.”

Rufous Hummingbirds' Marvelous Nest

From BirdNote | 01:45

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. A favorite nest site is the fork of a downward-drooping twig, perhaps low in a shrub or up higher in an old conifer.

Ruhu-nest-james-prudente-285_small 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. A favorite nest site is the fork of a downward-drooping twig, perhaps low in a shrub or up higher in an old conifer.

Mother Birds

From BirdNote | 01:45

Avian motherhood is a mixed bag. Peregrine Falcon mothers share duties fairly equally with Peregrine dads. At the other end of the spectrum is the female hummingbird, which usually carries the entire burden of nesting, incubating, and tending the young. And then, there's the female Western Sandpiper: she usually leaves the family just a few days after the eggs have hatched!

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Mother-peregrine-falcon-ruth-taylor-285_0_small Avian motherhood is a mixed bag. Peregrine Falcon mothers share duties fairly equally with Peregrine dads. At the other end of the spectrum is the female hummingbird, which usually carries the entire burden of nesting, incubating, and tending the young. And then, there's the female Western Sandpiper: she usually leaves the family just a few days after the eggs have hatched!

Birds' Sense of Taste

From BirdNote | 01:45

Even though it’s been known for many years that birds spit out caterpillars they find repellent, little research has been devoted to birds’ sense of taste. It wasn’t until the 1970s that a scientist found taste buds on the inside of a duck’s bill — more than 400 of them. An experiment with ducks — such as this Mallard — showed that when they picked up peas with the tips of their bills, they could easily discriminate between normal peas, which they happily gulped down, and peas that tasted unpleasant, which they rejected.

Taste-mallard-d-beyett-285_small Even though it’s been known for many years that birds spit out caterpillars they find repellent, little research has been devoted to birds’ sense of taste. It wasn’t until the 1970s that a scientist found taste buds on the inside of a duck’s bill — more than 400 of them. An experiment with ducks — such as this Mallard — showed that when they picked up peas with the tips of their bills, they could easily discriminate between normal peas, which they happily gulped down, and peas that tasted unpleasant, which they rejected.

How Much Birds Sing

From BirdNote | 01:45

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-holder, this Red-eyed Vireo. One such vireo delivered its song over 22,000 times in ten hours!

Red-eyed-vireo-howmuch-laura-erickson-285_small 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-holder, this Red-eyed Vireo. One such vireo delivered its song over 22,000 times in ten hours!

Urban Cooper Hawks

From BirdNote | 01:45

Next time you’re in the city, look up. When pigeons are wheeling, you might just see a different bird in pursuit. The Cooper’s Hawk, once known as the “chicken hawk,” used to be in steep decline due to hunting and the effects of DDT on breeding. Today, it’s the most abundant of the bird-eating raptors over much of North America, living even in the city. Males are smaller and often prey on Mourning Doves and other easy pickings at city parks. The bulkier females hunt pigeons, adding a dash of wildness and drama to the modern cityscape — in the form of pigeon feathers falling silently from the sky.

Coopers_hawk-ken-slade-285_small Next time you’re in the city, look up. When pigeons are wheeling, you might just see a different bird in pursuit. The Cooper’s Hawk, once known as the “chicken hawk,” used to be in steep decline due to hunting and the effects of DDT on breeding. Today, it’s the most abundant of the bird-eating raptors over much of North America, living even in the city. Males are smaller and often prey on Mourning Doves and other easy pickings at city parks. The bulkier females hunt pigeons, adding a dash of wildness and drama to the modern cityscape — in the form of pigeon feathers falling silently from the sky.

Turkey Vultures and Gas Pipelines

From BirdNote | 01:45

Do vultures detect carrion by sight or by smell? The lightbulb moment came to ornithologist Kenneth Stager when a Union Oil employee told him of vultures congregating at the spots along pipelines where gas leaks were occurring. Why would they do that? Because a key ingredient in the odor of carrion is ethyl mercaptan. The same substance companies added to odorless natural gas in their pipelines, so they could smell if there was a leak.

Turkey-vulture-pat-gaines-285_small Do vultures detect carrion by sight or by smell? The lightbulb moment came to ornithologist Kenneth Stager when a Union Oil employee told him of vultures congregating at the spots along pipelines where gas leaks were occurring. Why would they do that? Because a key ingredient in the odor of carrion is ethyl mercaptan. The same substance companies added to odorless natural gas in their pipelines, so they could smell if there was a leak.

Manakins Make their Own Fireworks

From BirdNote | 01:45

The White-bearded Manakin lives in Trinidad and throughout much of South America. The males court females by snapping their wings with firecracker-like pops. A flurry of males flits rapidly back and forth from one slender, bare sapling to another, a foot above the ground. When the male spots the female nearby, he slides down an upright twig, his head held downward, wings whirling, white chin-feathers thrust out like a beard.

White-bearded-manakin-steve-garvie-285_small The White-bearded Manakin lives in Trinidad and throughout much of South America. The males court females by snapping their wings with firecracker-like pops. A flurry of males flits rapidly back and forth from one slender, bare sapling to another, a foot above the ground. When the male spots the female nearby, he slides down an upright twig, his head held downward, wings whirling, white chin-feathers thrust out like a beard.

Wimbledon Raptors - And Pigeons

From BirdNote | 01:45

Wimbledon is legendary: the verdant green of the courts, the throngs of fans in sun hats, sightings of royalty ... and lots of pigeons. Since the tennis tournament at the All England Club began in 1877, pigeons nested in the stands and generally made a mess of things. Today, though, very few pigeons attend Wimbledon. Fans can thank falconer Wayne Davis and his Harris’s Hawk, Rufus. Davis flies Rufus over the Wimbledon grounds a few times a week throughout the year -- a truly scary sight for any other feathered visitors.

Wimbledon-rufus-wayne-davis-285_small Wimbledon is legendary: the verdant green of the courts, the throngs of fans in sun hats, sightings of royalty ... and lots of pigeons. Since the tennis tournament at the All England Club began in 1877, pigeons nested in the stands and generally made a mess of things. Today, though, very few pigeons attend Wimbledon. Fans can thank falconer Wayne Davis and his Harris’s Hawk, Rufus. Davis flies Rufus over the Wimbledon grounds a few times a week throughout the year -- a truly scary sight for any other feathered visitors.

Flyin' in the Rain

From BirdNote | 01:45

Most birds are mostly waterproof. Their feathers, combined with oil from preen glands, keep them pretty watertight. So why do birds avoid flying during rainstorms? It may have more to do with the air than with the water. Rainstorms tend to occur when atmospheric pressure is low. Air in a low-pressure system is less dense. But it’s dense air that gives birds the aerodynamic lift they need to take wing. Falling rain and high humidity make air even less dense. Many birds perch and take cover during a storm. Afterward, birds once again take to the skies.

Flying-rain-crow-risa-george-285_small Most birds are mostly waterproof. Their feathers, combined with oil from preen glands, keep them pretty watertight. So why do birds avoid flying during rainstorms? It may have more to do with the air than with the water. Rainstorms tend to occur when atmospheric pressure is low. Air in a low-pressure system is less dense. But it’s dense air that gives birds the aerodynamic lift they need to take wing. Falling rain and high humidity make air even less dense. Many birds perch and take cover during a storm. Afterward, birds once again take to the skies.

Adaptations for Flight

From BirdNote | 01:45

Birds evolved not only wings, but many other adaptations that make it possible to fly. Feathers provide insulation, waterproofing, and a lightweight means to become airborne. Birds have honeycombed or hollow bones, reducing body weight. And instead of weighty jawbones and teeth, birds evolved a light and serviceable beak made of keratin. Most birds consume energy-packed foods rich in calories – like seeds, fruits, and meat, which add as little as possible to a bird’s payload. And what they eat is processed rapidly, so they aren’t weighed down by waste.

Adaptations-mike_hamilton_285_small Birds evolved not only wings, but many other adaptations that make it possible to fly. Feathers provide insulation, waterproofing, and a lightweight means to become airborne. Birds have honeycombed or hollow bones, reducing body weight. And instead of weighty jawbones and teeth, birds evolved a light and serviceable beak made of keratin. Most birds consume energy-packed foods rich in calories – like seeds, fruits, and meat, which add as little as possible to a bird’s payload. And what they eat is processed rapidly, so they aren’t weighed down by waste.

Cowbird Song and Password

From BirdNote | 01:45

As most young male birds get ready to leave the nest, they learn their species’ song by hearing their male parent sing it again and again. They imprint on their father’s song. So how does a Brown-headed Cowbird, raised by parents of a different species, learn to sing the correct song? The “chatter call” of an adult cowbird triggers something in the young bird’s brain. Like a kind of “password,” the chatter call guides the young bird in recognizing what species to identify with, even though cowbirds are fostered by as many as 220 different species!

Brown-headed-cowbird-linda-petersen-285_small As most young male birds get ready to leave the nest, they learn their species’ song by hearing their male parent sing it again and again. They imprint on their father’s song. So how does a Brown-headed Cowbird, raised by parents of a different species, learn to sing the correct song? The “chatter call” of an adult cowbird triggers something in the young bird’s brain. Like a kind of “password,” the chatter call guides the young bird in recognizing what species to identify with, even though cowbirds are fostered by as many as 220 different species!

Flightless Birds: Evolving the Inability to Fly

From BirdNote | 01:45

The ability to fly seems to define birds. But there are more than 50 species of flightless birds throughout the world — from the Ostrich and Kiwi to flightless rails, ducks, and this Humboldt Penguin. Why did they evolve the inability to fly? Many dwelt on islands. Others evolved until they were huge. Like the extinct 12-foot-tall Moas of New Zealand. And the penguins? Unlike most flightless birds, they still have the strong flight muscles and keeled breastbones of flying birds. They are supremely graceful flyers. But they do it under water

Flightless-helen-humboldt-penguin-haden-fcc-285_small The ability to fly seems to define birds. But there are more than 50 species of flightless birds throughout the world — from the Ostrich and Kiwi to flightless rails, ducks, and this Humboldt Penguin. Why did they evolve the inability to fly? Many dwelt on islands. Others evolved until they were huge. Like the extinct 12-foot-tall Moas of New Zealand. And the penguins? Unlike most flightless birds, they still have the strong flight muscles and keeled breastbones of flying birds. They are supremely graceful flyers. But they do it under water

California Condor

From BirdNote | 01:45

During the days of mammoths and saber-toothed cats, California Condors thrived over much of the continent. Today, they're one of the most endangered birds in the US. The condor's main survival problem is high mortality due to lead poisoning. Condors eat animal carcasses, often containing lead from hunter's bullets. California law now requires hunters to use non-lead ammunition in the condor's home range - a change that could enable condors to once again thrive, and soar, in the wild.

California-condor-glenn-simmons-285_small During the days of mammoths and saber-toothed cats, California Condors thrived over much of the continent. Today, they're one of the most endangered birds in the US. The condor's main survival problem is high mortality due to lead poisoning. Condors eat animal carcasses, often containing lead from hunter's bullets. California law now requires hunters to use non-lead ammunition in the condor's home range - a change that could enable condors to once again thrive, and soar, in the wild.

Birds of Lake Wobegon

From BirdNote | 01:45

It’s late August, and BirdNote is imagining the bird life at Garrison Keillor’s mythical Lake Wobegon. The loons are now quiet. And the Purple Martins that nested outside the Chatterbox Café? They’re headed for South America. Even the Orchard Orioles - like the pair seen here (female L, male R) - that nested in the tree behind the Sidetrack Tap have gone south. But the cardinals aren’t going anywhere. Neither are the chickadees.

Lake Wobegon may be a myth, but you can experience the Lake Wobegon Trail.

Wobegon-orchard-orioles-285_small It’s late August, and BirdNote is imagining the bird life at Garrison Keillor’s mythical Lake Wobegon. The loons are now quiet. And the Purple Martins that nested outside the Chatterbox Café? They’re headed for South America. Even the Orchard Orioles - like the pair seen here (female L, male R) - that nested in the tree behind the Sidetrack Tap have gone south. But the cardinals aren’t going anywhere. Neither are the chickadees. Lake Wobegon may be a myth, but you can experience the Lake Wobegon Trail.

Do Penguins Blush?

From BirdNote | 01:45

Humboldt Penguins living along the Pacific Coast of Chile and Peru are adapted to cold. But on land, temperatures rise to 100+ degrees, and penguins need to cool off. So these penguins have pink patches of bare skin on their face, under their wings, and on their feet. On hot days, the patches turn a deep, rosy color, as blood rushes to the surface to dissipate heat. They appear to be blushing, but they’re really flushing!

Humboldt-penguin-william-warby-285_small Humboldt Penguins living along the Pacific Coast of Chile and Peru are adapted to cold. But on land, temperatures rise to 100+ degrees, and penguins need to cool off. So these penguins have pink patches of bare skin on their face, under their wings, and on their feet. On hot days, the patches turn a deep, rosy color, as blood rushes to the surface to dissipate heat. They appear to be blushing, but they’re really flushing!

Whip-poor-will, Bird of the Night Side of the Woods

From BirdNote | 01:45

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 sing again just before sunrise. ... It is a bird not only of the woods, but of the night side of the woods."

Whip-poor-will-lloyd-spitalnik-285_small 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 sing again just before sunrise. ... It is a bird not only of the woods, but of the night side of the woods."

Celebrating Service on National Public Lands Day

From BirdNote | 01:45

More than one-third of all US lands – as well as near-shore ocean waters – are owned and shared by the American public. Marine protected areas, national and state parks, military installations, national forests, and wildlife refuges are vital habitats for birds like the Northern Hawk Owl pictured here. On Saturday, September 30th, our nation will celebrate National Public Lands Day with cleanup projects, educational hikes, and activities for families. Find an event near you, and join the fun!

Pub-lands-northern-hawk-owl-285_small More than one-third of all US lands – as well as near-shore ocean waters – are owned and shared by the American public. Marine protected areas, national and state parks, military installations, national forests, and wildlife refuges are vital habitats for birds like the Northern Hawk Owl pictured here. On Saturday, September 30th, our nation will celebrate National Public Lands Day with cleanup projects, educational hikes, and activities for families. Find an event near you, and join the fun!

Fastest Bird on Two Legs

From BirdNote | 01:45

Imagine an Ostrich, an Emu, a roadrunner, and the world’s fastest man and woman, all lined up for a race. Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt holds the men’s record for the 100-meter dash — 28 mph — and Florence Griffith-Joyner ran it just a shade slower. But in this race, Africa’s Ostrich takes gold, crossing the finish line at an incredible 43 mph. The Emu from Australia takes silver, topping 30 mph. The roadrunner comes in last.

Fast-emu-matt-francey-285_small Imagine an Ostrich, an Emu, a roadrunner, and the world’s fastest man and woman, all lined up for a race. Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt holds the men’s record for the 100-meter dash — 28 mph — and Florence Griffith-Joyner ran it just a shade slower. But in this race, Africa’s Ostrich takes gold, crossing the finish line at an incredible 43 mph. The Emu from Australia takes silver, topping 30 mph. The roadrunner comes in last.

What the Pacific Wren Hears

From BirdNote | 01:45

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. That birds can hear the fine structure of song so acutely allows them to convey much information in a short sound. Pacific Wrens are found most often in closed-canopy conifer forests, nesting in cavities, usually within six feet of the ground.

Pacific-wren-julio-mulero-285_small 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. That birds can hear the fine structure of song so acutely allows them to convey much information in a short sound. Pacific Wrens are found most often in closed-canopy conifer forests, nesting in cavities, usually within six feet of the ground.

Starlings Say It With Flowers

From BirdNote | 01:45

European Starlings regularly adorn their twig nests with marigolds, elderberry flowers, yarrow leaves, and even willow bark — all of which are full of aromatic chemicals, which fumigate their nests and are thought to discourage pests and parasites. Scientists discovered that starlings hatched in well-fumigated nests tend to weigh more, and live longer, than those raised without fragrant herbs.

European-starling-wayne-hodgkinson-285_small European Starlings regularly adorn their twig nests with marigolds, elderberry flowers, yarrow leaves, and even willow bark — all of which are full of aromatic chemicals, which fumigate their nests and are thought to discourage pests and parasites. Scientists discovered that starlings hatched in well-fumigated nests tend to weigh more, and live longer, than those raised without fragrant herbs.

Is It the Same Robin?

