BirdNote Daily

By BirdNote

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Category: Natural Sciences

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Reviews: 5

 Sep 12, 2021

 Jan 30, 2021

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

 May 14, 2019

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


Escape the daily grind and immerse yourself in the natural world. Rich in imagery, sound, and information, BirdNote inspires you to notice the world around you.

Episode Date
A World of Parrots

Parrots have strong, hooked beaks that are great for cracking tough seeds. Their feet allow them to climb and to hold on to objects, like food. Parrots are known for their legendary intelligence and ability to talk. And they come in almost every color of the rainbow! This Buff-faced Pygmy-Parrot is native to New Britain and New Guinea. Learn more at

Oct 26, 2021
Migrations: Molt Migration

At the end of summer, the once-bright feathers of a male American Goldfinch look ragged. Growing new flight feathers in a process called molting makes him more vulnerable to predators. Before migrating to wintering grounds, many songbirds stop at a secondary location to undergo the indignities of molting. It’s called molt migration. The places birds go to molt could be important targets for conservation efforts. Learn more at

Oct 25, 2021
What the Pacific Wren Hears

What does the Pacific Wren hear in a song? It's a long story. What we hear as a blur of sound, the bird hears as a precise sequence of sounds, the visual equivalent of seeing a movie as a series of still pictures. 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. Learn more at

Oct 24, 2021
Shorebirds Aren't Always on the Shore

Shorebirds' lives take them to many places other than the shore. Most of the shorebirds we see along our coasts migrate to the Arctic in summer. Here, many nest on the tundra, some along rushing streams, and others on rocky mountainsides. Long-billed Curlews winter on the Florida, Gulf, and Pacific coasts. But this one was seen in a field near Creston, BC, Canada, nearly 500 miles from the coast and 1/2 mile from the nearest body of water, the Kootenay River! Learn more at

Oct 23, 2021
Spark Bird: The First Robin of Spring

Rasheena Fountain studied environmental science and worked at her local Audubon Society. Now she writes about nature and diversity in the outdoors. And what got her interested in the first place? It all started in kindergarten, with a teacher named Miss Beak and the first robin of spring. Learn more at

Oct 22, 2021
Spark Bird: Birding from the Bus

Kelsen Caldwell drives a bus in and around Seattle for King County Metro. As a bus driver, sometimes there’s downtime if your bus is moving too fast. What do you do with all that extra time? If you’re Kelsen, you fall in love with birds. Learn more at

Oct 21, 2021
Migrations: Watching Seabirds Summer at the Lake

Many oceanic species like grebes, loons, pelicans, and gulls migrate far inland to raise their young near freshwater lakes. Ring-billed Gulls, for example, breed throughout the northern U.S. Forster’s Terns can be found catching fish in the upper Midwest in the summer. In northern Canada, you may even catch a glimpse of a Surf Scoter as it dives below the glassy surface of the lake. These species return to the coasts for the winter. Learn more at

Oct 20, 2021
Black-crowned Night-Heron

Black-crowned Night-Herons feed primarily on fish, but they will consume everything from earthworms to clams to eggs of nesting birds and refuse at landfills! Because they are high on the food chain, found throughout much of the world, and nest in colonies, Black-crowned Night-Herons can tell us a lot about the health of our environment. Learn more at

Oct 19, 2021
Migrations: The Triumphant Comeback of the Aleutian Cackling Goose

Aleutian Cackling Geese, which have a slighter build and shorter beak than Canada Geese, build their nests on a chain of islands off the western coast of Alaska. In the 1700s, fur traders introduced foxes to the islands, nearly wiping out the geese. For decades, they were believed to be extinct. But in the 1960s, a biologist discovered about 300 birds nesting on Buldir Island. Habitat protections have allowed their populations to recover. Learn more at

Oct 18, 2021
Bird-friendly Planting in Fall - With Joanna Buehler

The landscape around Joanna Buehler’s home on Lake Sammamish was once completely barren. But today, it provides food, water, and refuge for many species of birds. You can create a bird sanctuary in your own yard by selecting native plants adapted for your area. If you’re lucky, nature will do some planting for you! That’s what happened in Joanna’s landscape: the cottonwood trees that seeded themselves are a safe place for birds like this male Belted Kingfisher to perch.

Joanna says lots of resources are available online if you search for “native plants” and the name of your state or region. Learn more at

Oct 17, 2021
Ring-necked Pheasants in the Wild

The Ring-necked Pheasant is likely the best-known bird in North America that isn’t native to the continent. Indigenous to Asia, Ring-necked Pheasants were introduced to Oregon in 1881. The birds thrived in rural landscapes for many years, but modern industrial farming practices have diminished pheasant habitat. In some areas, however, wildlife agencies are working with private landowners to create favorable habitats for pheasants, giving the birds the cover they need for feeding, nesting, and roosting through the seasons. Learn more at

Oct 16, 2021
Migration Takes Guts — Until It Doesn’t

This Bar-tailed Godwit makes one of the longest migrations of any animal — a 7,200-mile non-stop flight each autumn from western Alaska to New Zealand. In his book A World on the Wing, Scott Weidensaul explores the remarkable transformation godwits undergo to make this migration possible. Their digestive organs shrink as their weight more than doubles in stored fats and muscle mass. Learn more at

Oct 15, 2021
Swainson's Hawks Migrate South

In autumn, hundreds of thousands of Swainson's Hawks migrate to South America. With the help of a satellite tracking device, let's follow an individual male. On September 14, he leaves his breeding territory near Hanna, Alberta; reaches southwest Saskatchewan by September 23; passes through Nebraska, October 1; Tamaulipas, Mexico, on October 7; Honduras, October 14; and on the 7th of November, this Swainson's Hawk arrives at Marcos Juarez, Argentina - a migration of more than 6,000 miles. The American Bird Conservancy has Swainson's Hawk on their watchlist at  Learn more about hawk migration at the Hawkwatch International website.

Oct 14, 2021
Yellow-eyed Juncos - Bright Eyes

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. Learn more at

Oct 13, 2021
Life Improved for Penguins in Argentina

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.

Oct 12, 2021
Migrations: Which Came First, North- or South-bound Migration?