From BirdNote | 01:45

Autumn brings robins to feed on tree fruit and berries. Are the robins you see now the same robins that you saw in your garden last summer? Some robins do remain year 'round. Others spend only the winter, having nested farther north. John James Audubon may have been the first to band birds, in order to learn more about migration. You can learn more about banding birds from the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

Is-it-robin-tom-grey-285_small Autumn brings robins to feed on tree fruit and berries. Are the robins you see now the same robins that you saw in your garden last summer? Some robins do remain year 'round. Others spend only the winter, having nested farther north. John James Audubon may have been the first to band birds, in order to learn more about migration. You can learn more about banding birds from the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

Leave the Leaves

From BirdNote | 01:45

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 the Song Sparrow. Don’t deadhead. Pine Siskins and goldfinches love to snack on dead flowerheads. Make an insect hotel out of natural objects, flower pots, or other “found” items to create hidey holes for insects. They will become food for wrens and other birds.

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Leaves-song-sparrow-regina-kreger-285_small 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 the Song Sparrow. Don’t deadhead. Pine Siskins and goldfinches love to snack on dead flowerheads. Make an insect hotel out of natural objects, flower pots, or other “found” items to create hidey holes for insects. They will become food for wrens and other birds.

City Owls

From BirdNote | 01:45

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. The Great Horned Owl, like this one, might appear like an enormous housecat sitting upright. The Barred Owl often perches down low, where it’s easy to spot.

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City-great-horned-owl-bill-weaver-285_small 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. The Great Horned Owl, like this one, might appear like an enormous housecat sitting upright. The Barred Owl often perches down low, where it’s easy to spot.

Teen Birders

From BirdNote | 01:45

Elisa Yang, a teenage birder, couldn’t find a young birder group anywhere in California -- so she created her own. In the San Bernardino National Forest, they hunt for the Mexican Whip-poor-will, an elusive crepuscular bird. The teens don headlamps and hike down a dirt road. Perched on boulders, they listen, while little brown bats swoop over them. Then, right in front of them, a whip-poor-will dives down and snatches a moth.

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Teen-elisa-yang-by-shahla-farzan-285_small Elisa Yang, a teenage birder, couldn’t find a young birder group anywhere in California -- so she created her own. In the San Bernardino National Forest, they hunt for the Mexican Whip-poor-will, an elusive crepuscular bird. The teens don headlamps and hike down a dirt road. Perched on boulders, they listen, while little brown bats swoop over them. Then, right in front of them, a whip-poor-will dives down and snatches a moth.

Why Bird Poop is White

From BirdNote | 01:45

Birds brighten our lives. They connect us with nature. But sometimes they connect us a bit too directly with nature. Park under the wrong tree - where a flock of starlings or grackles comes to roost - and nature may cover your car so thickly that it takes a trip or two through the carwash just to see through the windshield again. And why is most of the bird poop we see white? The answer is that birds, unlike mammals, don't produce urine. Instead they excrete nitrogenous wastes in the form of uric acid, which emerges as a white paste. Owners of red cars, look out! A study in England found that red cars are most likely to be the target of bird droppings!

Bird-poop-mustang-phil-hart-285_small Birds brighten our lives. They connect us with nature. But sometimes they connect us a bit too directly with nature. Park under the wrong tree - where a flock of starlings or grackles comes to roost - and nature may cover your car so thickly that it takes a trip or two through the carwash just to see through the windshield again. And why is most of the bird poop we see white? The answer is that birds, unlike mammals, don't produce urine. Instead they excrete nitrogenous wastes in the form of uric acid, which emerges as a white paste. Owners of red cars, look out! A study in England found that red cars are most likely to be the target of bird droppings!

Why Birds' Feet Don't Freeze

From BirdNote | 01:45

Have you ever watched ducks walking around in freezing temperatures and wondered why their feet don't freeze? And how do birds, including this Northern Flicker, sit on metal perches with no problem? Birds' feet have a miraculous adaptation that keeps them from freezing. Rete mirabile — Latin for "wonderful net" — is a fine, netlike pattern of arteries that interweaves blood from a bird's heart with the veins carrying cold blood from its feet and legs. The system cools the blood so the little blood that goes down to the feet is already cold, so the birds don't lose much heat. The small amount that goes to the feet is likely just enough to keep the feet from freezing.

Freeze-flicker-mikeh-285_small Have you ever watched ducks walking around in freezing temperatures and wondered why their feet don't freeze? And how do birds, including this Northern Flicker, sit on metal perches with no problem? Birds' feet have a miraculous adaptation that keeps them from freezing. Rete mirabile — Latin for "wonderful net" — is a fine, netlike pattern of arteries that interweaves blood from a bird's heart with the veins carrying cold blood from its feet and legs. The system cools the blood so the little blood that goes down to the feet is already cold, so the birds don't lose much heat. The small amount that goes to the feet is likely just enough to keep the feet from freezing.

Snake-Eagles

From BirdNote | 01:45

When a soaring Snake-Eagle spots a delicious snake, it swoops down, grabs it with its talons, then tears off the snake’s head. Still on the wing, it swallows the entire snake, head first. Smaller than Bald Eagles, they live mainly in Africa and have legs and toes covered in thick scales to protect them from bites. Snake-Eagles take on some of the swiftest and deadliest snakes in the world, like cobras and black mambas.

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Short-toed_snake-eagle_yoel-ronen-285_small When a soaring Snake-Eagle spots a delicious snake, it swoops down, grabs it with its talons, then tears off the snake’s head. Still on the wing, it swallows the entire snake, head first. Smaller than Bald Eagles, they live mainly in Africa and have legs and toes covered in thick scales to protect them from bites. Snake-Eagles take on some of the swiftest and deadliest snakes in the world, like cobras and black mambas.

Christmas Bird Count - Join In!

From BirdNote | 01:45

During late December, birders go out counting every bird that hops, swims, flies, or soars into view, as they have for more than 100 years. Audubon chapters across the United States and elsewhere sponsor the Christmas Bird Count, or CBC. Learn about the history of the Christmas Bird Count. Join the count - in Alaska, Connecticut, Detroit, Texas, Washington State, California, New Mexico, or Florida. Visit Audubon.org to find a CBC near you! CBC runs December 14, 2017 - January 5, 2018.

Birders-for-cbc-scott-more-285_small During late December, birders go out counting every bird that hops, swims, flies, or soars into view, as they have for more than 100 years. Audubon chapters across the United States and elsewhere sponsor the Christmas Bird Count, or CBC. Learn about the history of the Christmas Bird Count. Join the count - in Alaska, Connecticut, Detroit, Texas, Washington State, California, New Mexico, or Florida. Visit Audubon.org to find a CBC near you! CBC runs December 14, 2017 - January 5, 2018.

Hummingbirds - To Feed or Not to Feed?

From BirdNote | 01:45

Have you wondered about the right time to remove your hummingbird feeders during fall? Consider leaving your feeders hanging for a week or two after you’ve seen the last hummingbird of the season, just in case a late migrant stops by to fatten up. However, Anna’s Hummingbirds – like the one pictured here – benefit from feeders year-round. This species is largely non-migratory, residing from California to southern British Columbia.

Annas-hummingbird-mike-carroll-285_small Have you wondered about the right time to remove your hummingbird feeders during fall? Consider leaving your feeders hanging for a week or two after you’ve seen the last hummingbird of the season, just in case a late migrant stops by to fatten up. However, Anna’s Hummingbirds – like the one pictured here – benefit from feeders year-round. This species is largely non-migratory, residing from California to southern British Columbia.

Why Do Birds Come to Birdfeeders?

From BirdNote | 01:45

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. Sunflowers grow in open plains, while grosbeaks live in forests. But birds have a substantial capacity to learn, either by action or by witnessing other birds at a feeder.

Feeder-with-finches-mike-hamilton-285_small 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. Sunflowers grow in open plains, while grosbeaks live in forests. But birds have a substantial capacity to learn, either by action or by witnessing other birds at a feeder.

Why Do Some Birds Flock?

From BirdNote | 01:45

When birds like these Dunlin form flocks, each individual is less likely to be captured by a predator. Some shorebirds that forage with their heads down, like godwits, will flock with birds that forage with their heads up, like curlews. Still other birds work together — like American White Pelicans driving fish before them or auklets that surround schools of herring and herd them like a border collie does sheep.

Flock-dunlin-alberto-vo5-285_small When birds like these Dunlin form flocks, each individual is less likely to be captured by a predator. Some shorebirds that forage with their heads down, like godwits, will flock with birds that forage with their heads up, like curlews. Still other birds work together — like American White Pelicans driving fish before them or auklets that surround schools of herring and herd them like a border collie does sheep.

What Happens When Birds Get Wet?

From BirdNote | 01:45

Have you ever seen a bird foraging in the rain and wondered why it isn't soaked to the bone? While every bird wears one feather coat, different kinds of feathers – and even different parts of the same feather – can perform various functions. The outermost tips of the main body feathers, called the contour feathers, are built so that the feather surface forms a fine, breathable but water-resistant mesh. This water-repellent property allows the downy bases of the same contour feathers, and other completely downy feathers, to stay dry underneath, allowing them to trap warm air. Don't you wish we had such warm, dry, light, great-looking coats?

Wet-american-robin-steve-shelasky-285_small Have you ever seen a bird foraging in the rain and wondered why it isn't soaked to the bone? While every bird wears one feather coat, different kinds of feathers – and even different parts of the same feather – can perform various functions. The outermost tips of the main body feathers, called the contour feathers, are built so that the feather surface forms a fine, breathable but water-resistant mesh. This water-repellent property allows the downy bases of the same contour feathers, and other completely downy feathers, to stay dry underneath, allowing them to trap warm air. Don't you wish we had such warm, dry, light, great-looking coats?

How Feathers Insulate

From BirdNote | 01:45

A single Canada Goose has between 20 and 25 thousand feathers. Some are designed to help the bird fly or shed water. Many are the short, fluffy kind, the down that insulates the bird from the cold. Birds survive in sub-zero weather by fluffing their feathers, creating layers of air and feathers. Just a fraction of an inch of this insulation can keep a bird's body temperature at 104 degrees, even in freezing weather. Seen here are the feathers of a Brown Pelican.

Feathers-of-pelican-m-kuhn-285_small A single Canada Goose has between 20 and 25 thousand feathers. Some are designed to help the bird fly or shed water. Many are the short, fluffy kind, the down that insulates the bird from the cold. Birds survive in sub-zero weather by fluffing their feathers, creating layers of air and feathers. Just a fraction of an inch of this insulation can keep a bird's body temperature at 104 degrees, even in freezing weather. Seen here are the feathers of a Brown Pelican.

What does it take to record the world’s birds?

From BirdNote | 07:58

What does it take to record the world’s birds? Public radio's BirdNote and Cornell Lab of Ornithology producer and photographer Gerrit Vyn take you deep into the Brazilian forest in search of the critically-endangered Araripe Manakin — and deep inside the Lab’s archive.

Bird_photo_on_iphone-700px_small What does it take to record the world’s birds? Public radio's BirdNote and Cornell Lab of Ornithology producer and photographer Gerrit Vyn take you deep into the Brazilian forest in search of the critically-endangered Araripe Manakin — and deep inside the Lab’s archive.

Snowy Owls

From BirdNote | 01:45

Do Snowy Owls hunt during the day or at night? As they are normally arctic birds, Snowy Owls are adapted to hunt both during the long hours of summer and the near-total night of winter. During the winter, these birds can sometimes be found as far south as the northern United States, where they hunt most actively after dusk. Snowies are opportunistic eaters, and will consume rodents, rabbits, and even ducks and other birds.

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Snowy Owls
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Snowy-owl-gregg-thompson-285_small Do Snowy Owls hunt during the day or at night? As they are normally arctic birds, Snowy Owls are adapted to hunt both during the long hours of summer and the near-total night of winter. During the winter, these birds can sometimes be found as far south as the northern United States, where they hunt most actively after dusk. Snowies are opportunistic eaters, and will consume rodents, rabbits, and even ducks and other birds.

Annual Great Backyard Bird Count

From BirdNote | 01:45

The annual Great Backyard Bird Count, February 16-19, 2018, is sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Birdwatchers across the country count birds and then report the numbers on-line. Although it may seem that crows are everywhere, the Northern Cardinal is reported on the most lists nearly every year, far above the crow. Well, if there's a male cardinal at your feeder, it is pretty hard to miss! There's no cost. Learn more and sign up. (Project FeederWatch is also asking your help reporting irruptive finches!)

Gbbc-northern-cardinal-jeff-rogerson-285_small The annual Great Backyard Bird Count, February 16-19, 2018, is sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Birdwatchers across the country count birds and then report the numbers on-line. Although it may seem that crows are everywhere, the Northern Cardinal is reported on the most lists nearly every year, far above the crow. Well, if there's a male cardinal at your feeder, it is pretty hard to miss! There's no cost. Learn more and sign up. (Project FeederWatch is also asking your help reporting irruptive finches!)

Crow Funeral

From BirdNote | 01:45

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. Tony says, "A crow 'funeral' is where the deceased bird is surrounded by members of the same species, in significant numbers." Crows descend from the trees, and they walk around the bird on the ground. And then they fly off. It's very likely that the crows are learning from this experience. Is there danger here? What does the death of this particular crow mean to the social structure of that community of crows? It seems to be a little more complicated than just paying homage.

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Crow-funeral-tony-angell-285_small 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. Tony says, "A crow 'funeral' is where the deceased bird is surrounded by members of the same species, in significant numbers." Crows descend from the trees, and they walk around the bird on the ground. And then they fly off. It's very likely that the crows are learning from this experience. Is there danger here? What does the death of this particular crow mean to the social structure of that community of crows? It seems to be a little more complicated than just paying homage.

Cranes' Voices Across the Globe

From BirdNote | 01:45

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. Nothing evokes the spirit of the wild like the voices of these majestic birds.

Demoiselle-crane-vincent-van-dam-285_small 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. Nothing evokes the spirit of the wild like the voices of these majestic birds.

Drumming with Woodpeckers

From BirdNote | 01:45

Like a jazz player beating out a drum roll, a woodpecker uses its bill to rap out a brisk series of notes. Early spring resounds with the percussive hammering of woodpeckers. Their rhythmic drumming says to other woodpeckers, "This is my territory!" We also hear them knocking on wood when they carve holes in trees to create nest cavities or reach insects. For any woodpecker, it’s all about proclaiming a signal as far and as loud as possible. Look for Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, like this one, in the Northeast and farther north, and Red-breasted Sapsuckers in the West.

Yellow-bellied-sapsucker-drumming-rob-dodson-285_small Like a jazz player beating out a drum roll, a woodpecker uses its bill to rap out a brisk series of notes. Early spring resounds with the percussive hammering of woodpeckers. Their rhythmic drumming says to other woodpeckers, "This is my territory!" We also hear them knocking on wood when they carve holes in trees to create nest cavities or reach insects. For any woodpecker, it’s all about proclaiming a signal as far and as loud as possible. Look for Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, like this one, in the Northeast and farther north, and Red-breasted Sapsuckers in the West.

Singer's Brain Changes with the Seasons

From BirdNote | 01:45

In higher animals, the brain is like a BMW — amazing engineering, but expensive to run. In a human, the brain uses about 10 times more energy than other organs. A bird's system is exquisitely attuned to this expense. Several species, including Black-capped Chickadees, have adapted in a clever way. You can usually hear these chickadees calling throughout fall and winter. But they aren’t singing much, because they don’t need to. In their brains, the centers that control how they learn and give voice to songs shrink. But as the birds resume singing during spring, the control centers in the brain rejuvenate.

Black-capped-chickadee-brain-putneypics-285_small In higher animals, the brain is like a BMW — amazing engineering, but expensive to run. In a human, the brain uses about 10 times more energy than other organs. A bird's system is exquisitely attuned to this expense. Several species, including Black-capped Chickadees, have adapted in a clever way. You can usually hear these chickadees calling throughout fall and winter. But they aren’t singing much, because they don’t need to. In their brains, the centers that control how they learn and give voice to songs shrink. But as the birds resume singing during spring, the control centers in the brain rejuvenate.

Biomimicry - Japanese Trains Mimic Kingfisher

From BirdNote | 01:45

High-speed passenger trains in Japan were once a real headache, because their engineering caused a "tunnel boom," a huge boom created by air being pushed out of the tunnel ahead of a train. But the chief engineer for the West Japan Railway Company was a birder, and he’d seen Eurasian Kingfishers dive into water, creating hardly a splash. Using "biomimicry," he and his team created a shape similar to a kingfisher's bill. When fitted on the front of the engine, the nose of the train parts the air rather than compressing it. Voilà! No more boom!

Biomimicry-common-kingfisher-ingo-waschkies-285_small High-speed passenger trains in Japan were once a real headache, because their engineering caused a "tunnel boom," a huge boom created by air being pushed out of the tunnel ahead of a train. But the chief engineer for the West Japan Railway Company was a birder, and he’d seen Eurasian Kingfishers dive into water, creating hardly a splash. Using "biomimicry," he and his team created a shape similar to a kingfisher's bill. When fitted on the front of the engine, the nose of the train parts the air rather than compressing it. Voilà! No more boom!

Birds Talk, People Squawk

From BirdNote | 01:45

Darvin Gebhart is a champion goose-caller. But there are also birds that use human language. Sparkie Williams was a famous parakeet, or budgerigar, that lived in England in the 1950s. He recorded commercials for bird seed and released his own hit single "Pretty Talk." Alex, the African Grey Parrot, was another notable talking bird, with amazing cognitive abilities.

Parakeet-lisa-de-araujo-285-3-2018_small Darvin Gebhart is a champion goose-caller. But there are also birds that use human language. Sparkie Williams was a famous parakeet, or budgerigar, that lived in England in the 1950s. He recorded commercials for bird seed and released his own hit single "Pretty Talk." Alex, the African Grey Parrot, was another notable talking bird, with amazing cognitive abilities.

Tanagers - Coffee Birds

From BirdNote | 01:45

This Scarlet Tanager (R), its cousin the Western Tanager (L), and your latte have a connection. Much of the birds' prime wintering habitat has been turned into coffee plantations. When shade-giving trees are cut down to grow coffee in direct sunlight, the tanagers' winter habitat is also removed. But when plantations grow coffee under a tall canopy of trees, tanagers thrive in their winter home. You can make a difference when you buy shade-grown coffee.

Tanagers-coffee-birds-285_small This Scarlet Tanager (R), its cousin the Western Tanager (L), and your latte have a connection. Much of the birds' prime wintering habitat has been turned into coffee plantations. When shade-giving trees are cut down to grow coffee in direct sunlight, the tanagers' winter habitat is also removed. But when plantations grow coffee under a tall canopy of trees, tanagers thrive in their winter home. You can make a difference when you buy shade-grown coffee.

Suburbs, Juncos, And Evolution

From BirdNote | 01:45

Birds have been living near humans for millions of years. But only during the past 5,000 years have birds and humans shared space in cities and towns. “What we’ve done is create a new place where birds are under intense natural selection — from our activities,” says John Marzluff, Professor of Wildlife Science at the University of Washington in Seattle. Marzluff says evolutionary changes can happen in just a few decades of living with humans. In his book, Welcome to Subirdia, he cites as evidence a study of Dark-eyed Juncos conducted by Pamela Yeh.

Suburbs-junco-tail-henry-t-mclin-285_small Birds have been living near humans for millions of years. But only during the past 5,000 years have birds and humans shared space in cities and towns. “What we’ve done is create a new place where birds are under intense natural selection — from our activities,” says John Marzluff, Professor of Wildlife Science at the University of Washington in Seattle. Marzluff says evolutionary changes can happen in just a few decades of living with humans. In his book, Welcome to Subirdia, he cites as evidence a study of Dark-eyed Juncos conducted by Pamela Yeh.

What's Inside a Woodpecker's Nest Hole?

From BirdNote | 01:45

Many woodpeckers chisel out deep cavities in tree trunks in order to lay their eggs and raise their brood. The cavities hollowed out by the birds vary in size, depending on the species of woodpecker. Most North American woodpeckers carve a new nest cavity each spring.

Woodpecker-nest-pileated-greggt-285_small Many woodpeckers chisel out deep cavities in tree trunks in order to lay their eggs and raise their brood. The cavities hollowed out by the birds vary in size, depending on the species of woodpecker. Most North American woodpeckers carve a new nest cavity each spring.

Some Hummingbirds Perch in the Open

From BirdNote | 01:45

Male hummingbirds keep a watchful eye on their territory and will often perch atop a high, bare twig in order to fully view their surroundings. From here, the male hummer will launch himself into the air to perform courtship displays, to chase off rivals, and to snatch small flying insects.

Annas-hummingbird-perch-mike-hamilton-285_small Male hummingbirds keep a watchful eye on their territory and will often perch atop a high, bare twig in order to fully view their surroundings. From here, the male hummer will launch himself into the air to perform courtship displays, to chase off rivals, and to snatch small flying insects.

Do Crows Sing?

From BirdNote | 01:45

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. Unlike many birds, crows don’t sing loudly to attract mates from a distance. Instead, they sing softly — and at close range — during courtship, with a mix of soft cooing, rattles, growls, bowing movements, and mutual nuzzling.

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Do Crows Sing?
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American-crow-sing-marlin-harms-285_small 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. Unlike many birds, crows don’t sing loudly to attract mates from a distance. Instead, they sing softly — and at close range — during courtship, with a mix of soft cooing, rattles, growls, bowing movements, and mutual nuzzling.

Why Is My Robin Half White?

From BirdNote | 01:45

If you see a bird with abnormal white feathers, that bird may have a genetic condition called leucism. Leucistic birds, like all-white birds bred in captivity, have a genetic condition preventing pigments from reaching some — or sometimes all — of a bird’s feathers. Albino birds are distinctly different and are entirely white with pink skin and eyes. Albinos have trouble making melanin, the pigment in skin, feathers, and eyes.

American-robin-leucistic-mike-hamilton-285_small If you see a bird with abnormal white feathers, that bird may have a genetic condition called leucism. Leucistic birds, like all-white birds bred in captivity, have a genetic condition preventing pigments from reaching some — or sometimes all — of a bird’s feathers. Albino birds are distinctly different and are entirely white with pink skin and eyes. Albinos have trouble making melanin, the pigment in skin, feathers, and eyes.

Barn Swallow, Natural Pest Control

From BirdNote | 01:45

Barn Swallows have adapted to nesting near people, and build their cup-shaped mud nests in barns or garages, or on protected ledges, often near each other. The good news? These twittery, flittery birds love to eat the insects that humans consider pesky. Imagine: 60 insects per hour, a whopping 850 per day. That's how much each bird eats.

Barn-swallow-bawk-bawk-cc-285_small Barn Swallows have adapted to nesting near people, and build their cup-shaped mud nests in barns or garages, or on protected ledges, often near each other. The good news? These twittery, flittery birds love to eat the insects that humans consider pesky. Imagine: 60 insects per hour, a whopping 850 per day. That's how much each bird eats.

The Roost That Saved a Refuge

From BirdNote | 01:45

The Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge was once where some of the country’s dirtiest weapons were produced, like mustard and sarin gas and napalm. The discovery of roosting Bald Eagles in the 1980s helped change the course of this prairie landscape. It started a process of remediation that has transformed the space into a refuge for over 300 species of wildlife.

Roost-refuge-rma-denver-bison-hans-watson-285_small The Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge was once where some of the country’s dirtiest weapons were produced, like mustard and sarin gas and napalm. The discovery of roosting Bald Eagles in the 1980s helped change the course of this prairie landscape. It started a process of remediation that has transformed the space into a refuge for over 300 species of wildlife.

Giant Owls of Cuba

From BirdNote | 01:45

The Cuban Giant Owl, now extinct, was 3½ feet tall and weighed 20 pounds — the largest of all known owls. It had very small wings, running after its prey on long, powerful legs. Similar large owls, with long legs and small wings, have been unearthed in places as disparate as Georgia and Hawaii. Very little is known about why giant owls died out.

Cuban-giant-owl-stanton-fink-285_small The Cuban Giant Owl, now extinct, was 3½ feet tall and weighed 20 pounds — the largest of all known owls. It had very small wings, running after its prey on long, powerful legs. Similar large owls, with long legs and small wings, have been unearthed in places as disparate as Georgia and Hawaii. Very little is known about why giant owls died out.

Giant Owls of Cuba

From BirdNote | 01:45

The Cuban Giant Owl, now extinct, was 3½ feet tall and weighed 20 pounds — the largest of all known owls. It had very small wings, running after its prey on long, powerful legs. Similar large owls, with long legs and small wings, have been unearthed in places as disparate as Georgia and Hawaii. Very little is known about why giant owls died out.

Cuban-giant-owl-stanton-fink-285_small The Cuban Giant Owl, now extinct, was 3½ feet tall and weighed 20 pounds — the largest of all known owls. It had very small wings, running after its prey on long, powerful legs. Similar large owls, with long legs and small wings, have been unearthed in places as disparate as Georgia and Hawaii. Very little is known about why giant owls died out.

Rachel Carson's Muse

From BirdNote | 01:45

In the realm of conservation no single figure stands taller than Rachel Carson. Some consider her work some of the finest a literary nature writing of the 20th century. Carson herself had inspiration from a 19th century writer named Richard Jefferies, whose work helped Carson develop her own deep sense of connection with the natural world.

Rachel-carson-muse-barn-swallow-mikeh-285_small In the realm of conservation no single figure stands taller than Rachel Carson. Some consider her work some of the finest a literary nature writing of the 20th century. Carson herself had inspiration from a 19th century writer named Richard Jefferies, whose work helped Carson develop her own deep sense of connection with the natural world.

Where Birds Sleep

From BirdNote | 01:45

All birds need to sleep — or at least snooze — sometime during each 24-hour period. And most sleep at night. A bird (such as this Wood Duckling) may turn its head around and warm its beak under its shoulder-feathers. Songbirds find a protected perch, sheltered from rain and nighttime predators. Small forest birds often spend the night in tree cavities. Ducks sleep while floating in protected bays.

Where-sleep-mallard-mikeh-285_small All birds need to sleep — or at least snooze — sometime during each 24-hour period. And most sleep at night. A bird (such as this Wood Duckling) may turn its head around and warm its beak under its shoulder-feathers. Songbirds find a protected perch, sheltered from rain and nighttime predators. Small forest birds often spend the night in tree cavities. Ducks sleep while floating in protected bays.

How Geese Made History

From BirdNote | 01:45

It was the wing feathers of geese that supplied most of the quill pens that were humanity’s prime writing tool for more than 1200 years—from the 6th century until the 1820s, when steel pens took over. The lightweight goose quill has a hollow shaft ideal for storing ink. With a smooth, light stroke, you could write up to six words before re-dipping. A well-used quill might last a week.

Greylag-geese-frans-vandewalle-285_small It was the wing feathers of geese that supplied most of the quill pens that were humanity’s prime writing tool for more than 1200 years—from the 6th century until the 1820s, when steel pens took over. The lightweight goose quill has a hollow shaft ideal for storing ink. With a smooth, light stroke, you could write up to six words before re-dipping. A well-used quill might last a week.

Wimbledon Raptors - And Pigeons

From BirdNote | 01:45

Wimbledon is legendary: the verdant green of the courts, the throngs of fans in sun hats, sightings of royalty ... and lots of pigeons. Since the tennis tournament at the All England Club began in 1877, pigeons nested in the stands and generally made a mess of things. Today, though, very few pigeons attend Wimbledon. Fans can thank falconer Wayne Davis and his Harris’s Hawk, Rufus. Davis flies Rufus over the Wimbledon grounds a few times a week throughout the year -- a truly scary sight for any other feathered visitors.

Wimbledon-rufus-wayne-davis-285_small Wimbledon is legendary: the verdant green of the courts, the throngs of fans in sun hats, sightings of royalty ... and lots of pigeons. Since the tennis tournament at the All England Club began in 1877, pigeons nested in the stands and generally made a mess of things. Today, though, very few pigeons attend Wimbledon. Fans can thank falconer Wayne Davis and his Harris’s Hawk, Rufus. Davis flies Rufus over the Wimbledon grounds a few times a week throughout the year -- a truly scary sight for any other feathered visitors.

Birds Need Water in Summer

From BirdNote | 01:45

Summer is a crucial time to keep your backyard birds supplied with water for drinking and bathing. Birdbaths set at different heights serve a great variety of birds. A wide, shallow birdbath that deepens a bit in the center will suit a broad range of birds - including this Orange-crowned Warbler. Most important of all? Keep it clean! You can learn more about birdbaths at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. Your local Audubon can help, too.

Water-song-sparrow-mike-hamilton-285_small Summer is a crucial time to keep your backyard birds supplied with water for drinking and bathing. Birdbaths set at different heights serve a great variety of birds. A wide, shallow birdbath that deepens a bit in the center will suit a broad range of birds - including this Orange-crowned Warbler. Most important of all? Keep it clean! You can learn more about birdbaths at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. Your local Audubon can help, too.

Birds Need Water in Summer

From BirdNote | 01:45

Summer is a crucial time to keep your backyard birds supplied with water for drinking and bathing. Birdbaths set at different heights serve a great variety of birds. A wide, shallow birdbath that deepens a bit in the center will suit a broad range of birds - including this Orange-crowned Warbler. Most important of all? Keep it clean! You can learn more about birdbaths at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. Your local Audubon can help, too.

Water-song-sparrow-mike-hamilton-285_small Summer is a crucial time to keep your backyard birds supplied with water for drinking and bathing. Birdbaths set at different heights serve a great variety of birds. A wide, shallow birdbath that deepens a bit in the center will suit a broad range of birds - including this Orange-crowned Warbler. Most important of all? Keep it clean! You can learn more about birdbaths at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. Your local Audubon can help, too.

Rapid Evolution in the Galápagos Islands

From BirdNote | 01:45

Scientists have long thought that new species took a very long time to emerge. This thinking has now changed dramatically. On an island in the Galápagos, researchers Rosemary and Peter Grant discovered that a hybrid union of two distinct species of finch produced descendants different from any of the island’s known species — and the speciation happened in just two generations.

Galapagos-medium_ground-finch_david_cook-285_small Scientists have long thought that new species took a very long time to emerge. This thinking has now changed dramatically. On an island in the Galápagos, researchers Rosemary and Peter Grant discovered that a hybrid union of two distinct species of finch produced descendants different from any of the island’s known species — and the speciation happened in just two generations.

Birdsong Therapy

From BirdNote | 01:45

Where some noises—like TV, traffic and random conversations—can make it hard to concentrate, birdsong may make it easier. In a children’s hospital in Liverpool, England, the sweet sounds of birdsong carry along the hallways. In an Amsterdam airport, a lounge plays bird sounds to help travelers relax before flights. One expert thinks that birdsong relaxes people physically while stimulating them cognitively—the body relaxes while the mind becomes alert.

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Therapy-eurasian-bullfinch-alistair-hobbs-285_small Where some noises—like TV, traffic and random conversations—can make it hard to concentrate, birdsong may make it easier. In a children’s hospital in Liverpool, England, the sweet sounds of birdsong carry along the hallways. In an Amsterdam airport, a lounge plays bird sounds to help travelers relax before flights. One expert thinks that birdsong relaxes people physically while stimulating them cognitively—the body relaxes while the mind becomes alert.

One Square Inch of Silence

From BirdNote | 01:45

Gordon Hempton, the Sound Tracker, seeks those rare places untouched by human noise, where birds and nature create a complex, quiet music. In the Hoh Valley, in a rain forest in Olympic National Park, is a place he calls One Square Inch of Silence. It’s the least noise-polluted place in all of the Lower 48. And Gordon is working to preserve it. To experience One Square Inch of Silence, download the mp3, below. Gordon says, “It demonstrates what we are giving up, not just for ourselves, but for future generations if we do not set aside a quiet place now, or to hear it positively, what I believe we are going to save for all time.”

One-square-inch-isaac-leon-285wp_small Gordon Hempton, the Sound Tracker, seeks those rare places untouched by human noise, where birds and nature create a complex, quiet music. In the Hoh Valley, in a rain forest in Olympic National Park, is a place he calls One Square Inch of Silence. It’s the least noise-polluted place in all of the Lower 48. And Gordon is working to preserve it. To experience One Square Inch of Silence, download the mp3, below. Gordon says, “It demonstrates what we are giving up, not just for ourselves, but for future generations if we do not set aside a quiet place now, or to hear it positively, what I believe we are going to save for all time.”