Every year, hundreds of bird species migrate between North and South America. Some species likely evolved from ancestors that moved north in search of new breeding habitats: the “southern home” hypothesis. But others may have extended their winter ranges south: the “northern home” hypothesis. Many birds have likely gained and lost the ability to migrate multiple times over the course of evolution. And it’s still happening today. Learn more at

Oct 11, 2021
Canada Geese - Migratory or Not

It's the time of year that geese migrate south for the winter. Isn't it? So why are there so many geese still hanging around, setting up housekeeping on our parks and golf courses? Did they decide to forgo the long trip north? In the early 1900s, non-migratory geese were brought in by the hundreds to populate wildlife refuges. Now, while many Canada Geese migrate south for the winter, these other geese stay -- and multiply. Learn more at

Oct 10, 2021
Mistaken Identity

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. Learn more at

Oct 09, 2021
Migrations: Pine Siskin Irruption

Do you ever see flocks of birds in your yard that show up in droves one year, but are completely absent the next? Some nomadic species such as Pine Siskins move based on the availability of food and habitat. It’s called “irruptive” migration, and it sometimes leads to backyards full of siskins. While these flocks are a delight for bird watchers, the dense groups can easily transmit diseases such as salmonellosis. Learn more at

Oct 08, 2021
Where Swallows Go in Winter

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! Learn more at

Oct 07, 2021
Ducks That Whistle

Whistling as they fly, Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks are gorgeous waterfowl with bright pink bills and legs, chestnut necks and backs, and black underparts. Though most whistling-ducks live in the tropics, Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks are found in the U.S. along the western Gulf Coast and Florida. But they’re expanding their range and have been spotted nesting as far north as Wisconsin. Learn more at

Oct 06, 2021
Woodpeckers Carve Out Roost Cavities, Too

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. Learn more at

Oct 05, 2021
Migrations: A Whimbrel’s Wayward Journey

Biologists with Manomet tagged a Whimbrel named Lindsay with a GPS tracker. She has spent the summer breeding in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on the northern coast of Alaska. As fall migration begins, she heads straight into a storm in the Gulf of Alaska. The tempest slingshots her toward British Columbia, where she picks up a tailwind down the California coast. Landing near San Francisco, she rests and refuels. Learn more at

Oct 04, 2021
Black-footed Albatross, Graceful Giant

Just a couple dozen miles off the Northwest coast, immense dark birds with long, saber-shaped wings glide without effort above the waves. These graceful giants are Black-footed Albatrosses, flying by the thousands near the edge of the continental shelf. Black-footed Albatrosses do not breed until they are at least five years old, and after the young leave their breeding colony, they spend their first three years at sea. Learn more at

Oct 03, 2021
Starlings Say It With Flowers

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. Learn more at

Oct 02, 2021
Chicago Volunteers Rescue Birds

In many urban areas, collisions are the fate of hundreds of thousands of birds, like this Brown Creeper. 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. Learn more at

Oct 01, 2021
Barred Owlets Nap

Keeping its talons tightly gripped on a branch, a Barred Owlet will sometimes lie down on its stomach, turn its head to the side, and fall asleep. A young owl doesn't fall out of the tree while it snoozes, because its back toe, the hallux, holds onto the branch. The hallux will not open or let go until the bird straightens its leg. Learn more at

Sep 30, 2021
Migrations: Songbirds Flock to Urban Greenspaces

After flying all the way from South America, migratory songbirds that fly through cities often seek out urban green spaces such as parks and cemeteries. These modest-sized areas can act as verdant oases in the middle of pavement and metal and can be hidden gems for city dwellers hoping to see migratory birds in their neighborhoods. Learn more at

Sep 29, 2021
Scintillating Starlings

In Africa, where there are dozens of starling species, a quick look reveals a variety of visual stunners. Some of the names hint at their dazzle: Superb Starling, as well as Golden-breasted, Emerald, Purple, Violet-backed, and Splendid Glossy Starlings. Starlings sparkle because they have special extra structures in their feather cells called melanosomes. Learn more at

Sep 28, 2021
Migrations: Veeries Predict Hurricanes

In some years, tawny-colored thrushes called Veeries cut their breeding season short. Researchers discovered that Veeries tend to stop breeding early in the same years that the Atlantic hurricane season is particularly severe. Surprisingly, Veeries are sometimes better at predicting hurricane conditions than computer models! Despite their forecasting prowess, though, Veeries are vulnerable to climate change. Learn more at

Sep 27, 2021
What Kind of Music Is Bird Song?

Composers from Vivaldi to Beethoven have been inspired by birdsong. But how similar is birdsong to the music we create? Two recent studies offer contrasting answers. One analysis used nearly 250 song examples of the Nightingale Wren, pictured here, a tropical bird widely admired for its haunting song. It concluded that Nightingale Wren songs only rarely accord with our harmonic intervals. However, analysis of Hermit Thrush songs revealed a harmonic structure that was similar to human music at least 70% of the time.  Learn more at

Sep 26, 2021
The Cuban Tody

The Cuban Tody is almost indescribably cute! It’s a "must-see" bird for anyone heading for the West Indies. In woodlands throughout the island of Cuba, todies are terrific foragers. In fact, their Puerto Rican cousins have been known to catch up to one or two insects a minute — hunting from dawn to dusk. Their wings make an audible whirring sound, and you may find a tody just by listening for that sound. Learn more at

Sep 25, 2021
The Birds of Former Rice Plantations

Ornithologist Drew Lanham visits a wetland that was once a rice plantation built and farmed by enslaved Black people. After the Civil War, many birds continued to rely on these wetlands. Now, biologists manage water levels in the former rice fields to support shorebirds, ducks, and rare species such as the Black Rail. Learn more at

Sep 24, 2021
Bird Beats by So Wylie

Music producer So Wylie began transforming bird calls and songs into musical “bird beats” during the pandemic. The first bird beat she made was inspired by Rocky, a Northern Saw-whet Owl that was found bundled up in the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in 2020. Since then, the Boreal Owl, Barn Owl and Eastern Screech-Owl have been featured in her upbeat tunes. Learn more at

Sep 23, 2021
Migrations: Can Birds "See" Magnetic Fields?