Birds and Robots

From BirdNote | 01:45

One of the things airplane pilots worry about most is birds colliding with their planes - and possibly causing an accident. Preventing bird strikes is a serious concern. Many airports resort to killing birds that might pose a threat. But the airport in Edmonton, Alberta has found a more humane solution: they fly a robotic Peregrine Falcon over the grounds to scare off problem birds.

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Robird-clear-flight-solutions-285_small One of the things airplane pilots worry about most is birds colliding with their planes - and possibly causing an accident. Preventing bird strikes is a serious concern. Many airports resort to killing birds that might pose a threat. But the airport in Edmonton, Alberta has found a more humane solution: they fly a robotic Peregrine Falcon over the grounds to scare off problem birds.

Genetics and Migration

From BirdNote | 01:45

Scientists have found that, at least for some species, a bird’s genes dictates the route it takes when it migrates. For instance, when subspecies of Swainson’s Thrushes interbreed and produce hybrid offspring, those young birds may take mom’s route north and dad’s route south, or zigzag between the different paths. Researchers using new DNA techniques have discovered that a cluster of genes on a single chromosome seems to determine migratory patterns. Support comes from Sasquatch Books, announcing BirdNote, the Book. Full of illustrations and stories of 100 birds. More at SasquatchBooks.com.

Genetics-swainsons-thrush-gregg-thompson-285-8-18_small Scientists have found that, at least for some species, a bird’s genes dictates the route it takes when it migrates. For instance, when subspecies of Swainson’s Thrushes interbreed and produce hybrid offspring, those young birds may take mom’s route north and dad’s route south, or zigzag between the different paths. Researchers using new DNA techniques have discovered that a cluster of genes on a single chromosome seems to determine migratory patterns. Support comes from Sasquatch Books, announcing BirdNote, the Book. Full of illustrations and stories of 100 birds. More at SasquatchBooks.com.

A Bird Migrates South, Step by Step

From BirdNote | 01:45

Wood Thrushes migrate more than 2,000 miles — each way — between their summer breeding territories in the US and Canada to where they winter in Central America. During migration, the birds will fly for hundreds of miles at night, then stop for days or weeks to refuel. In the spring, they’ll head north three times as fast as they did during their southbound fall migration.

Swainsons_thrush-joanne-kamo-9-18-285_small Wood Thrushes migrate more than 2,000 miles — each way — between their summer breeding territories in the US and Canada to where they winter in Central America. During migration, the birds will fly for hundreds of miles at night, then stop for days or weeks to refuel. In the spring, they’ll head north three times as fast as they did during their southbound fall migration.

Saving Chimneys for Vaux's Swifts

From BirdNote | 01:45

Vaux’s Swifts are perfectly adapted to lives spent in the air. They mate on the wing, and their feet and legs are so small they can’t even walk. But they can hang. So at dusk they collect along the inner walls of giant chimneys, at places like Chapman Elementary School in Portland, Oregon. The Portland Audubon Society and the local community organized and raised money to save their neighborhood chimney — and their swifts.

Vauxs-swifts-bchan-285_small Vaux’s Swifts are perfectly adapted to lives spent in the air. They mate on the wing, and their feet and legs are so small they can’t even walk. But they can hang. So at dusk they collect along the inner walls of giant chimneys, at places like Chapman Elementary School in Portland, Oregon. The Portland Audubon Society and the local community organized and raised money to save their neighborhood chimney — and their swifts.

House Sparrows Can Open Doors

From BirdNote | 01:45

House Sparrows are ingenious birds that have learned a highly specialized skill: how to open automatic doors. House Sparrows have been seen activating electric-eye sensors to fly into restaurants, supermarkets, and home supply stores.

House-sparrow-matthijs_dubbeldam-285_small House Sparrows are ingenious birds that have learned a highly specialized skill: how to open automatic doors. House Sparrows have been seen activating electric-eye sensors to fly into restaurants, supermarkets, and home supply stores.

Rachel Carson's Muse

From BirdNote | 01:45

In the realm of conservation no single figure stands taller than Rachel Carson. Some consider her work some of the finest a literary nature writing of the 20th century. Carson herself had inspiration from a 19th century writer named Richard Jefferies, whose work helped Carson develop her own deep sense of connection with the natural world.

Rachel-carson-muse-barn-swallow-mikeh-285_small In the realm of conservation no single figure stands taller than Rachel Carson. Some consider her work some of the finest a literary nature writing of the 20th century. Carson herself had inspiration from a 19th century writer named Richard Jefferies, whose work helped Carson develop her own deep sense of connection with the natural world.

Teen Birders

From BirdNote | 01:45

Elisa Yang, a teenage birder, couldn’t find a young birder group anywhere in California -- so she created her own. In the San Bernardino National Forest, they hunt for the Mexican Whip-poor-will, an elusive crepuscular bird. The teens don headlamps and hike down a dirt road. Perched on boulders, they listen, while little brown bats swoop over them. Then, right in front of them, a whip-poor-will dives down and snatches a moth.

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Teen-elisa-yang-by-shahla-farzan-285_small Elisa Yang, a teenage birder, couldn’t find a young birder group anywhere in California -- so she created her own. In the San Bernardino National Forest, they hunt for the Mexican Whip-poor-will, an elusive crepuscular bird. The teens don headlamps and hike down a dirt road. Perched on boulders, they listen, while little brown bats swoop over them. Then, right in front of them, a whip-poor-will dives down and snatches a moth.

Ulm Sparrows

From BirdNote | 01:45

As an old story from Germany goes, workers building the world’s tallest church were preparing to install an immensely long beam, but they couldn’t get it through the city gate. Preparing to dismantle the city wall to clear a path to the construction site, workers saw a House Sparrow carry a long piece of straw up to a crevice, then turn the straw lengthwise. The builders slapped their foreheads and did the same

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Ulm-house-sparrow-dj-cockburn-285_small As an old story from Germany goes, workers building the world’s tallest church were preparing to install an immensely long beam, but they couldn’t get it through the city gate. Preparing to dismantle the city wall to clear a path to the construction site, workers saw a House Sparrow carry a long piece of straw up to a crevice, then turn the straw lengthwise. The builders slapped their foreheads and did the same

Monitoring Migrating Shorebirds

From BirdNote | 01:45

Right now, volunteer observers are counting shorebirds on the move. Sandpipers, dowitchers, plovers, Dunlin, and others that raised their young in the Arctic are now making southbound migrations. They're looking for places to feed and rest along the way. On Crockett Lake in Washington State, Sarah Schmidt identifies and counts the travelers three times a month in spring and fall, as part of the International Shorebird Survey. It's not easy to count shorebirds, like these Black-bellied Plovers. BirdNote celebrates all volunteers who are helping to put together the overall picture. They're supporting the conservation of critical lands.

Migrating-black-bellied-plovers-ingrid-taylar-285_small Right now, volunteer observers are counting shorebirds on the move. Sandpipers, dowitchers, plovers, Dunlin, and others that raised their young in the Arctic are now making southbound migrations. They're looking for places to feed and rest along the way. On Crockett Lake in Washington State, Sarah Schmidt identifies and counts the travelers three times a month in spring and fall, as part of the International Shorebird Survey. It's not easy to count shorebirds, like these Black-bellied Plovers. BirdNote celebrates all volunteers who are helping to put together the overall picture. They're supporting the conservation of critical lands.

Who Likes Suet?

From BirdNote | 01:45

Chickadees and titmice, nuthatches and jays, and woodpeckers, like the Pileated, all love suet. As do birds whose beaks can’t open seeds, like tiny kinglets, and almost any wintering warbler. The Brown Creeper, usually creeping up tree trunks, is a cool bird to discover at your suet feeder. And in the West, look for mobs of tiny Bushtits, taking a break from their normal diet of insects and spiders.

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Suet-pileated_woodpecker_mikeh-285_small Chickadees and titmice, nuthatches and jays, and woodpeckers, like the Pileated, all love suet. As do birds whose beaks can’t open seeds, like tiny kinglets, and almost any wintering warbler. The Brown Creeper, usually creeping up tree trunks, is a cool bird to discover at your suet feeder. And in the West, look for mobs of tiny Bushtits, taking a break from their normal diet of insects and spiders.

Two Phoebes Share the West

From BirdNote | 01:45

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 creeks, reservoirs, or even the tiniest pond in a back yard or garden. The birds’ voices set them apart, too. The brisk phrases of the Black Phoebe’s song stand in sharp contrast to the plaintive refrain of the Say’s Phoebe.

Black-phoebe-mick-thompson-285_small 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 creeks, reservoirs, or even the tiniest pond in a back yard or garden. The birds’ voices set them apart, too. The brisk phrases of the Black Phoebe’s song stand in sharp contrast to the plaintive refrain of the Say’s Phoebe.

Chicago Volunteers Rescue Birds

From BirdNote | 01:45

In many urban areas, collisions are the fate of hundreds of thousands of birds. But Annette Prince and volunteers with Chicago Bird Collision Monitors are making a difference. Every morning during spring and fall migration, Annette and her team rescue birds that have collided with skyscrapers – and transport the survivors to Willowbrook Wildlife Center for rehabilitation.

Chicago-brown-creeper-chris-peterson-285_small In many urban areas, collisions are the fate of hundreds of thousands of birds. But Annette Prince and volunteers with Chicago Bird Collision Monitors are making a difference. Every morning during spring and fall migration, Annette and her team rescue birds that have collided with skyscrapers – and transport the survivors to Willowbrook Wildlife Center for rehabilitation.

Phoebe and the Pewee, The

From BirdNote | 01:45

The Eastern Phoebe (pictured here) is one of the most familiar flycatchers east of the Rockies. Because the Eastern Phoebe repeats its name when it sings, it’s a pretty straightforward voice to identify and remember. But there’s another flycatcher east of the Rockies that whistles its name over and over: It’s the Eastern Wood-Pewee. This bird is more often heard than seen. And it wouldn’t be unusual to hear a pewee and a phoebe at the same spot. With careful listening, though, you can tell them apart by their singing styles.

Eastern_phoebe_joanne_kamo-285_small The Eastern Phoebe (pictured here) is one of the most familiar flycatchers east of the Rockies. Because the Eastern Phoebe repeats its name when it sings, it’s a pretty straightforward voice to identify and remember. But there’s another flycatcher east of the Rockies that whistles its name over and over: It’s the Eastern Wood-Pewee. This bird is more often heard than seen. And it wouldn’t be unusual to hear a pewee and a phoebe at the same spot. With careful listening, though, you can tell them apart by their singing styles.

The Secret Lives of Goldfinches

From BirdNote | 01:45

American Goldfinches are one of our most familiar birds, but they lead lives that are anything but ordinary. These birds will sometimes raise two broods a year, have a secret weapon against cowbirds, and have the ability to distinguish between songs that — to our ears — sound the same. Backyard birds they may be, but American Goldfinches never cease to amaze.

American_goldfinch_pair_belen_bilgic_schneider-285_small American Goldfinches are one of our most familiar birds, but they lead lives that are anything but ordinary. These birds will sometimes raise two broods a year, have a secret weapon against cowbirds, and have the ability to distinguish between songs that — to our ears — sound the same. Backyard birds they may be, but American Goldfinches never cease to amaze.

Deep-diving Emperor Penguins

From BirdNote | 01:45

The Emperor Penguin is the largest penguin on the planet. It’s also the deepest and longest underwater diver. Biologist Jessica Meir, pictured here, traveled to Antarctica to study their amazing feats. She learned that Emperor Penguins can hold relatively more oxygen in their bodies than humans or other terrestrial animals, and they use that oxygen with incredible efficiency. If we can understand how the penguins tolerate such low levels of oxygen, we may someday apply that information to medical care for humans.

Jessica-meir-penguins-scripps-10-18-285_small The Emperor Penguin is the largest penguin on the planet. It’s also the deepest and longest underwater diver. Biologist Jessica Meir, pictured here, traveled to Antarctica to study their amazing feats. She learned that Emperor Penguins can hold relatively more oxygen in their bodies than humans or other terrestrial animals, and they use that oxygen with incredible efficiency. If we can understand how the penguins tolerate such low levels of oxygen, we may someday apply that information to medical care for humans.

Using the Merlin Bird ID App

From BirdNote | 01:45

The Merlin Bird ID smartphone app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a free, easy way to help you identify new birds. The app asks a series of simple questions and offers a list of possible birds, along with photos and sounds, to help your identification. The app draws from millions of bird sightings people are uploading to a massive community science project called eBird.

Merlin-app-ellen-blackstone-285_small The Merlin Bird ID smartphone app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a free, easy way to help you identify new birds. The app asks a series of simple questions and offers a list of possible birds, along with photos and sounds, to help your identification. The app draws from millions of bird sightings people are uploading to a massive community science project called eBird.

Stowaway Cockatoo Takes a Cruise

From BirdNote | 01:45

A beautiful Rose-breasted Cockatoo named Harri took the adventure of a lifetime. She set off unseen on a cruise ship from Brisbane, Australia, and wasn’t discovered until the ship neared New Zealand. The New Zealand authorities were not happy to see Harri, whose species is the bane of farmers in her native Australia, and threatened to euthanize her if she wasn’t properly locked up. The ship’s officers gave Harri her own luxury cabin, and she was reunited with her family two weeks later.

Stowaway-cockatoo-galah-nz-ministry-285_small A beautiful Rose-breasted Cockatoo named Harri took the adventure of a lifetime. She set off unseen on a cruise ship from Brisbane, Australia, and wasn’t discovered until the ship neared New Zealand. The New Zealand authorities were not happy to see Harri, whose species is the bane of farmers in her native Australia, and threatened to euthanize her if she wasn’t properly locked up. The ship’s officers gave Harri her own luxury cabin, and she was reunited with her family two weeks later.

Yellow-eyed Juncos - Bright Eyes

From BirdNote | 01:45

The Dark-eyed Junco is one of the most abundant backyard birds in North America. But it’s not our only junco. In the Southwest, the Yellow-eyed Junco lives in cool mountain forests from Arizona and New Mexico, through Mexico into Guatemala. Ornithologist Francis Sumichrast was in Veracruz, Mexico, in the 1860s. He reported that the locals believed Yellow-eyed Juncos were phosphorescent, collecting light during the day and releasing it at night. One look at the bird’s golden-yellow eyes, and you might almost believe it yourself.

Yellow-eyed-junco-tom-grey-285_small The Dark-eyed Junco is one of the most abundant backyard birds in North America. But it’s not our only junco. In the Southwest, the Yellow-eyed Junco lives in cool mountain forests from Arizona and New Mexico, through Mexico into Guatemala. Ornithologist Francis Sumichrast was in Veracruz, Mexico, in the 1860s. He reported that the locals believed Yellow-eyed Juncos were phosphorescent, collecting light during the day and releasing it at night. One look at the bird’s golden-yellow eyes, and you might almost believe it yourself.

Why Birds Collide with Buildings

From BirdNote | 01:45

Who among us hasn’t almost walked into a glass door? Birds though, especially when migrating, run the risk of colliding with reflective glass in urban areas. With millions of birds dying from collisions every year, it’s heartening to know that bird-friendly lighting and design options are emerging. For example, a brand of glass called Ornilux contains a UV pattern nearly invisible to humans that warns away birds. A promising product!

Collide-bldg-reflection-chris-peterson-285_small Who among us hasn’t almost walked into a glass door? Birds though, especially when migrating, run the risk of colliding with reflective glass in urban areas. With millions of birds dying from collisions every year, it’s heartening to know that bird-friendly lighting and design options are emerging. For example, a brand of glass called Ornilux contains a UV pattern nearly invisible to humans that warns away birds. A promising product!

Woodpeckers Carve Out Roost Cavities, Too

From BirdNote | 01:45

In spring, we often hear woodpeckers hard at work, carving out nest holes in tree trunks. And now that fall has arrived, we may hear that excavating sound again. Some woodpecker species stay year round in the region where they nest, while others migrate south in winter. Those that remain, like this Pileated Woodpecker, are chiseling out roosting cavities, snug hollows where they’ll shelter during the cold nights of fall and winter.

Roost-pileated-woodpecker-gregg-thompson-285_small In spring, we often hear woodpeckers hard at work, carving out nest holes in tree trunks. And now that fall has arrived, we may hear that excavating sound again. Some woodpecker species stay year round in the region where they nest, while others migrate south in winter. Those that remain, like this Pileated Woodpecker, are chiseling out roosting cavities, snug hollows where they’ll shelter during the cold nights of fall and winter.

Mistaken Identity

From BirdNote | 01:45

This Band-tailed Pigeon may sound like an owl, but it's a case of mistaken identity. The song of the American Robin could be confused with that of the Black-headed Grosbeak. And then, there's the Black-capped Chickadee. At certain times of year, the male sings "Fee-bee, fee-bee," even though it's not a phoebe. Listen to this show again -- or for more bird songs and calls, check out the Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at Cornell University.

Mistaken-band-tailed-id-pbannick-285_small This Band-tailed Pigeon may sound like an owl, but it's a case of mistaken identity. The song of the American Robin could be confused with that of the Black-headed Grosbeak. And then, there's the Black-capped Chickadee. At certain times of year, the male sings "Fee-bee, fee-bee," even though it's not a phoebe. Listen to this show again -- or for more bird songs and calls, check out the Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at Cornell University.

The World's Most Abundant Bird

From BirdNote | 01:45

There are an estimated 1.5 billion Red-billed Quelea alive today, making them the most abundant of all wild birds. The sparrow-sized Red-billed Quelea flock together in groups so large, from a distance they appear to be clouds of smoke. Red-billed Quelea are in the weaver family, and create tens of thousands of carefully woven nests in their enormous colonies.

Abundant-red-billed-quelea-johann-du-preez-285_small There are an estimated 1.5 billion Red-billed Quelea alive today, making them the most abundant of all wild birds. The sparrow-sized Red-billed Quelea flock together in groups so large, from a distance they appear to be clouds of smoke. Red-billed Quelea are in the weaver family, and create tens of thousands of carefully woven nests in their enormous colonies.

Chickadees on a Cold Night

From BirdNote | 01:45

The Black-capped Chickadees of Fairbanks, Alaska, endure nights as cold as 40 degrees below zero. Dr. Susan Sharbaugh, a scientist at the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, has studied them. She says that each chickadee wedges itself into a tiny cavity. Then the birds drop their body temperature 18 degrees and shiver all night to generate heat.

Cold-black-capped-chickadee-dennymont-2-285_small The Black-capped Chickadees of Fairbanks, Alaska, endure nights as cold as 40 degrees below zero. Dr. Susan Sharbaugh, a scientist at the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, has studied them. She says that each chickadee wedges itself into a tiny cavity. Then the birds drop their body temperature 18 degrees and shiver all night to generate heat.

Monk Parakeets

From BirdNote | 01:45

If you live in North America, parrots might seem like exotic creatures. North America’s once-common native species, the Carolina Parakeet, has been extinct since the early 20th Century. But more and more parrots are making this continent their home. Escaped Monk Parakeets now have self-sustaining populations in many areas across the country: Chicago; Dallas; New Orleans; Portland, Oregon; and Bridgeport, Connecticut, among others. And Monk Parakeets are not alone. By 2015, at least a dozen other foreign parrot species were nesting in the US, especially in Florida and California.

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Monk-parakeets-chris-bohinski-285_small If you live in North America, parrots might seem like exotic creatures. North America’s once-common native species, the Carolina Parakeet, has been extinct since the early 20th Century. But more and more parrots are making this continent their home. Escaped Monk Parakeets now have self-sustaining populations in many areas across the country: Chicago; Dallas; New Orleans; Portland, Oregon; and Bridgeport, Connecticut, among others. And Monk Parakeets are not alone. By 2015, at least a dozen other foreign parrot species were nesting in the US, especially in Florida and California.

Researching High-flying Bar-headed Geese

From BirdNote | 01:45

Twice a year, Bar-headed Geese migrate over the Himalayas, the tallest mountains on the planet. Flying requires ten to twenty times more oxygen than resting. Yet at this altitude, there’s only half to one-third of the oxygen. Animal physiologist Jessica Meir says these amazing birds utilize “a suite of physiological responses and adaptations that allows this high altitude flight.”

Bar-headed-goose-ron-saldino-really-285_small Twice a year, Bar-headed Geese migrate over the Himalayas, the tallest mountains on the planet. Flying requires ten to twenty times more oxygen than resting. Yet at this altitude, there’s only half to one-third of the oxygen. Animal physiologist Jessica Meir says these amazing birds utilize “a suite of physiological responses and adaptations that allows this high altitude flight.”

A Virginia Rail on Michigan Avenue

From BirdNote | 01:45

Chicago’s Michigan Avenue – with towering glass skyscrapers and fancy boutiques – is the last place you’d expect to see a bird that normally hides in freshwater marshes. Yet, during migration, secretive Virginia Rails like this one pass over the city at night. That is, until they hit a building or become confused by lights. Annette Prince, of Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, tells of rescuing one of these slim, nine-inch-tall marshbirds, from a busy city sidewalk.

Virginia-rail-2-gregg-thompson-285_small Chicago’s Michigan Avenue – with towering glass skyscrapers and fancy boutiques – is the last place you’d expect to see a bird that normally hides in freshwater marshes. Yet, during migration, secretive Virginia Rails like this one pass over the city at night. That is, until they hit a building or become confused by lights. Annette Prince, of Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, tells of rescuing one of these slim, nine-inch-tall marshbirds, from a busy city sidewalk.

Here Come the Merlins

From BirdNote | 01:45

Smaller than a pigeon — but fierce enough to knock one from the air — are the powerful, compact falcons known as Merlins. Climate change is pushing ranges of many birds farther north, but more and more Merlins have been nesting farther south, in towns and cities across the northern United States. Merlins will take over old crow nests, especially in conifer trees, in parks, cemeteries, and neighborhoods.

Merlin-the-bird-greggt-10-17-285_small Smaller than a pigeon — but fierce enough to knock one from the air — are the powerful, compact falcons known as Merlins. Climate change is pushing ranges of many birds farther north, but more and more Merlins have been nesting farther south, in towns and cities across the northern United States. Merlins will take over old crow nests, especially in conifer trees, in parks, cemeteries, and neighborhoods.

Galapagos Penguins and El Nino

From BirdNote | 01:45

University of Washington professor Dee Boersma is concerned about Galápagos Penguins because of the increased frequency of El Nino. So Dee's team and their partners at the Galápagos National Park recently built about 120 "penguin condos." These are lava burrows near the coast, most between half a meter and two meters above high tide. Learn more at ecosystemsentinels.org.

Dee-boersma-galapagos-penguin-chicks-penguin-studies-285_small University of Washington professor Dee Boersma is concerned about Galápagos Penguins because of the increased frequency of El Nino. So Dee's team and their partners at the Galápagos National Park recently built about 120 "penguin condos." These are lava burrows near the coast, most between half a meter and two meters above high tide. Learn more at ecosystemsentinels.org.

Starlings Say It With Flowers

From BirdNote | 01:45

European Starlings regularly adorn their twig nests with marigolds, elderberry flowers, yarrow leaves, and even willow bark — all of which are full of aromatic chemicals, which fumigate their nests and are thought to discourage pests and parasites. Scientists discovered that starlings hatched in well-fumigated nests tend to weigh more, and live longer, than those raised without fragrant herbs.

European-starling-flowers-josh-levinson-285_small European Starlings regularly adorn their twig nests with marigolds, elderberry flowers, yarrow leaves, and even willow bark — all of which are full of aromatic chemicals, which fumigate their nests and are thought to discourage pests and parasites. Scientists discovered that starlings hatched in well-fumigated nests tend to weigh more, and live longer, than those raised without fragrant herbs.

Hazel Wolf

From BirdNote | 01:45

The writer Paul Bowles said, “Nothing just happens. It depends on who comes along.” For the Audubon Society in Washington State, that “who” was Hazel Wolf. She was a labor activist, environmental campaigner, and life-long champion of causes she believed in. From 1969 until 1997, Hazel Wolf organized Audubon chapters throughout the Pacific Northwest. She made a difference for birds including her favorite, the Brown Creeper, because someone had made a difference for her. It was a calling, though, that nearly didn’t happen...

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Hazel-wolf-brown-creeper-mikeh-285_small The writer Paul Bowles said, “Nothing just happens. It depends on who comes along.” For the Audubon Society in Washington State, that “who” was Hazel Wolf. She was a labor activist, environmental campaigner, and life-long champion of causes she believed in. From 1969 until 1997, Hazel Wolf organized Audubon chapters throughout the Pacific Northwest. She made a difference for birds including her favorite, the Brown Creeper, because someone had made a difference for her. It was a calling, though, that nearly didn’t happen...

Chipping Sparrows

From BirdNote | 01:45

The begging calls of male baby Chipping Sparrows mix into what is known as "subsong," a sort of infant babbling. And, very quickly, subsong begins to change to imitations of adult songs. Next spring, when the young male returns for its first breeding season, it will settle in near an older male. Soon it drops all but one of the precursor songs - the one most like the older male's song - and in a few days nearly matches its neighbor note for note.

Chipping-sparrow-greg-lavaty-285_small The begging calls of male baby Chipping Sparrows mix into what is known as "subsong," a sort of infant babbling. And, very quickly, subsong begins to change to imitations of adult songs. Next spring, when the young male returns for its first breeding season, it will settle in near an older male. Soon it drops all but one of the precursor songs - the one most like the older male's song - and in a few days nearly matches its neighbor note for note.

Saw-whet Owls Hoot and Hoot

From BirdNote | 01:45

Northern Saw-whet Owls are common in forests across southern Canada and the northern U.S. In early autumn, many move southward, making a large concentration especially in the region of the Great Lakes. To our ear, the "advertising call" of the male, made mostly in spring and summer, sounds awfully repetitive, a bit like the back-up signal of a vehicle. At less than three ounces, the Northern Saw-Whet Owl is one of the smallest owls in North America.

Northern-saw-whet-owl-daniella-theoret-285_small Northern Saw-whet Owls are common in forests across southern Canada and the northern U.S. In early autumn, many move southward, making a large concentration especially in the region of the Great Lakes. To our ear, the "advertising call" of the male, made mostly in spring and summer, sounds awfully repetitive, a bit like the back-up signal of a vehicle. At less than three ounces, the Northern Saw-Whet Owl is one of the smallest owls in North America.

Songbirds: the Large and Small of It

From BirdNote | 01:45

The group of birds called “songbirds” — the perching birds — is incredibly broad. Half the world’s 10,000 birds are in the songbird group, and their range of body sizes is mind-boggling. One of the smallest songbirds in North America is the Golden-crowned Kinglet, barely larger than a hummingbird. The largest is the Common Raven, which is almost two feet long and weighs around three pounds.

Songbird-large-small-gregg-thompson-285_small The group of birds called “songbirds” — the perching birds — is incredibly broad. Half the world’s 10,000 birds are in the songbird group, and their range of body sizes is mind-boggling. One of the smallest songbirds in North America is the Golden-crowned Kinglet, barely larger than a hummingbird. The largest is the Common Raven, which is almost two feet long and weighs around three pounds.

Life Improved for Penguins in Argentina

From BirdNote | 01:45

Professor Dee Boersma, working with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Province of Chubut, has been studying the Magellanic Penguins of Argentina. "In 1983, we realized that oil pollution was really a huge problem for these birds. We were seeing birds coming ashore, covered in oil. We started bringing this to the government's attention. And in 1997, they moved the tanker lanes further offshore. Some years we get no penguins dead on the beach covered in oil." To learn more visit the Center for Ecosystem Sentinels website.

Dee-boersma-with-magellanic-penguins-285_small Professor Dee Boersma, working with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Province of Chubut, has been studying the Magellanic Penguins of Argentina. "In 1983, we realized that oil pollution was really a huge problem for these birds. We were seeing birds coming ashore, covered in oil. We started bringing this to the government's attention. And in 1997, they moved the tanker lanes further offshore. Some years we get no penguins dead on the beach covered in oil." To learn more visit the Center for Ecosystem Sentinels website.

Is It the Same Robin?

From BirdNote | 01:45

Autumn brings robins to feed on tree fruit and berries. Are the robins you see now the same robins that you saw in your garden last summer? Some robins do remain year 'round. Others spend only the winter, having nested farther north. John James Audubon may have been the first to band birds, in order to learn more about migration. You can learn more about banding birds from the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

Is-it-robin-tom-grey-285_small Autumn brings robins to feed on tree fruit and berries. Are the robins you see now the same robins that you saw in your garden last summer? Some robins do remain year 'round. Others spend only the winter, having nested farther north. John James Audubon may have been the first to band birds, in order to learn more about migration. You can learn more about banding birds from the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

Welcoming Back Winter Birds

From BirdNote | 01:45

Although we may think of autumn as the end of the growing season, a sort of winding down in the natural world, for birds it’s as much a season of renewal as the spring. In the colder months, we welcome back our winter birds, which spent the summer in their breeding territories to the north. Offering the right kind of food and environment in the winter months can attract these migrants to your yard!

Winter-swans-incoming-mikeh-285_small Although we may think of autumn as the end of the growing season, a sort of winding down in the natural world, for birds it’s as much a season of renewal as the spring. In the colder months, we welcome back our winter birds, which spent the summer in their breeding territories to the north. Offering the right kind of food and environment in the winter months can attract these migrants to your yard!

How Much Do Birds Eat?

From BirdNote | 01:45

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. For a human that weighs 150 pounds, that’s 18 pounds of chow, or roughly six extra-large pizzas. And that perky little chickadee at your feeder eats the equivalent of 35% of its weight. You, as a 150-pound chickadee, will be munching 600 granola bars a day. And a hummingbird drinks about 100% of its body weight per day. That means you’ll be sipping 17½ gallons of milk.

Eat-pine-siskin-chestnut-backed_chickadee-mikeh-285_small 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. For a human that weighs 150 pounds, that’s 18 pounds of chow, or roughly six extra-large pizzas. And that perky little chickadee at your feeder eats the equivalent of 35% of its weight. You, as a 150-pound chickadee, will be munching 600 granola bars a day. And a hummingbird drinks about 100% of its body weight per day. That means you’ll be sipping 17½ gallons of milk.

Chickadee Brains Are Bigger in the Cold

From BirdNote | 01:45

As the colder months arrive, birds that remain in northern climates face the harsh realities of staying warm and finding food. Some birds approach the food problem by storing it in advance — a behavior called caching. Chickadees, nuthatches, jays, and some woodpeckers are known to cache large supplies of seeds in many places. But what enables birds such as this Black-capped Chickadee to find the seeds they’ve stored? They amplify spatial memory.

Cold-black-capped-chickadee-dennymont-2-285_small As the colder months arrive, birds that remain in northern climates face the harsh realities of staying warm and finding food. Some birds approach the food problem by storing it in advance — a behavior called caching. Chickadees, nuthatches, jays, and some woodpeckers are known to cache large supplies of seeds in many places. But what enables birds such as this Black-capped Chickadee to find the seeds they’ve stored? They amplify spatial memory.

Chickadee Brains Are Bigger in the Cold

From BirdNote | 01:45

As the colder months arrive, birds that remain in northern climates face the harsh realities of staying warm and finding food. Some birds approach the food problem by storing it in advance — a behavior called caching. Chickadees, nuthatches, jays, and some woodpeckers are known to cache large supplies of seeds in many places. But what enables birds such as this Black-capped Chickadee to find the seeds they’ve stored? They amplify spatial memory.

Cold-black-capped-chickadee-dennymont-2-285_small As the colder months arrive, birds that remain in northern climates face the harsh realities of staying warm and finding food. Some birds approach the food problem by storing it in advance — a behavior called caching. Chickadees, nuthatches, jays, and some woodpeckers are known to cache large supplies of seeds in many places. But what enables birds such as this Black-capped Chickadee to find the seeds they’ve stored? They amplify spatial memory.

Late Fall Sounds to Listen For

From BirdNote | 01:45

By the time November rolls around, the bird songs of summer can seem a distant memory. But there’s always something to listen for. Small birds like chickadees and kinglets, including the Golden-crowned Kinglet pictured here, often mix in flocks while foraging. Geese can be heard overhead in the sky, calling in flight. And sunny November weather may inspire wintering birds like the White-throated Sparrow to burst into song.

Late-fall-golden-crowned-kinglet-joanne-kamo-285_small By the time November rolls around, the bird songs of summer can seem a distant memory. But there’s always something to listen for. Small birds like chickadees and kinglets, including the Golden-crowned Kinglet pictured here, often mix in flocks while foraging. Geese can be heard overhead in the sky, calling in flight. And sunny November weather may inspire wintering birds like the White-throated Sparrow to burst into song.