Some migratory songbirds such as European Robins have special light-sensitive proteins called cryptochromes in their eyes. New research suggests how the cryptochromes could alter their behavior in the presence of magnetic fields, giving birds a visual cue for north and south. Other birds can navigate with the help of a mineral called magnetite in their beaks. Learn more at

Sep 22, 2021
Common Murre, Underwater Flyer

The Common Murre is among the few species of birds that can "fly" under water. When above the water, the 18"-long murre must flap frantically to stay aloft. But beneath the waves, with its flipper-like wings partly extended, it is a streamlined, masterful swimmer. Common Murres, black and white torpedoes with feathers, chase down fish even several hundred feet below the surface. Cornell's Macaulay Library offers audio and video of Common Murres.

If you ever miss a BirdNote, you can always get the latest episode. Just tell your smart speaker, “Play the podcast BirdNote.” Learn more on our website,

Sep 21, 2021
Migrations: BirdCast

A blip on weather radar might not be a cloud — it could be thousands of birds! Biologists use radar to keep track of migratory birds, insects, and bats. An online resource called BirdCast combines decades of biological research, citizen science observations, and radar data to forecast the movements of migratory birds. You can use these predictions to help plan a birding trip. Learn more at

Sep 20, 2021
A Murder, a Party, a Stare, or a Siege

Collective nouns are a mixture of poetry, alliteration, and description. Victorians often made up creative names for groups of birds, as a parlor game. Many names bring a vision of the birds instantly to mind. How about this spring of teal? These are Green-winged Teal.

So what would a bunch of BirdNote listeners be called? A gaggle? A flock? A watch? Learn more at

Sep 19, 2021
There's More Than One Way to Climb a Tree

No bird is better adapted for climbing up a tree trunk than a woodpecker. The foot of this Pileated Woodpecker is ideal for clinging, and its relatively short legs allow it to anchor itself securely. When traveling upward, the woodpecker’s a master. But hitching down? Not so much — usually they will fly. Nuthatches, however, can easily go up and down. This White-breasted Nuthatch walks over the bark of trees by grasping with one leg while using the other for a prop. It also has a rear-facing toe equipped with a long, sharp claw that’s ideal for hanging on while heading downward. Learn more at

Sep 18, 2021
Refueling on Block Island

On Block Island, 11 square miles of land off the coast of Rhode Island, Kim Gaffett catches birds and puts metal bands on their legs to track them. This has helped reveal how the birds use their island layovers. Having crossed the ocean without eating or drinking, birds need stopover sites like Block Island to eat and refuel for the rest of their journey.Hear more about how Block Island helps migrating birds on the Threatened podcast.

Sep 17, 2021
Common Merganser

The Common Merganser is one of our biggest ducks, about the size of some loons. Although it’s not closely related to loons, it has evolved a similar overall structure and predatory behavior. But a merganser has a unique feature: tooth-like serrations along the edge of the bill that help the bird grasp slippery fish. Common Mergansers nest in the northern states and Canada. So do loons. But loons nest on the ground at the edge of a lake, while the mergansers nest mostly in tree cavities and rock crevices near large lakes or along rivers. Learn more at

Sep 16, 2021
Protecting the Pelicans

Tim Arnold leads the Tybee Clean Beach Volunteers in keeping Tybee Island, Georgia, free of plastic pollution and other trash. His favorite bird is the Brown Pelican. Its bulky, awkward appearance contrasts with its agility as it dives for fish. But Arnold worries that pelicans are ingesting microplastics as they feed. On Bring Birds Back podcast, host Tenijah Hamilton explores what we can do to protect birds from plastics.

Sep 15, 2021
Birdwatching 103

One of the easiest ways to keep a finger on the pulse of the seasons is to keep an eye on the birds. When do the Dark-eyed Juncos (like this one) return from the mountains, ready to pick up at the birdfeeder where they left off last year? When do migratory Canada Geese fly over on an autumn evening? Keeping a simple diary of the seasons can be gratifying and bring you in touch with the annual ebb and flow of nature just outside your window. Learn more at

Sep 14, 2021
Migrations: Altitudinal Migration

Yellow-eyed Juncos sometimes make a migration of sorts — not from north to south, but from the high mountains to the lowlands or the other way around. It’s called altitudinal migration. In the warm summer months, some Yellow-eyed Juncos prefer to nest at higher elevations, while in winter, the scarcity of food pushes them back down to the valleys. Learn more at

Sep 13, 2021
The Greatest Bird Rescue Ever

On June 23, 2000, the "MV Treasure" iron ore tanker sank off the coast of South Africa, covering 19,000 adult African Penguins in oil. Fortunately, thousands of volunteers arrived to help. The oily birds were moved to Cape Town to be cleaned. Another 19,500 penguins that escaped the oil were released at sea, 600 miles to the east. It took those birds nearly three weeks to swim back home, allowing workers time to clean up the oil-fouled waters and beaches. Learn more at

Sep 12, 2021
Buff-breasted Sandpiper

A male Buff-breasted Sandpiper courts a female on their breeding grounds far north of the Arctic Circle. He raises his wings, flashing their silvery-white undersides, as he sings his clicking serenade. These birds spend much of the year on grasslands in Argentina, migrating to the Arctic in late spring. In the lower 48, September is a good time to look for this long-distance traveler. During migration, they show a distinct preference for grassy expanses such as pastures and rice fields. Purchasing organic rice can help secure the future of a threatened species like the Buff-breasted Sandpiper. Learn more at

Sep 11, 2021
Saving Zimbabwe's Vultures

Five of Zimbabwe’s six vulture species are endangered. After poachers kill an elephant or other large animal by poisoning, vultures often die from eating the poisoned meat. Organizations such as BirdLife Zimbabwe are helping to form local groups that advocate for the conservation of vultures, which serve an important ecological role.

Hear more about efforts to protect Zimbabwe’s vultures on the Threatened podcast.

Sep 10, 2021
Do Parrots Name Their Chicks?

Parrots are among the smartest of birds. But are they clever enough to know each other by name? Research conducted by ornithologist Karl Berg suggests the answer might be yes. Berg’s studies of Green-rumped Parrotlets — such as the one pictured here — indicate that every parrot in a family flock has a distinct vocal signature learned from its parents. When others in the flock hear it, they know precisely who’s calling. Learn more at

Sep 09, 2021

After hawks and eagles, some of the sharpest eyes belong to hawk-watchers, experienced spotters who count raptors during spring and fall migration. Groups like HawkWatch International organize census counts of hawks (like this Red-tailed Hawk) and other raptors. HawkWatch sites lie along primary migration routes like mountain ridges and coastlines, where updrafts of rising air funnel the birds’ north-south movement. Different species peak at slightly different times. Learn more at

Sep 08, 2021
Migrations: You're Going the Wrong Way!