Bufflehead Return

From BirdNote | 01:45

This month, the Bufflehead returns from the boreal forests of Canada and Alaska to winter in our waters. Its nicknames include little black-and-white duck, bumblebee duck, buffalo-headed duck, butterball, and spirit duck. Buffleheads have elaborate courtship displays that they perform throughout the year, except during the post-breeding molt and in the early fall.

Bufflehead-daniellat-nov2018-285_small This month, the Bufflehead returns from the boreal forests of Canada and Alaska to winter in our waters. Its nicknames include little black-and-white duck, bumblebee duck, buffalo-headed duck, butterball, and spirit duck. Buffleheads have elaborate courtship displays that they perform throughout the year, except during the post-breeding molt and in the early fall.

Long-lived Wisdom, the Albatross

From BirdNote | 01:45

A Laysan Albatross named Wisdom has been nesting and raising chicks on the island of Midway for nearly 60 years. She was banded back in 1956 and was rediscovered, still alive and healthy, in 2002. Since that time, scientists have watched Wisdom closely. Every year, she has managed to navigate the many perils facing her species and successfully raise a new chick.

Wisdom-albatross-naomi-blinick-285_small A Laysan Albatross named Wisdom has been nesting and raising chicks on the island of Midway for nearly 60 years. She was banded back in 1956 and was rediscovered, still alive and healthy, in 2002. Since that time, scientists have watched Wisdom closely. Every year, she has managed to navigate the many perils facing her species and successfully raise a new chick.

Alex Chadwick at Big Bend - The Roadrunner and the Baird's Sparrow

From BirdNote | 01:45

In the Looney Tunes cartoon, the Road Runner is potential prey for Wile E. Coyote. But in the real world, the Greater Roadrunner is an excellent predator. BirdNote contributor Alex Chadwick visited Mark Flippo, a retired park ranger at Big Bend National Park, to learn more about the behavior of these fascinating birds.

Roadrunner-greater-searchnet-media-285-8-18_small In the Looney Tunes cartoon, the Road Runner is potential prey for Wile E. Coyote. But in the real world, the Greater Roadrunner is an excellent predator. BirdNote contributor Alex Chadwick visited Mark Flippo, a retired park ranger at Big Bend National Park, to learn more about the behavior of these fascinating birds.

Alex Chadwick at Big Bend - An Oasis for Birds

From BirdNote | 01:45

Carolyn Ohl-Johnson found a home — and a way of life — near Big Bend National Park. BirdNote contributor Alex Chadwick visited Carolyn at the desert oasis she created for birds such as this Magnificent Hummingbird. But her accomplishment has required tremendous sacrifice. “I haven’t seen my great grandkids since they were babies,” she admits.

Oasis-magnificent-hummingbird-j-kamo-285_small Carolyn Ohl-Johnson found a home — and a way of life — near Big Bend National Park. BirdNote contributor Alex Chadwick visited Carolyn at the desert oasis she created for birds such as this Magnificent Hummingbird. But her accomplishment has required tremendous sacrifice. “I haven’t seen my great grandkids since they were babies,” she admits.

Alex Chadwick at Big Bend - Banding Hummingbirds With Kelly Bryan

From BirdNote | 01:45

BirdNote contributor Alex Chadwick visited the outskirts of Big Bend National Park in Texas to meet with Kelly Bryan, a retired park manager and biologist who spends his days placing tiny bands on hummingbirds to better know their habits. Kelly has banded more than 14,000 birds!

Banding-hummingbird-alex-chadwick-for-bn-285_small BirdNote contributor Alex Chadwick visited the outskirts of Big Bend National Park in Texas to meet with Kelly Bryan, a retired park manager and biologist who spends his days placing tiny bands on hummingbirds to better know their habits. Kelly has banded more than 14,000 birds!

Bosque del Apache, High Desert Oasis

From BirdNote | 01:45

At this time of year, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico is a birder's paradise. The refuge — critical wintering habitat for great numbers of birds — sits where the north edge of the Chihuahuan desert meets the Rio Grande River. Witness the magnificent spectacle of the sunrise "fly-out" of more than 14,000 Sandhill Cranes! The cranes return each November from nesting grounds in the northern Rockies and Dakotas, just in time for the annual Festival of the Cranes — November 14-17, 2018. Enjoy field trips, lectures, workshops, and hikes, as you celebrate this remarkable oasis in New Mexico's high desert.

Bosque-cranes-bob-hills-wp-285_small At this time of year, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico is a birder's paradise. The refuge — critical wintering habitat for great numbers of birds — sits where the north edge of the Chihuahuan desert meets the Rio Grande River. Witness the magnificent spectacle of the sunrise "fly-out" of more than 14,000 Sandhill Cranes! The cranes return each November from nesting grounds in the northern Rockies and Dakotas, just in time for the annual Festival of the Cranes — November 14-17, 2018. Enjoy field trips, lectures, workshops, and hikes, as you celebrate this remarkable oasis in New Mexico's high desert.

Great Horned Owls Calling

From BirdNote | 01:45

A fledgling Great Horned Owl calls to be fed. Judging from the young bird's persistence, the parents seem to be responding only with calls, not with food. These entreaties can go on for weeks. Both parents let the fledgling know that it's time for him to feed himself. They've been bringing voles and rabbits for months. Silence and surprise are keys to the owls' success as hunters, so it's hard to imagine the juvenile Great Horned Owl improving his chances by being so vocal!

Great-horned-owl-michaeldanielho-285_small A fledgling Great Horned Owl calls to be fed. Judging from the young bird's persistence, the parents seem to be responding only with calls, not with food. These entreaties can go on for weeks. Both parents let the fledgling know that it's time for him to feed himself. They've been bringing voles and rabbits for months. Silence and surprise are keys to the owls' success as hunters, so it's hard to imagine the juvenile Great Horned Owl improving his chances by being so vocal!

Fancy Fruit-doves in the South Pacific

From BirdNote | 01:45

Fruit-doves are forest-dwelling doves of the South Pacific found on island groups like the Philippines and New Guinea. There are 54 species of fruit-doves, most about the size of a Mourning Dove or smaller, and they do indeed eat fruit. The combinations of bold colors in fruit-doves are unmatched by any other group of birds.

Fruit-dove-hung-do-285_small Fruit-doves are forest-dwelling doves of the South Pacific found on island groups like the Philippines and New Guinea. There are 54 species of fruit-doves, most about the size of a Mourning Dove or smaller, and they do indeed eat fruit. The combinations of bold colors in fruit-doves are unmatched by any other group of birds.

The Music of Black Scoters

From BirdNote | 01:45

Black Scoters are sea ducks that spend the winter on saltwater bays. They are large, strong ducks and buoyant swimmers with a habit of cocking their tails upward. Black Scoters nest each summer on freshwater tundra ponds. Each fall, they can be found on bays all across the Northern Hemisphere. An unmistakable clue to their presence? - their mysterious, musical wail.

Black-scoter-lloyd-spitalnik-285_small Black Scoters are sea ducks that spend the winter on saltwater bays. They are large, strong ducks and buoyant swimmers with a habit of cocking their tails upward. Black Scoters nest each summer on freshwater tundra ponds. Each fall, they can be found on bays all across the Northern Hemisphere. An unmistakable clue to their presence? - their mysterious, musical wail.

How Free Is a Free-range Chicken?

From BirdNote | 01:45

It can be confusing to buy truly free-range chicken and eggs at the grocery store. The next time you’re at the store, take a close look at the labels. Chickens raised for meat or eggs that spend their days outside pecking for bugs, grubs, and fresh green vegetation are best known as pastured poultry. If you can, try buying from a local farmer!

Free-range_chicken-jg-franz-285_small It can be confusing to buy truly free-range chicken and eggs at the grocery store. The next time you’re at the store, take a close look at the labels. Chickens raised for meat or eggs that spend their days outside pecking for bugs, grubs, and fresh green vegetation are best known as pastured poultry. If you can, try buying from a local farmer!

More Eyes and Ears

From BirdNote | 01:45

A family of dapper Black-capped Chickadees call as they hang upside down, pecking at alder seeds. A wren skulks and buzzes through the underbrush. A petite Downy Woodpecker whinnies nearby. Mixed-species flocks may include a dozen species and more than fifty individuals. More ears and eyes mean better detection of predators. Find your local Audubon chapter and learn more about birds, including the Black-capped Chickadee.

Eyes-chestnut-backed_chickadee-mikeh-nov-2018-285_small A family of dapper Black-capped Chickadees call as they hang upside down, pecking at alder seeds. A wren skulks and buzzes through the underbrush. A petite Downy Woodpecker whinnies nearby. Mixed-species flocks may include a dozen species and more than fifty individuals. More ears and eyes mean better detection of predators. Find your local Audubon chapter and learn more about birds, including the Black-capped Chickadee.

In Winter, Puffins Lead Very Different Lives

From BirdNote | 01:45

Every summer, puffins grow blazingly colorful layers over the bases of their huge beaks. But in the winter, puffins lead very different lives, and they shed their bright ornamentation. Puffins in winter are largely solitary, and they spend about seven months alone at sea, before returning once again to their colonies to breed.

Horned_puffin_kirt_edblom-285_small Every summer, puffins grow blazingly colorful layers over the bases of their huge beaks. But in the winter, puffins lead very different lives, and they shed their bright ornamentation. Puffins in winter are largely solitary, and they spend about seven months alone at sea, before returning once again to their colonies to breed.

The Oystercatcher's World

From BirdNote | 01:45

Black Oystercatchers prey on shellfish in the wave zone, especially mussels and limpets. The waves cause mussels to open often, making them easier to eat. The Black Oystercatcher nests on ledges just off shore, and its eggs and young suffer far less predation by mammals. Contrary to their name, oystercatchers rarely eat oysters. For more about the Black Oystercatcher, visit Cornell's AllAboutBirds.

Black-oystercatcher-mike-hamilton-285_small Black Oystercatchers prey on shellfish in the wave zone, especially mussels and limpets. The waves cause mussels to open often, making them easier to eat. The Black Oystercatcher nests on ledges just off shore, and its eggs and young suffer far less predation by mammals. Contrary to their name, oystercatchers rarely eat oysters. For more about the Black Oystercatcher, visit Cornell's AllAboutBirds.

Goldeneyes and Whistling Wings

From BirdNote | 01:45

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.

Common-goldeneye-daniel-arndt-285_small 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.

American Wigeon

From BirdNote | 01:45

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. Take a field trip with your local Audubon and see if you can spot a wigeon.

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American-wigeon-jim-gilbert-285_small 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. Take a field trip with your local Audubon and see if you can spot a wigeon.

Big Bird - America's Favorite Flightless Bird

From BirdNote | 01:45

There’s at least one bird that nearly everyone knows on sight: Big Bird. He’s been a Sesame Street celebrity since 1969, cutting a colorful figure for pre-school fans and their parents across the world. Big Bird is really a big kid with a kind heart, who makes friends everywhere he goes. He helps children feel okay about not knowing everything because, well, Big Bird is still figuring things out himself. Like the alphabet. When Big Bird first saw the alphabet, he thought it was one really, really long word. And Michael Stein knows how to pronounce it. Have a listen!

Big-bird-285_small There’s at least one bird that nearly everyone knows on sight: Big Bird. He’s been a Sesame Street celebrity since 1969, cutting a colorful figure for pre-school fans and their parents across the world. Big Bird is really a big kid with a kind heart, who makes friends everywhere he goes. He helps children feel okay about not knowing everything because, well, Big Bird is still figuring things out himself. Like the alphabet. When Big Bird first saw the alphabet, he thought it was one really, really long word. And Michael Stein knows how to pronounce it. Have a listen!

Eurasian Collared-Doves' Sense of Direction

From BirdNote | 01:45

The Eurasian Collared-Dove is rapidly increasing across the US and southern Canada. This sandy pink bird with the neat black neckband was released in the Bahamas in the 1960s. Brought in as pets, some doves escaped. They made it to Florida a few years later and have been spreading in a generally west-northwest direction ever since. Today, true to their inner compass, collared-doves appear poised to conquer another territory — Alaska. From the starting point of the Bahamas, that’s about as far northwest as it gets.

Eurasian-collared-dove-greggt-285_small The Eurasian Collared-Dove is rapidly increasing across the US and southern Canada. This sandy pink bird with the neat black neckband was released in the Bahamas in the 1960s. Brought in as pets, some doves escaped. They made it to Florida a few years later and have been spreading in a generally west-northwest direction ever since. Today, true to their inner compass, collared-doves appear poised to conquer another territory — Alaska. From the starting point of the Bahamas, that’s about as far northwest as it gets.

Fancy Ducks

From BirdNote | 01:45

Take a walk around a lake in late November, and you'll find male ducks in their most brilliant breeding colors. These ducks have lost their nondescript late-summer feathers, known as "eclipse plumage." Male dabbling ducks - like this Green-winged Teal - look their finest in late fall and winter, the season of courtship and pair-bonding.

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Fancy-green-winged-teal-mikeh-285_small Take a walk around a lake in late November, and you'll find male ducks in their most brilliant breeding colors. These ducks have lost their nondescript late-summer feathers, known as "eclipse plumage." Male dabbling ducks - like this Green-winged Teal - look their finest in late fall and winter, the season of courtship and pair-bonding.

Blind Snakes and Screech-Owls

From BirdNote | 01:45

During the breeding season, when Eastern Screech-Owls capture the worm-like reptiles known as blind snakes, they deliver them to their chicks alive and wriggling. Some are gulped down immediately, but others escape by burrowing beneath the nest. The surviving “snakes” feed on the insect larvae they find in the nest — larvae that would otherwise parasitize the owl nestlings. A study conducted by Baylor University scientists found that screech-owl chicks grew faster and healthier in nests kept vermin-free by the blind snakes.

Eastern-screech-owl-babies-arvo-poolar-285_small During the breeding season, when Eastern Screech-Owls capture the worm-like reptiles known as blind snakes, they deliver them to their chicks alive and wriggling. Some are gulped down immediately, but others escape by burrowing beneath the nest. The surviving “snakes” feed on the insect larvae they find in the nest — larvae that would otherwise parasitize the owl nestlings. A study conducted by Baylor University scientists found that screech-owl chicks grew faster and healthier in nests kept vermin-free by the blind snakes.

Common Redpoll

From BirdNote | 01:45

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. But redpolls feed on birch and alder seeds that are available throughout the winter, no matter how deep the snow. This little bird typically eats 40% of its body weight in seeds every day to keep itself alive. Redpolls are survivors.

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Common-redpoll-greggt-nov2018-285_small 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. But redpolls feed on birch and alder seeds that are available throughout the winter, no matter how deep the snow. This little bird typically eats 40% of its body weight in seeds every day to keep itself alive. Redpolls are survivors.

The Lowly Starling

From BirdNote | 01:45

Much maligned as a pest and cursed by many as an "invasive species," the European Starling has had many fans, too. Eugene Schieffelin introduced about 50 pairs into the United States in the 1890s. And Rachel Carson noted that the starling carries "more than 100 loads of destructive insects per day to his screaming offspring.'' No less a figure than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart kept a pet European Starling and wrote a poem about it when it died.

Lowly-european-starling-ken-schneider-285_small Much maligned as a pest and cursed by many as an "invasive species," the European Starling has had many fans, too. Eugene Schieffelin introduced about 50 pairs into the United States in the 1890s. And Rachel Carson noted that the starling carries "more than 100 loads of destructive insects per day to his screaming offspring.'' No less a figure than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart kept a pet European Starling and wrote a poem about it when it died.

Birding with Grandpa -- With Dick Ashford

From BirdNote | 01:45

Dick Ashford, former board president of Klamath Bird Observatory, completed a career with the Navy before learning about birds in earnest. Like many, he's taking time to share his love of birds - and looking for Red-shouldered Hawks, like this one - with younger generations. One of the lucky kids is his grandson, Jack. Dick says: "The day after Thanksgiving, I was able to show him, in one day, a Golden Eagle, a White-tailed Kite, and a Northern Harrier plus an assortment of waterfowl and shorebirds." A good day for grandfather and grandson!