During migration, some birds change orientation, often by a full 180 degrees, and travel almost the same distance — but in the opposite direction — as the rest of their species. The phenomenon is called misorientation. First-year birds are particularly susceptible. Many vagrant birds never find their way back on course, but some do, getting more comfortable with the route each year. Learn more at

Sep 07, 2021
Migrations: Indigo Bunting, Master Stargazer

The stars appear to rotate in the sky, raising the question of how birds can use stars to navigate during migration. Ornithologist Stephen Emlen brought Indigo Buntings to a planetarium, tracking their movements as the simulated night sky changed above them. The buntings oriented themselves using star patterns that appear to rotate the least — especially the North Star, Ursa Major and Cassiopeia. Learn more at

Sep 06, 2021
Emperor Penguins Launch from the Ocean

These Emperor Penguins feed on fish and squid in the icy ocean. Getting into the sea is easy, but getting out is another story. How does a penguin haul its plump, 80-pound body up and over icy ledges that are several feet high, while avoiding nearby predators? Underwater video has revealed an amazing adaptation that allows the penguin to launch out of the water like a feathered torpedo. Learn more at

Sep 05, 2021
Cygnus the Swan

The story of Cygnus the Swan constellation, from Greek mythology: Phaeton, unable to control the chariot of the sun, careens wildly though the heavens, scorching the earth. The god Zeus strikes the impetuous charioteer with a bolt of lightning, causing him to fall headlong into the river. His close friend, Cygnus, implores Zeus for help. Zeus transforms Cygnus into a swan so he can dive deeply. Then to honor this final act of service, Zeus fixes the image of Cygnus in the heavens. Learn more at

Sep 04, 2021
The Puffin’s Charismatic Cuteness

Every year, thousands of people visit a nesting colony of Atlantic Puffins on England’s northeastern coast. David Craven of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust says the puffins’ comical appearances endear them to visitors. Craven uses people’s love for the puffins as a way to start conversations about saving the species from extinction. Hear more about how the Bempton Cliffs puffins are inspiring conservation efforts on the Threatened podcast. Learn more at

Sep 03, 2021
Saving Birds, One Cup at a Time

Most coffee is grown industrially in wide-open fields with few places for birds and other species to live. But some farmers are returning to a more sustainable method, growing coffee under layers of natural tree canopy. The Smithsonian Institute certifies coffee as Bird Friendly if it meets a rigorous standard for habitat quality. On Bring Birds Back podcast, host Tenijah Hamilton discusses how coffee growing practices can benefit birds. Learn more at

Sep 02, 2021
Migrations: Tiny Bird, Epic Journey

In the spring, Rufous Hummingbirds journey from Mexico to the northwest U.S., some as far north as Alaska! That’s almost 1000 miles one way for a bird measuring just under four inches beak to tail, making this the longest migration of any bird relative to body length. Not long after arriving, they bulk up on nectar and bugs for the scenic return trip over the Rocky Mountains. Learn more at

Sep 01, 2021
A Rainbow of Magpies

Unlike the black and white magpies of the American West, the Indochinese Green-Magpie is vivid green with bright red wings and a red beak. The Sri Lanka Blue-Magpie is rich rusty-brown and dark blue. Altogether, there are five blue-feathered magpies and four green, all living in warm zones of south and east Asia. Part of the same family as crows and jays, they are highly intelligent birds. Learn more at

Aug 31, 2021
Bird Life at the Grand Canyon

With its awe-inspiring vistas and eons of geologic time on display, the Grand Canyon also offers a unique habitat for birds. What you're likely to see first is a Bronzed Cowbird, strutting on the lawn of a lodge or restaurant. Common Ravens call and squabble. If you're lucky, you may spot the largest of all North American birds, a California Condor! Learn more at

Aug 30, 2021
Cowbird Song and Password

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! Learn more at

Aug 29, 2021
Elegant Trogon

The Ramsey Canyon Preserve in the Huachuca Mountains of Arizona is famous for the clouds of hummingbirds that swarm around its feeders in late summer. But the rare and spectacular Elegant Trogon is also found here. A native of Mexico and Central America, it breeds in the United States only in a few of Arizona’s southern canyons. Pairs of trogons set up housekeeping each summer in Ramsey and other canyons. They are surprisingly inconspicuous, as they perch quietly. They nest in natural cavities or old woodpecker nests, mostly in the beautiful white-barked sycamore trees that line the canyons. Learn more at

Aug 28, 2021
Bony-toothed Birds

Forty to fifty million years ago, when the climate of the Antarctic was mild and seasonal, some of the largest birds ever known flew and hunted over its waters. They’re known as Bony-toothed Birds. Fossils show that most had wingspans of more than 12 feet. Their beaks were evenly studded tooth-like outgrowths up to an inch long. They likely skimmed fish and squid off of the water’s surface. Learn more at

Aug 27, 2021
Where Do Fledglings Go?

By late summer, most birds hatched in spring are on their own, without help from their parents. Where do they go? Young migratory birds will head south in late summer or fall, in the pattern of their species. But most non-migratory birds born last spring — such as an immature Bewick’s Wren — will need to find an unoccupied territory. So they disperse more widely than the established adults. Newly fledged Bald Eagles embark on a nomadic life. Sometimes they fly hundreds of miles in a day, a journey that may take them across the continent. Learn more at

Aug 26, 2021
Why Do Birds Flick Their Tails?

The way that some birds flick, wag, or flare their tails can be distinctive. A flicking or flashing tail might suggest to a predator that a bird is particularly alert or hard to catch, while also warning others in the flock of danger. Tail flicking can also help flush out prey. A Hooded Warbler may flare its tail while foraging low to the ground to cause insects to jump, making them easier prey. Learn more at

Aug 25, 2021

The Greater Roadrunner is a common species in the desert and brush country of the Southwest, but its full range reaches from California to western Louisiana. Its soft cooing voice hints at its connections to another bird: scientists group roadrunners with the cuckoos. Where to see a roadrunner? In the US Southwest, you might spot one along the roadside, standing atop a boulder. It can reach speeds of nearly 20 miles an hour and can fly — but doesn't very often.  Learn more at

Aug 24, 2021
What Osprey Chicks Reveal About Pollution

Biologist Erick Greene has been taking blood samples from Osprey chicks in northwest Montana for years. Ospreys eat fish, so toxins in the water become concentrated in their bodies. Their blood offers a window into how pollution moves through the food chain. Finding high mercury levels in Osprey chicks helped Greene trace the toxin’s source.