Grandpa-red-shouldered-hawk-jamie-drake-285_small Dick Ashford, former board president of Klamath Bird Observatory, completed a career with the Navy before learning about birds in earnest. Like many, he's taking time to share his love of birds - and looking for Red-shouldered Hawks, like this one - with younger generations. One of the lucky kids is his grandson, Jack. Dick says: "The day after Thanksgiving, I was able to show him, in one day, a Golden Eagle, a White-tailed Kite, and a Northern Harrier plus an assortment of waterfowl and shorebirds." A good day for grandfather and grandson!

The Return of Snowbird

From BirdNote | 01:45

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. The flash of white tail-feathers when one is alarmed alerts other members of the flock, and is also used as part of the courtship display.

Dark-eyed-junco-daniellat-nov2018-285_small 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. The flash of white tail-feathers when one is alarmed alerts other members of the flock, and is also used as part of the courtship display.

Winter Birds Love Suet

From BirdNote | 01:45

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. Suet is an especially strong magnet for birds (including this Northern Flicker) that eat lots of bugs in the warmer months. You can learn about suet feeders -- and what kinds of birds they'll attract -- at Birds.Cornell.Edu.

Suet-pileated_woodpecker_mikeh-285_small 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. Suet is an especially strong magnet for birds (including this Northern Flicker) that eat lots of bugs in the warmer months. You can learn about suet feeders -- and what kinds of birds they'll attract -- at Birds.Cornell.Edu.

There’s Something About Penguins

From BirdNote | 01:45

There’s just something about penguins. Pleasantly plump, they stand upright and teeter like toddlers. Though often depicted in black and white, most are actually more colorful. Seven species have long, jaunty golden feather tufts above their eyes. King and Emperor Penguins have necks that glisten gold. The Little Penguin is blue and white.

Penguins-mimo-ainhoberezi-285_small There’s just something about penguins. Pleasantly plump, they stand upright and teeter like toddlers. Though often depicted in black and white, most are actually more colorful. Seven species have long, jaunty golden feather tufts above their eyes. King and Emperor Penguins have necks that glisten gold. The Little Penguin is blue and white.

Bird Feeders and Whaling Ships

From BirdNote | 01:45

In the opening lines of Moby Dick, the narrator, Ishmael, confesses to "a damp, drizzly November in my soul." One sure way to brighten November's damp and drizzly mood is to welcome birds into your yard with birdfeeders. Black-oil sunflower seed is especially popular. Hang suet in a wire cage to attract a Northern Flicker like this one. Then, just add water, and you're all set.

Northern-flicker-whaling-mikeh-285_small In the opening lines of Moby Dick, the narrator, Ishmael, confesses to "a damp, drizzly November in my soul." One sure way to brighten November's damp and drizzly mood is to welcome birds into your yard with birdfeeders. Black-oil sunflower seed is especially popular. Hang suet in a wire cage to attract a Northern Flicker like this one. Then, just add water, and you're all set.

South Polar Skuas - Bullies of the Oceans - with Tom Johnson

From John Kessler | 01:45

Meet the South Polar Skua, a predatory seabird. During summer in Antarctica, South Polar Skuas feed their young on the chicks of other seabirds. And once their breeding season ends, the skuas fly to northern oceans, such as the North Atlantic, to find large flocks of shearwaters, gulls, or terns - there to steal the food of their fellow seabirds.

South-polar-skua-j-carson-285_small Meet the South Polar Skua, a predatory seabird. During summer in Antarctica, South Polar Skuas feed their young on the chicks of other seabirds. And once their breeding season ends, the skuas fly to northern oceans, such as the North Atlantic, to find large flocks of shearwaters, gulls, or terns - there to steal the food of their fellow seabirds.

Why Some Birds Sing in the Winter

From John Kessler | 01:45

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. And as far north as British Columbia, Pacific Wrens are singing in earnest by mid-February. So the singing season never entirely stops.

Sing-winter-song-sparrow-lisa-sproat-285_small 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. And as far north as British Columbia, Pacific Wrens are singing in earnest by mid-February. So the singing season never entirely stops.

From the Start, Daffy Duck Has Been a Cartoon Original

From John Kessler | 01:45

From his start in 1937, the gangly, black-feathered Daffy Duck was a cartoon original: wildly outspoken, volatile, and confrontational — a truly daft duck. Daffy was one of the most memorable characters from the golden age of cartoons, paving the way for other screwball cartoon personalities to come.

Daffy-duck-c-warner-brothers-285-_small From his start in 1937, the gangly, black-feathered Daffy Duck was a cartoon original: wildly outspoken, volatile, and confrontational — a truly daft duck. Daffy was one of the most memorable characters from the golden age of cartoons, paving the way for other screwball cartoon personalities to come.

For Australian Magpies, Bigger Groups May Mean Bigger Brains

From John Kessler | 01:45

Some scientists believe our complex human brains are the result of living in complex social societies. We have to keep track of lots of other individuals and constantly changing social relationships. Scientists studying Australian Magpies in the wild have found that birds living in bigger groups also tend to be better learners and have better memories.

Social-brains-australian_magpie_the_swiney_285_small Some scientists believe our complex human brains are the result of living in complex social societies. We have to keep track of lots of other individuals and constantly changing social relationships. Scientists studying Australian Magpies in the wild have found that birds living in bigger groups also tend to be better learners and have better memories.

Waxwing Nightlight

From John Kessler | 01:45

The warm colors and bright accents of the Bohemian Waxwing might make you think it glows in the dark. For the better part of two thousand years, that’s what people believed. Pliny reported that their feathers “shine like flames” in the dark forests of central Europe. The Germans allegedly used captive birds to light their way at night. But at the end of the sixteenth century, the great Italian birdman Ulysses Aldrovandi dismissed the notion that waxwings emit light. Today, we are fortunate that these winter nomads brighten our days.

Bohemian-waxwing-sindri-skulason-285_small The warm colors and bright accents of the Bohemian Waxwing might make you think it glows in the dark. For the better part of two thousand years, that’s what people believed. Pliny reported that their feathers “shine like flames” in the dark forests of central Europe. The Germans allegedly used captive birds to light their way at night. But at the end of the sixteenth century, the great Italian birdman Ulysses Aldrovandi dismissed the notion that waxwings emit light. Today, we are fortunate that these winter nomads brighten our days.

Anniversary of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

From John Kessler | 01:45

December 6th is the anniversary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, designated so in 1960. The Arctic coastal plain is probably the most important place in Alaska for the widest number of avian species - including this Pectoral Sandpiper - and the greatest number of birds. Ironically, that habitat type has the least protection in the entire state. From the American Birding Association to the National Rifle Association, groups are joining together in support of wildlife refuges.

Arctic-refuge-pectoral-sandpiper-greggt-285_small December 6th is the anniversary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, designated so in 1960. The Arctic coastal plain is probably the most important place in Alaska for the widest number of avian species - including this Pectoral Sandpiper - and the greatest number of birds. Ironically, that habitat type has the least protection in the entire state. From the American Birding Association to the National Rifle Association, groups are joining together in support of wildlife refuges.

No Pounding Headache

From John Kessler | 01:45

The Pileated Woodpecker makes loud, hard whacks, as it leans back and then slams its bill into the side of a living tree. Sounds painful, if not downright disabling! How does the woodpecker's brain withstand it? All woodpeckers have an enlarged brain case, so the brain sits above the level of direct hammering impact. The skull's frontal bones - together with a set of muscles at the bill's base - act as a shock absorber.

Pounding-hairy-woodpecker-greggt-285_small The Pileated Woodpecker makes loud, hard whacks, as it leans back and then slams its bill into the side of a living tree. Sounds painful, if not downright disabling! How does the woodpecker's brain withstand it? All woodpeckers have an enlarged brain case, so the brain sits above the level of direct hammering impact. The skull's frontal bones - together with a set of muscles at the bill's base - act as a shock absorber.

Three Worldwide Raptors

From John Kessler | 01:45

Consider three species of raptors: the Barn Owl, Peregrine Falcon, and Osprey. They’re on every continent except Antarctica. Each has a specialized hunting prowess distinct from the other. They can fly great distances. And like many birds of prey, they mate for life. The Barn Owl, pictured here, has long been considered the single most widespread land bird in the world. But Ospreys and Peregrines have proven equally adaptable.

3-raptors-barn-owl-darren-pearce-fcc-285_small Consider three species of raptors: the Barn Owl, Peregrine Falcon, and Osprey. They’re on every continent except Antarctica. Each has a specialized hunting prowess distinct from the other. They can fly great distances. And like many birds of prey, they mate for life. The Barn Owl, pictured here, has long been considered the single most widespread land bird in the world. But Ospreys and Peregrines have proven equally adaptable.

Not Just Any Nectar Will Do

From John Kessler | 01:45

Hummingbirds such as this Buff-tailed Sicklebill specialize in nectar feeding. But other species of birds, less specialized to nectar, also visit flowers for a taste of the sweet stuff. The flowers they visit likely have a more open shape, with nectar more accessible to a non-specialist’s bill. The sugar they sample is probably different from what hummingbirds prefer. As flowering plants and birds co-evolved, each to benefit from the other, it seems likely that plants evolved the type of sugar best suited to the pollinators on hand. It's a win-win for all concerned.

Nectar-annas-hummingbird-mike-hamilton-285_small Hummingbirds such as this Buff-tailed Sicklebill specialize in nectar feeding. But other species of birds, less specialized to nectar, also visit flowers for a taste of the sweet stuff. The flowers they visit likely have a more open shape, with nectar more accessible to a non-specialist’s bill. The sugar they sample is probably different from what hummingbirds prefer. As flowering plants and birds co-evolved, each to benefit from the other, it seems likely that plants evolved the type of sugar best suited to the pollinators on hand. It's a win-win for all concerned.

Wilson's Warblers Benefit from Shade-Grown Coffee

From John Kessler | 01:45

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. Taller trees that shade the coffee are a winter home for many migrants from North America. By buying shade-grown coffee, you can help migratory birds, including the Wilson's Warbler.

Wilsons-warbler-gregg-thompson-dec-2018-285_small 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. Taller trees that shade the coffee are a winter home for many migrants from North America. By buying shade-grown coffee, you can help migratory birds, including the Wilson's Warbler.

Surf Scoters Stand Out

From John Kessler | 01:45

Surf Scoters are colorful large sea ducks. The male Surf Scoter’s huge red-orange bill with its white and black spots really stands out. It is a great tool for eating hard-shelled mollusks like clams and mussels. Surf Scoters spend the winter along the coastlines of North America. Look at the winter shore and you might see hundreds of them together at one time, diving in unison.

Surf-scoter-ken-schneider-285_small Surf Scoters are colorful large sea ducks. The male Surf Scoter’s huge red-orange bill with its white and black spots really stands out. It is a great tool for eating hard-shelled mollusks like clams and mussels. Surf Scoters spend the winter along the coastlines of North America. Look at the winter shore and you might see hundreds of them together at one time, diving in unison.

Freeway Hawks

From John Kessler | 01:45

Driving the freeway or a narrow country road, you may glance up at a light pole where a large hawk sits in plain view. If it's brown and somewhat mottled, and its small head and short tail make it appear football-shaped, it's probably a Red-tailed Hawk. During winter, many Red-tailed Hawks move south, joining year-round residents.

Freeway-red-tailed-hawk-mike-hamilton-285_small Driving the freeway or a narrow country road, you may glance up at a light pole where a large hawk sits in plain view. If it's brown and somewhat mottled, and its small head and short tail make it appear football-shaped, it's probably a Red-tailed Hawk. During winter, many Red-tailed Hawks move south, joining year-round residents.

Snow Geese: Too Much of a Good Thing

From John Kessler | 01:45

When small family farms gave way to large, industrial agricultural operations, the Snow Geese followed. Waste grain left over from harvests has caused Snow Goose populations to jump. Now, there are so many Snow Geese they degrade their Arctic summer habitat, threatening other birds. Is there a right move forward from a “conservation” standpoint?

Snow-geese-too-much-mike-hamilton-285_small When small family farms gave way to large, industrial agricultural operations, the Snow Geese followed. Waste grain left over from harvests has caused Snow Goose populations to jump. Now, there are so many Snow Geese they degrade their Arctic summer habitat, threatening other birds. Is there a right move forward from a “conservation” standpoint?

The Avocets of Bolivar Flats

From John Kessler | 01:45

The shallow waters and wide mudflats of the Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary are alive with thousands of gulls, terns, and shorebirds. American Avocets are often among the most abundant birds on the flats, with 5,000 or more here most winters. The avocets have sensitive bills that curve upward. As they wade, they sweep their heads back and forth and snap up the tiny crustaceans that touch their bills. This tactile feeding method is unique among the birds here. The Bolivar Peninsula is famous for its big flocks of water birds and for concentrations of migrating songbirds. Both National Audubon and American Bird Conservancy have designated it an Important Bird Area, or IBA. Why not plan a visit?

American-avocets-joseph-kennedy-bolivar-285-2_small The shallow waters and wide mudflats of the Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary are alive with thousands of gulls, terns, and shorebirds. American Avocets are often among the most abundant birds on the flats, with 5,000 or more here most winters. The avocets have sensitive bills that curve upward. As they wade, they sweep their heads back and forth and snap up the tiny crustaceans that touch their bills. This tactile feeding method is unique among the birds here. The Bolivar Peninsula is famous for its big flocks of water birds and for concentrations of migrating songbirds. Both National Audubon and American Bird Conservancy have designated it an Important Bird Area, or IBA. Why not plan a visit?

Do Male and Female Birds Always Look Different?

From John Kessler | 01:45

The males and females of many bird species, like these Blue Jays, look identical. And crows, which at least to our eyes, are all the same color and size. But even if we can’t tell male from female, the birds can. Scientists believe crows may be able to tell each other apart by slight variations in their calls, or because they can see differences in each other’s feathers in the ultraviolet spectrum.

Plumage-blue-jays-maureen-harding-285-wp_small The males and females of many bird species, like these Blue Jays, look identical. And crows, which at least to our eyes, are all the same color and size. But even if we can’t tell male from female, the birds can. Scientists believe crows may be able to tell each other apart by slight variations in their calls, or because they can see differences in each other’s feathers in the ultraviolet spectrum.

Pigeon Flocks Follow the Leader

From John Kessler | 01:45

The flocking movements of homing pigeons are governed by a pecking order. Higher-ranked birds have more influence over how the flock moves. Leading birds change directions first, and followers swiftly copy the leader's movements. And birds at the front of the flock tend to make the navigational decisions. In other words, the pigeons follow the leader. Or leaders.

Pigeon-flock-joe-chan-285_small The flocking movements of homing pigeons are governed by a pecking order. Higher-ranked birds have more influence over how the flock moves. Leading birds change directions first, and followers swiftly copy the leader's movements. And birds at the front of the flock tend to make the navigational decisions. In other words, the pigeons follow the leader. Or leaders.

The Legendary Phoenix

From John Kessler | 01:45

The ancient Greeks and Egyptians described a mythical bird called the Phoenix, a magnificent creature that was a symbol of renewal and rebirth. According to legend, each Phoenix lived for 500 years, and only one Phoenix lived at a time. Just before its time was up, the Phoenix built a nest and set itself on fire. Then, a new Phoenix would rise from the ashes.

Phoenix-bertuch-285_small The ancient Greeks and Egyptians described a mythical bird called the Phoenix, a magnificent creature that was a symbol of renewal and rebirth. According to legend, each Phoenix lived for 500 years, and only one Phoenix lived at a time. Just before its time was up, the Phoenix built a nest and set itself on fire. Then, a new Phoenix would rise from the ashes.

Spruce Grouse - Designed for the Boreal Forest

From John Kessler | 01:45

In the boreal forest, winter temperatures routinely drop to 30 degrees below zero. Birds that spend the winter in this harsh domain rely on remarkable adaptations to survive. The Spruce Grouse is one such bird. Most Spruce Grouse remain here all year. In the snow-free summer, they forage on the ground, eating fresh greenery, insects, and berries. But in the snowy winter, the grouse live up in the trees, eating nothing but conifer needles. Lots and lots of needles. Because conifer needles are both low in protein and tough to digest, Spruce Grouse grow a bigger digestive system. A grouse's gizzard, which grinds food, may enlarge by 75%!