Hear more about how Montana’s Ospreys are persisting despite pollution on the Threatened podcast.

Aug 23, 2021
Magnificent Frigatebird Drum Roll

Magnificent Frigatebirds are huge, gangly seabirds found around the warm waters of the Western Hemisphere. When it comes time to mate, males inflate giant red throat sacs, then rattle and drum their bills against them to create jazzy percussive sounds. Learn more at

Aug 22, 2021
Introducing Bring Birds Back

Enjoy this special preview of our newest podcast, Bring Birds Back. It's about the ways we can all play a part in protecting our feathered friends. Learn more and subscribe here.

Aug 22, 2021
Who Likes Nectar?

Have you seen a larger bird dipping its sharp bill into your hummingbird feeder? It’s probably an oriole. These brightly colored birds winter in the tropics, where they often drink nectar from flowers. Tennessee Warblers — like this one — are often seen at flowers during migration. These birds have an adaptive advantage, since many birds can’t digest the sucrose of nectar. When they fly to the tropics in winter, their sweet tooth allows them an added source of nutrition. Learn more at

Aug 21, 2021
Baby Birds' Bizarre Beaks

Most baby birds are adorable little floofs — but not all of them. The tongue and palate of estrildid finch chicks are strangely spotted and ringed. They display these markings while they beg for food. Most species’ chicks have mouth markings in colors ranging from black or white to bright yellow, orange, red or blue. The function of these markings has long puzzled scientists. Learn more at

Aug 20, 2021
Nature Prospers in Avalanche Chutes

Avalanches tend to follow historic channels down the face of a mountain, sweeping with them standing trees and boulders, while adjacent slopes remain clad in evergreens. Such natural snow courses are known as avalanche chutes. Soil often remains, creating a new opening for pioneering vegetation. A new zone of habitat takes form, habitat favored by diverse wildlife. In the West, the shrubby cover of avalanche chutes attracts nesting Fox Sparrows and provides ideal habitat for MacGillivray’s Warblers. Look along mountainsides for the elongated, vertical stripes that announce an avalanche chute. Learn more at

Aug 19, 2021
How Birds Stay Perched

For years, we thought that when a bird perched on a branch to sleep, a specific tendon in its heel kept its feet locked on tightly. Another hypothesis claimed that it’s the internal structure of the birds’ toes that keeps them securely perched. But an experiment suggests that the answer could be simpler. European Starlings with toe tendons removed could still perch and sleep through the night. Learn more at

Aug 18, 2021
Birdsong Therapy

Where some noises — like TV, traffic and random conversations — can make it hard to concentrate, birdsong may make it easier. In Alder Hey 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. Learn more at

Aug 17, 2021
A Safe Space for People and Kites

Christopher Joe has invited people to witness the aerial acrobatics of Swallow-tailed Kites on his family’s farm in the Black Belt region of Alabama. The kites swoop after insects stirred up by hay-cutting. Christopher says he intends for Joe Farms to be a place where Black people, and all birdwatchers, can feel safe and connect with wildlife.

Hear more about the Joe Farm and Swallow-tailed Kites on the Threatened podcast.

Aug 16, 2021
How Toucans Stay Cool

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. Learn more at

Aug 15, 2021
Marsh Voices at Sunrise

In marshes across the country, birds awaken on a summer morning. Tall dense grasses and reeds often make marsh birds hard to see, but their voices carry easily across the lush, green landscape. You can hear birds like the Redhead, the Sora, the American Bittern, the Ruddy Duck, this Yellow-headed Blackbird, and many more. Learn more at

Aug 14, 2021
Sprinting with Cooper's Hawks

Cooper’s Hawks hunts primarily from flight, using speed and stealth to surprise prey — mostly birds like doves. But they’re adaptable and opportunistic in both what and how they’ll hunt. If a Cooper’s Hawk misses catching a sparrow on its first dive, it will sometimes walk into a bush to pursue the sparrows on foot. This hawk will even climb after a nimble squirrel dashing up a pine tree. Learn more at

Aug 13, 2021
Vermilion Flycatche

What’s the reddest bird in North America? In the East, the Scarlet Tanager or maybe the Summer Tanager. But neither is seen nearly as often as the Northern Cardinal. In the Southwest, another candidate pops out like a bright red flare on the tip of a branch: the Vermilion Flycatcher. This dashing flycatcher evokes sparkling names, from the arid Southwest to South America: Mosquero Cardinal — or “cardinal-colored fly-killer” — and Brasita de Fuego or “little red-hot coal of fire.” Learn more at

Aug 12, 2021
Brooklyn's Blue Jays

Brooklyn’s Prospect Park covers more than 500 acres — many of them covered in trees. One bird species that calls the park home is the strikingly beautiful Blue Jay, which nests, forages, and roosts in trees. In the eastern US, you can invite Blue Jays into a small yard with just a decent tree or two. It’s the volume of branches and leafy habitat overhead that matter to the jays. Learn more at

Aug 11, 2021
Flying and Molting - A Tricky Balance

Feathers are amazing structures. But after about a year, constant use and exposure to the elements mean they have to be replaced. So how do you replace the roughly 20 feathers in each wing that are essential to flight? Many species  molt just a few feathers at a time so they can still fly. But waterbirds like ducks and loons molt all of their flight feathers at once. As a result, they’re earthbound and vulnerable to predators for a month or more — until their full suite of feathers has been completely restored. Learn more at

Aug 10, 2021
Fort Benning’s Woodpecker Sanctuary

Fort Benning, Georgia, is one of the most active military bases in the world. But its thousands of acres also contain longleaf pine forests where endangered Red-cockaded Woodpeckers nest. It takes years for a woodpecker to excavate a nest cavity. To help the species, biologists climb high into the trees to carve out nest cavities that will satisfy the birds.

You can hear more about the efforts to save woodpeckers at Fort Benning on the Threatened podcast.

Aug 09, 2021
Amazing Aquatic American Dipper

The American Dipper stands on a rock in a stream, bobbing up and down on its long legs - "dipping" - hence the name. But watch! This nondescript bird steps off a small boulder right into the torrent, and begins to peer under water. What the American Dipper might lack in bright color it more than surpasses with amazing aquatic abilities. Watch the video of a dipper fighting the current – below. You can learn more about river restoration and protection at American Rivers. Learn more at

Aug 08, 2021
How Birds Drink

How do birds drink? A robin takes a mouthful of water and then tips its head way back to send the water down its gullet. Pigeons are among the few birds that can suck in water with their heads down. Swallows and swifts skim a beakful of water on the wing. Gulls like this Western Gull can even drink salt water. If you have a birdbath, be sure to keep it clean. The birds' health is at stake. Learn more at

Aug 07, 2021
Hornbill - The Lockdown Bird

Does staying cooped up inside with your kids sometimes drive you up the wall? Take comfort in the bird that does it year after year — the hornbill. Each breeding season, a female hornbill plasters herself into her nest cavity, leaving only a thin slot for ventilation and food. She stays there for months to raise her young, while her mate brings her food. Learn more at

Aug 06, 2021
Arctic Terns Select their Mates at Potter Marsh

Did food play a role in your courtship? Well, Arctic Terns share a food-related ritual. Early in the breeding season, a female Arctic Tern perches near a possible nesting site. The male appears carrying a small fish in its bill. The female pauses for a few minutes to “check him out” before she accepts the fish offering, which she consumes whole. Once nesting begins, he brings the fish to her on the ground. Later when the young hatch, both parents busily deliver food to the nestlings.
One easy place to watch terns and their courtship is Potter Marsh, a freshwater, coastal wetland just seven miles from Anchorage, Alaska. Learn more at

Aug 05, 2021
Legends of the Jackdaw

The catchy name “Jackdaw” belongs to a European bird that looks like a compact crow drawn in shades of light and dark gray. They are comfortable around people, which helps explain their place in folklore. Some cultures saw the Jackdaw as a predictor of rain, others as a savior of crops. Or possibly an omen of death. They flourish in urban landscapes, making them familiar to many people. Learn more at

Aug 04, 2021
Hurricanes and Birds

Hurricanes bring tragedy not only to people, but also to birds and other wildlife. Severe storm winds may kill many birds and blow others far from their normal range. Although many individuals die, most populations of birds are resilient, able to spring back from disaster if conditions allow. Many small birds, like this Carolina Wren, breed twice in a season. Fortunately, the effects of natural disasters are usually local, and bird populations on a grand scale can, literally, weather the storm. Learn more at

Aug 03, 2021
Recording the Birds of Siberia

In 2017, researcher Sunny Tseng traveled from her home in Taiwan to the Arctic tundra to record the calls of the birds that breed there. She learned that navigating the wind-blown, marshy tundra is no easy task. Yet Tseng found and recorded one of her target birds: the Ross’s Gull, a rare, rosy-pink gull that nests on the tundra.

Hear more about the birds of the Siberian tundra, and hear the birds themselves, on the Threatened podcast. Learn more at

Aug 02, 2021
Bill Shape Equals Food Source

A fine woodworker has a chest full of tools, each designed for a specific task. Birds also have highly refined tools-their bills. The size and shape of a bird's bill match perfectly the food they seek and the way in which they obtain their meals. Different species of shorebirds that forage shoulder to shoulder in tidal estuaries (like this Marbled Godwit and Willet) have bills of different lengths. As a result they don't compete for the same food.  Learn more at

Aug 01, 2021
Waterfalls, Caves, and White-collared Swifts

A flight of White-collared Swifts, huge swifts the size of small falcons, wing their way toward a small waterfall in Southern Mexico. Flying up to 100 miles per hour, they slice right through the waterfall into the cave beyond. White-collared Swifts are found from Mexico to Brazil. By day, they fly high above ground, in search of flying insects, gliding and soaring on outstretched wings, rarely flapping. And not once do they perch until returning through the veil of water and into the cave. Here they also nest, on a ledge just beyond the waterfall, their nests enshrouded by mist. Learn more at

Jul 31, 2021
Bald Eagles' Daredevil Cartwheel Flight

Two eagles locking talons high above the ground might look like they’re risking injury, but it’s a normal courtship behavior called the “cartwheel display.” Fully entangled, the two birds begin spinning to the earth, disengaging just before they smack the ground. Their clasp could last for hours. At last, the eagles unlock talons and fly off. Rival adults sometimes perform the same flight. Learn more at

Jul 30, 2021
Pterodactyls and Birds

Pterosaurs—the giant, leathery flying creatures of the age of the dinosaurs—were giant reptiles, NOT dinosaurs. The pterosaurs had slim bodies and thin-walled, lightweight bones, ideal for flying. They thrived for 160 million years, passing into history after the same asteroid strike that finished off the large dinosaurs. Today’s birds are modern-day dinosaurs, descended from creatures similar to the terrifying T-Rex. Learn more at

Jul 29, 2021
Bringing Birds to the BeltLine

We tend to favor clean-cut lawns and non-native plants, but that’s a real problem for our ecosystems and the birds that live in them. Tenijah Hamilton, the host of Bring Birds Back podcast, joins volunteers planting native flowers and grasses on the Atlanta BeltLine, a converted “Rail Trail”. Trees Atlanta Co-Executive Director Greg Levine explains how native plants can reconnect wild animals to urban areas. Learn more at

Jul 28, 2021
July before Dawn - Aldo Leopold

The song of this Field Sparrow was the first bird song Aldo Leopold awoke to on his Wisconsin farm in the 1940s. Sadly, Field Sparrow populations are declining rapidly. You can learn more about "The State of the Birds" from National Audubon, and the plight of the Field Sparrow in particular. Learn more at

Jul 27, 2021
Vulturine Guineafowl

The Vulturine Guineafowl is a striking bird. It lacks feathers on its head and neck and has a blue breast with silvery plumes. The species has a complex social structure. Distinct groups, similar to high school cliques, mingle but don’t change membership. Such a multilevel society was previously only known in large-brained mammals such as primates, dolphins, and elephants. Learn more at