Spruce-grouse-todd-katke-285_small In the boreal forest, winter temperatures routinely drop to 30 degrees below zero. Birds that spend the winter in this harsh domain rely on remarkable adaptations to survive. The Spruce Grouse is one such bird. Most Spruce Grouse remain here all year. In the snow-free summer, they forage on the ground, eating fresh greenery, insects, and berries. But in the snowy winter, the grouse live up in the trees, eating nothing but conifer needles. Lots and lots of needles. Because conifer needles are both low in protein and tough to digest, Spruce Grouse grow a bigger digestive system. A grouse's gizzard, which grinds food, may enlarge by 75%!

Northern Goshawk - Esteemed Bird of Prey

From John Kessler | 01:45

The Northern Goshawk is one of the most fearsome and admired of all birds of prey — and the largest hawk of the northern forest. Since at least medieval times, falconers have regarded the goshawk as a bird of great distinction. Attila the Hun even wore its image on his helmet. The boreal forest is a vital part of the bird’s range. During lean years, when Ruffed Grouse and snowshoe hare populations dip, the scarcity of prey brings Northern Goshawks south. It’s then that we're more likely to see these beautiful and fearsome hunters.

Northern-goshawk-tom-munson-285-w-att_small The Northern Goshawk is one of the most fearsome and admired of all birds of prey — and the largest hawk of the northern forest. Since at least medieval times, falconers have regarded the goshawk as a bird of great distinction. Attila the Hun even wore its image on his helmet. The boreal forest is a vital part of the bird’s range. During lean years, when Ruffed Grouse and snowshoe hare populations dip, the scarcity of prey brings Northern Goshawks south. It’s then that we're more likely to see these beautiful and fearsome hunters.

Earthworms - A Superfood in Cold Storage

From John Kessler | 01:45

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. They’re also high in calcium and easy to catch, compared to crickets or butterflies. Put all that together and you have a superfood for birds — especially the youngsters.

Earthworms-american-robin-ingrid-taylar-285_small 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. They’re also high in calcium and easy to catch, compared to crickets or butterflies. Put all that together and you have a superfood for birds — especially the youngsters.

Long-Distance Migration Takes Fuel and Water

From John Kessler | 01:45

Long-distance migration can be hard on a bird’s body. For example, this Swainson’s Thrush might migrate between northern Canada and South America, twice a year. In the weeks before such a long journey and during key stopovers en route, the thrush eats like crazy to put on fat. But during the flight, much of the body’s water supply is used up. To keep flying, a Swainson’s Thrush accesses extra water stored in the proteins of its internal organs and muscles.

Swainsons-thrush-minette-layne-285_small Long-distance migration can be hard on a bird’s body. For example, this Swainson’s Thrush might migrate between northern Canada and South America, twice a year. In the weeks before such a long journey and during key stopovers en route, the thrush eats like crazy to put on fat. But during the flight, much of the body’s water supply is used up. To keep flying, a Swainson’s Thrush accesses extra water stored in the proteins of its internal organs and muscles.

Morning in Oaxaca

From John Kessler | 01:45

A winter morning in Oaxaca, Mexico—a great time to visit old friends who spent the summer in the United States. Yellow-rumped Warblers and Western Tanagers—northern summer-nesters that winter in western Mexico—mingle with resident Berylline Hummingbirds, Gray Silky-Flycatchers, and this Crescent-chested Warbler.

Oaxaca-crescent-chested-warbler-michael-morrison-2018-285_small A winter morning in Oaxaca, Mexico—a great time to visit old friends who spent the summer in the United States. Yellow-rumped Warblers and Western Tanagers—northern summer-nesters that winter in western Mexico—mingle with resident Berylline Hummingbirds, Gray Silky-Flycatchers, and this Crescent-chested Warbler.

Strange Twins - Purple and Rock Sandpipers

From John Kessler | 01:45

On the north Atlantic coast, a slate-gray sandpiper picks among the barnacles and mussels that encrust a jetty’s massive boulders. At the same moment, a parallel scene unfolds on the north Pacific Coast. A slate-colored sandpiper emerges from the salt spray to forage over a windswept jetty. These look-alikes are the Purple Sandpiper of the Atlantic (pictured here) and the Rock Sandpiper of the Pacific. They embrace a seemingly perilous life amid storm-tossed boulders instead of probing sheltered mudflats like so many of their kin.

Strange-purple-sandpiper-shell-game-285_small On the north Atlantic coast, a slate-gray sandpiper picks among the barnacles and mussels that encrust a jetty’s massive boulders. At the same moment, a parallel scene unfolds on the north Pacific Coast. A slate-colored sandpiper emerges from the salt spray to forage over a windswept jetty. These look-alikes are the Purple Sandpiper of the Atlantic (pictured here) and the Rock Sandpiper of the Pacific. They embrace a seemingly perilous life amid storm-tossed boulders instead of probing sheltered mudflats like so many of their kin.

Snake-Eagles Are Awesome

From John Kessler | 01:45

When a soaring Short-toed Snake-Eagle spots a delicious snake, it swoops down, grabs it with its talons, then tears off the snake’s head. Still on the wing, it swallows the entire snake, head first. Smaller than Bald Eagles, they live mainly in Africa and have legs and toes covered in thick scales to protect them from bites. Snake-Eagles take on some of the swiftest and deadliest snakes in the world, like cobras and black mambas.

Short-toed_snake-eagle_yoel-ronen-285_small When a soaring Short-toed Snake-Eagle spots a delicious snake, it swoops down, grabs it with its talons, then tears off the snake’s head. Still on the wing, it swallows the entire snake, head first. Smaller than Bald Eagles, they live mainly in Africa and have legs and toes covered in thick scales to protect them from bites. Snake-Eagles take on some of the swiftest and deadliest snakes in the world, like cobras and black mambas.

The Julenek

From John Kessler | 01:45

Birds are an important part of Christmas in Norway. On Christmas Eve, sheaves of wheat or oats are tied to a post or hung on the door, to feed the birds on Christmas morning. This bundle of grain, the julenek, has become a symbol of Christmas in Norway, and a julenek hangs on nearly every door, decorated with bows and ready for avian visitors. It's good to remember birds and all wild creatures this season!

Playing
The Julenek
From
John Kessler

Julenek-norway-library-285_small Birds are an important part of Christmas in Norway. On Christmas Eve, sheaves of wheat or oats are tied to a post or hung on the door, to feed the birds on Christmas morning. This bundle of grain, the julenek, has become a symbol of Christmas in Norway, and a julenek hangs on nearly every door, decorated with bows and ready for avian visitors. It's good to remember birds and all wild creatures this season!

Birds on a Cold Night

From John Kessler | 01:45

During December, birds spend the long, cold nights in a protected place, sheltered from rain and safe from nighttime predators. Small forest birds, such as nuthatches and creepers, may spend the night huddled together in tree cavities. Birds like this male Mallard fluff up their feathers for insulation, hunker down over their legs and feet, and turn their heads around to poke their beaks under their shoulder feathers.

Cold-night-mallard-martina-gabner-285_small During December, birds spend the long, cold nights in a protected place, sheltered from rain and safe from nighttime predators. Small forest birds, such as nuthatches and creepers, may spend the night huddled together in tree cavities. Birds like this male Mallard fluff up their feathers for insulation, hunker down over their legs and feet, and turn their heads around to poke their beaks under their shoulder feathers.

Winter - Nature's Cold Storage

From John Kessler | 01:45

For birds and other animals with good natural insulation, winter provides a striking benefit as they scavenge. Bacteria function very slowly or not at all in the cold, preventing dead bodies from rotting. In northern latitudes, ravens and other scavenging birds take advantage of winter's cold storage. When a caribou, moose, or deer dies in Canada, Alaska, or other cold place in the winter, it's available to be eaten for months. Bacteria must wait until spring warms the carcass before they can begin to consume it.

Winter-storage-raven-carcass-richard-wesley-285_small For birds and other animals with good natural insulation, winter provides a striking benefit as they scavenge. Bacteria function very slowly or not at all in the cold, preventing dead bodies from rotting. In northern latitudes, ravens and other scavenging birds take advantage of winter's cold storage. When a caribou, moose, or deer dies in Canada, Alaska, or other cold place in the winter, it's available to be eaten for months. Bacteria must wait until spring warms the carcass before they can begin to consume it.

Winter Brings Snow Buntings

From John Kessler | 01:45

Snow Buntings begin their lives amid the harsh conditions of the high Arctic. They're prized winter visitors to the northern tier of states. Look for them along shorelines, in farmland, and open country - landscapes that mirror the Arctic tundra where they fledge their young. Snow Buntings face the prospect of a shrinking nesting range, as global climate change transforms far northern habitats.

Snow-bunting-mike-powers-285_small Snow Buntings begin their lives amid the harsh conditions of the high Arctic. They're prized winter visitors to the northern tier of states. Look for them along shorelines, in farmland, and open country - landscapes that mirror the Arctic tundra where they fledge their young. Snow Buntings face the prospect of a shrinking nesting range, as global climate change transforms far northern habitats.

Birds of Paradise

From John Kessler | 01:45

It's morning on the island of New Guinea, and the lowland forests erupt with the crowing calls of Birds of Paradise. Male Raggiana Birds of Paradise perform elaborate displays to attract females, sometimes even hanging upside-down with their wings pointing upward. Forty-three species of Birds of Paradise are found on or near New Guinea.

Ragianna-bird-of_paradise-hung-do-285_small It's morning on the island of New Guinea, and the lowland forests erupt with the crowing calls of Birds of Paradise. Male Raggiana Birds of Paradise perform elaborate displays to attract females, sometimes even hanging upside-down with their wings pointing upward. Forty-three species of Birds of Paradise are found on or near New Guinea.

How Birds Become Red

From John Kessler | 01:45

Most birds have the capacity to make red feathers, even those that lack red plumage. This discovery was revealed by scientists who studied Red-factor Canaries — a “hybrid” bird that is part canary, part Red Siskin, like this one. Both species have the “redness gene.” But Red-factor Canaries have a thousand times more red pigment in their skin. And why? Red-factor Canaries inherited the siskin’s “genetic switch” that turns on the redness gene in their skin. So just having the gene is not enough: if the genetic switch in the skin is turned off . . . no red feathers.

Red-siskin-siskini-285_small Most birds have the capacity to make red feathers, even those that lack red plumage. This discovery was revealed by scientists who studied Red-factor Canaries — a “hybrid” bird that is part canary, part Red Siskin, like this one. Both species have the “redness gene.” But Red-factor Canaries have a thousand times more red pigment in their skin. And why? Red-factor Canaries inherited the siskin’s “genetic switch” that turns on the redness gene in their skin. So just having the gene is not enough: if the genetic switch in the skin is turned off . . . no red feathers.

A Year's Worth of Birds

From John Kessler | 01:45

Phoebe Snetsinger saw more than 8,400 species of birds in her lifetime! You don't have to keep a list to enjoy birds, but the variety you see in your own yard might surprise you. Start a list now, and keep track of a year's worth of birds. If you're lucky, perhaps you'll see a Snowy Owl, like this one. For a checklist of all North American birds, visit AOU.org, the American Ornithologists' Union. In this show, you can hear the Swainson's Thrush and the American Robin.

Years-worth-snowy-owl-greggt-285_small Phoebe Snetsinger saw more than 8,400 species of birds in her lifetime! You don't have to keep a list to enjoy birds, but the variety you see in your own yard might surprise you. Start a list now, and keep track of a year's worth of birds. If you're lucky, perhaps you'll see a Snowy Owl, like this one. For a checklist of all North American birds, visit AOU.org, the American Ornithologists' Union. In this show, you can hear the Swainson's Thrush and the American Robin.

Where Are They Now - The Birds of the Dawn Song

From BirdNote | 01:45

Where have the birds of summer gone? The Swainson's Thrush is wintering in Central or South America, maybe as far south as Bolivia. Warbling Vireos are now spread through much of Central America, while Black-headed Grosbeaks have migrated to Mexico. This Orange-crowned Warbler also makes Mexico its winter home, as do some American Robins. January finds the Willow Flycatcher tucked away in Costa Rica or Panama. As winter turns to spring, these singers will begin to fly north, where they will once again grace us with their rich dawn chorus.

Where-now-orange-crowned-warbler-tom-grey-285_small Where have the birds of summer gone? The Swainson's Thrush is wintering in Central or South America, maybe as far south as Bolivia. Warbling Vireos are now spread through much of Central America, while Black-headed Grosbeaks have migrated to Mexico. This Orange-crowned Warbler also makes Mexico its winter home, as do some American Robins. January finds the Willow Flycatcher tucked away in Costa Rica or Panama. As winter turns to spring, these singers will begin to fly north, where they will once again grace us with their rich dawn chorus.

Alpine Swifts Fly Nonstop

From BirdNote | 01:45

How long can a bird fly without touching the earth? To find out, Swiss scientists attached sensors to Alpine Swifts. The sensors showed long periods when the swifts were gliding and not flapping their wings. Were the birds asleep? Scientists don’t know for sure. It could be that Alpine Swifts sleep during the summer breeding season — and don’t sleep at all during migration. But why do they stay aloft so long? Swifts can’t perch because they have very short legs. So if they can manage it, avoiding touching down makes perfect sense.

Alpine-swift-agustin-povedano-285_small How long can a bird fly without touching the earth? To find out, Swiss scientists attached sensors to Alpine Swifts. The sensors showed long periods when the swifts were gliding and not flapping their wings. Were the birds asleep? Scientists don’t know for sure. It could be that Alpine Swifts sleep during the summer breeding season — and don’t sleep at all during migration. But why do they stay aloft so long? Swifts can’t perch because they have very short legs. So if they can manage it, avoiding touching down makes perfect sense.

An Owl Is Mobbed

From BirdNote | 01:45

A pint-sized Northern Pygmy-Owl, not much bigger than a pine cone, hoots from a tree-top on a winter morning. Before long, this diurnal owl - a determined predator of small birds and mammals - will attract a mob of a dozen or more small birds. Mobbing may be a collective response to danger. But it's not certain if the "mobbers" hope to drive away the predator, or simply draw attention to the threat.

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An Owl Is Mobbed
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Mob-northern-pygmy-owl-285_small A pint-sized Northern Pygmy-Owl, not much bigger than a pine cone, hoots from a tree-top on a winter morning. Before long, this diurnal owl - a determined predator of small birds and mammals - will attract a mob of a dozen or more small birds. Mobbing may be a collective response to danger. But it's not certain if the "mobbers" hope to drive away the predator, or simply draw attention to the threat.

Birdbaths in Winter

From BirdNote | 01:45

Does the image of a frozen birdbath bring to mind a small yellow bird with ice skates? Birds need water in all seasons, for drinking and for bathing. When the water is frozen, you can thaw it with hot water. Or go the slightly more expensive route and add a heater.

Birdbath-frozen-john-ryan-285_small Does the image of a frozen birdbath bring to mind a small yellow bird with ice skates? Birds need water in all seasons, for drinking and for bathing. When the water is frozen, you can thaw it with hot water. Or go the slightly more expensive route and add a heater.

Comparing Chickadee Calls

From BirdNote | 01:45

In the Pacific Northwest, you might see both Black-capped and Chestnut-backed Chickadees at your birdfeeder. The Chestnut-back (seen here) sounds different from the Black-capped Chickadee. The call of the Black-capped follows the familiar “Chick-a-dee, dee, dee” pattern. But the call of the Chestnut-back is higher pitched, faster, and has a buzzy quality. While we delight in their music, the birds are engaged in more serious business — they’re keeping their flock together.

Comparing-black-capped-chickadee-cjsmith-285_small In the Pacific Northwest, you might see both Black-capped and Chestnut-backed Chickadees at your birdfeeder. The Chestnut-back (seen here) sounds different from the Black-capped Chickadee. The call of the Black-capped follows the familiar “Chick-a-dee, dee, dee” pattern. But the call of the Chestnut-back is higher pitched, faster, and has a buzzy quality. While we delight in their music, the birds are engaged in more serious business — they’re keeping their flock together.

Black Kites - Do Birds Start Fires?

From BirdNote | 01:45

In the savanna country of northern Australia, the vegetation is well adapted to the area’s recurrent fires. As flames sweep across the savanna, Black Kites watch for prey like grasshoppers and lizards that flee the fire. But there’s now evidence that Black Kites may actually create fires by carrying burning twigs in their talons and dropping them on a patch of savanna away from the original wildfire. The kites then pick off the escaping prey. Setting a new area