Jul 26, 2021
Birds' Early Warning Systems

A frantic cacophony of loud, rapid birdcalls tells other birds there’s a predator on the prowl. It’s called “mobbing” as birds clamor and dart — back and forth — at the threat. An ongoing study of mobbing and other bird warning behavior suggests that some birds listen in on the warnings of other birds. A wave of warning calls spreads from one hillside to another at more than 100 miles per hour. So vulnerable birds may be clued in to the movements of predators like this Northern Pygmy-Owl, giving them time to take cover. Learn more at

Jul 25, 2021
Barn Owls Let You Know

The structure and delicate softness of its feathers allow a Barn Owl to approach its prey almost without sound. The Barn Owl's ability to locate prey by sound, even when concealed by snow or leaves, is the most precise of any animal yet tested. This young Barn Owlet is about five weeks old and actually weighs more than its parents. During and after the fledging period, it will gradually lose weight, as it learns to hunt for itself. Be sure to watch the video of an owl hunting. Learn more at

Jul 24, 2021
A Different Drumming

The drumming of the male Ruffed Grouse is one of the most evocative sounds of the North American forest. Familiar as these accelerating burps are to hunters and hikers, the origin of this bizarre sound was long a mystery. It took the advent of wildlife cinematography to solve the riddle. In the spring of 1929, Cornell University’s Arthur A. Allen filmed a drumming Ruffed Grouse. Frame-by-frame analysis showed the bird’s wings were striking nothing but air — hard and fast enough to produce popping sounds that ran together into the whirring drum. Learn more at

Jul 23, 2021
Birds on the Polar Bears’ Menu

Polar bears use Arctic sea ice to hunt seals, but a warming Arctic means the bears have to return to land earlier in the year. Their arrival coincides with droves of birds sitting on eggs. A single clutch of eggs isn’t enough to satisfy a bear, so they go from nest to nest, sometimes eating their way through a colony. Scientists designed a bear-proof nest case to protect Black Guillemot eggs. Learn more at

Jul 22, 2021
American Robin Babies Afoot

After hatching, baby robins spend up to 15 days in the nest. By July, many young American Robins have left the nest, or fledged. But they aren't ready to make it entirely on their own yet, and they follow their parents around, learning to fend for themselves. Outside of the breeding season, robins tend to form large flocks, often feeding on berries and fruits. Learn more at

Jul 21, 2021
The Tui of New Zealand

The Tui is one of New Zealand’s most remarkable birds, intelligent and with iridescent feathers. Its down-curved beak fits perfectly into native flowers. But the Tui is best known for its voice. Each Tui’s complex song is slightly different, a colorful mix of musical notes and offbeat sounds. It’s one of the few birds that can imitate human speech — and even accents. Learn more at

Jul 20, 2021
Who Was That Masked Bird?

Football and baseball players sometimes wear eye black to reduce glare from the sun or stadium lights. According to scientists, some birds — including many shrikes, like this Northern Shrike — have evolved a band of black feathers across their eyes that helps in the same way. The black markings may also help the birds hunt and fool predators. Learn more at

Jul 19, 2021
Birds in Summer - The Heat of the Day

Just a few weeks past the solstice, and the real heat of summer is yet to come. Some shorebirds are already on their way south, but most songbirds will be here for a while longer. What's the best time of day to look for them? Many birds are most active in the early morning, taking advantage of the abundance of insects at that hour. Midday heat sends people inside, and birds take a siesta, too. And then, both birds and bugs rev up again in the late afternoon. But hummingbirds and also gulls — including this Glaucous-winged Gull — forage all day long! Learn more at

Jul 18, 2021
Towhees' Distractive Plumage

Both this Eastern Towhee and the Spotted Towhee of the West sport a black or dark brown hood and back. And when they fly, their tails flash white. When a hawk gives chase, the towhee's flashing tail-feathers draw the predator's attention. Momentarily distracted, the hawk may come up with just a couple of tail feathers — as the towhee escapes into the underbrush. So if you see a towhee missing a couple of tail feathers, it may be that the flash of white — the distractive plumage — saved its life. Learn more at

Jul 17, 2021
What Makes an Efficient Flying Bird?

Every bird species uses its wings a little differently, and some are specialized for highly efficient flight. But that means going without other abilities. Swallows and hummingbirds capture their food on the wing, but they can’t walk. Swifts, which are acrobatic in the air, can’t even perch. Yet they dazzle with the maneuverability made possible by their aerodynamic bodies. Learn more at

Jul 16, 2021
Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrikes are found across much of the United States in open country, like pasture and sagebrush. Male shrikes are well known for impaling their prey on thorns, creating a larder that may help impress potential mates. But pesticides and the loss of habitat to residential and commercial uses have reduced shrike populations. Conservation efforts are under way, such as allowing brush to grow along fence-lines, leaving small trees and shrubs on the roadside, and reducing or eliminating the use of pesticides. Learn more at

Jul 15, 2021
Giving Your Cat a Great Life Indoors

Outdoor cats kill billions of birds each year in North America — and they live much shorter lives than indoor cats. But life as an indoor cat doesn’t have to be boring. On Bring Birds Back podcast, cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy discusses how just 15 minutes of creative play with your cat can make a huge difference. Plus, letting cats watch birds through the window can act as “Cat TV.” Learn more at

Jul 14, 2021
A Fascination with Cranes, With George Archibald

George Archibald has devoted his life to the conservation of cranes, including the Whooping Crane pictured here. His inspiration? At the age of eight, George heard a radio broadcast about Whooping Cranes at school. He says, “. . . it was this drama of a male and female crane who’d flown the gauntlet to get 2,700 miles from Texas to their breeding ground . . . I never forgot it!” Learn more at

Jul 13, 2021
Play and Brain Size

Many birds that play do it alone by swinging, sliding, or rolling around. Some species interact with objects, like dropping a stone and picking it up again. But a select few birds – like these crows – play with other members of their species. Scientists call this social play. It appears to have implications for the evolution of brain size among birds as well as our own species. Learn more at

Jul 12, 2021
Puffins - Clowns of the Sea

Puffins are icons of the seabird world. With clown-like faces and huge, multicolored bills, they stand upright on sea cliffs along the northern oceans. Tufted Puffins nest on islands and rough coastlines, from the Channel Islands of Southern California across the north Pacific to Siberia. The Atlantic Puffin, like this one, breeds in the North Atlantic. Be sure to watch a video by Project Puffin, off the coast of Maine. Learn more at

Jul 11, 2021
Okefenokee Swamp and Prothonotary Warbler

The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge was set aside to protect the fabled Okefenokee Swamp of Georgia and Florida. Tall cypress trees and Spanish moss give the swamp a prehistoric appearance. The Prothonotary Warbler is one of the most striking of the swamp’s denizens. Having wintered in the West Indies, a male might return to the Okefenokee and establish a breeding territory. Because it lives down in the realm of trunks and branches rather than up in the leaves, the Prothonotary has adopted an unusual nesting habit for a warbler: it nests in natural crevices or old Downy Woodpecker holes! Learn more at

Jul 10, 2021
Murres' Swimming Migration - With Bob Boekelheide

When we think of avian migration, we generally think of birds in flight. But Common Murres migrate north by swimming. Some Pacific Coast murres paddle north to the sheltered bays of the Strait of Juan de Fuca to feed on herring and other small fish. During their ocean migration, the adult male murres molt their flight feathers and — like the chicks they shepherd — cannot fly. Heading north, they live on the sea. Imagine! A journey that spans two months and may cover hundreds of miles. Learn more at

Jul 09, 2021
The Ferocious Feet of the Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owls excel at nocturnal hunting, thanks to their acute senses and stealth — but their feet let them secure squirming prey. The outermost of their four toes can rotate forward or backward, an advantage that most other birds of prey lack, letting them capture animals as large as raccoons. A four-pound owl can take flight with six pounds of prey. Learn more at

Jul 08, 2021
Peatlands - Maine's Sunkhaze Meadows Refuge

The habitats that comprise Sunkhaze Meadows Refuge in central Maine — including peat bogs, streamside meadows, shrub thickets, cedar swamps, and maple forests — are rich with bird life, like this Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. You’ll also find Bobolinks and more than 20 kinds of warblers during the summer months. The flycatchers return to Sunkhaze Meadows annually from Panama, while Bobolinks migrate to Maine from as far as Bolivia. Learn more at

Jul 07, 2021
Dove or Pigeon?

The word “dove” might make you think of an elegant bird symbolizing peace, while the word “pigeon” might bring up images of rowdy flocks of city birds. But there’s no formal distinction between doves and pigeons, only a linguistic one. In many languages, the birds are one and the same. The dove and pigeon family includes some of the most beautiful birds in the world. Learn more at

Jul 06, 2021
Green Jays and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge

Bird life is abundant on the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in southern Texas. This large stretch of Tamaulipan brushland was preserved for its wildlife, including many species found nowhere else in the United States. One of the special birds on this refuge is the Green Jay. These jays and other birds persist in Texas because of active conservation of habitat along the Rio Grande. A series of refuges there -- Santa Ana, the World Birding Center, and others -- provides a wildlife corridor that allows birds and other animals to move up and down the river, assuring their survival in the midst of farmland. Learn more at

Jul 05, 2021
Manakins Make Their Own Fireworks

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. Learn more at

Jul 04, 2021
David Sibley - Sketching and Painting Impressions

David Sibley’s paintings connect millions of people with the lives of birds. His talent in observing and portraying birds culminated in The Sibley Guide to Birds. Sibley describes how he learned to sketch and illustrate birds such as this Townsend’s Warbler: “I spent years in the field, just traveling and birding and sketching,” he says. “ . . . The drawing was so important to me, that there was never any question in my mind of continuing to paint the birds. It’s how I study the birds.” Learn more at BirdNote .org.

Jul 03, 2021
Threatened Season 2 Trailer

The pilot season ofThreatened transported listeners to some of the most beautiful and remote places in North America — where birds are calling humans to take action. This season we expand our scope to consider new places and stories about the enduring connections between birds, people, and landscapes. 

Subscribe now, listen to the pilot season, and learn more at:

Jul 02, 2021
Experience Wildness with Adrian Dorst

In a wild place on the west coast of Vancouver Island, author, photographer, and birdwatcher, Adrian Dorst, tells of a time he witnessed fifty or sixty thousand migrating Western Sandpipers: “It looked like snow – except that the snow was drifting upwards! It was just an amazing sight – so many birds in the air. I mean it’s quite overwhelming to try to estimate, when there are so many birds in the air at once. But based on doing bird counts here for so many years, that’s the figure that we came up with ... fifty or sixty thousand. Quite a sight!” Learn more at

Jul 02, 2021
Birdsong on the Talus

The ringing notes of a Rock Wren’s song reverberate across a steep, rocky slope in the American West. The Rock Wren is most at home in piles of rock rubble at the foot of cliffs, a life zone known as a talus slope. These wrens find shelter, safe nesting, and a good supply of insects in the crevices among the talus. They often share the slope with birds such as Say’s Phoebe and the sweet singing Canyon Wren. Venture high enough in the western mountains, above tree level into the alpine zone, and you’ll find talus slopes interspersed with bits of low tundra – home to one of the continent’s most reclusive birds, the White-tailed Ptarmigan. Learn more at

Jul 01, 2021
Catios - The Best of Both Worlds

Cats love the outdoors, but they’re also one of the biggest threats to birds — killing as many as four billion a year in North America. Outdoor cats also live much shorter lives. Cynthia Chomos designed a cat patio or “catio” so that everyone can win. The enclosed outdoor space keeps both cats and birds safe.

Learn more on BirdNote’s new podcast, Bring Birds Back.

Jun 30, 2021
Blackbirds' Strange Music

Blackbird songs have a strange music. The Red-winged Blackbird can be heard in nearly every marsh on the continent — bold, brassy, and piercing. The songs may not seem musical, but they definitely get your attention. Brewer’s Blackbirds, which live in open habitats like farms and grasslands, make a wet, slap-in-the-face sound. The combined voices of Tricolored Blackbirds — like this one in a California marsh — sound like a snarling catfight. Another Western bird, the Yellow-headed Blackbird, makes raucous growls, wails, and whistles. Learn more at

Jun 29, 2021
Greater Ani

Greater Anis make communal nests in which two or more pairs share responsibilities. But that doesn’t mean they cooperate with their neighbors. Researchers in Panama captured anis on camera tossing fake eggs out of artificial nests. Although scientists haven’t yet seen anis destroy real nests, the evidence suggests that anis engage in neighborhood disputes. Learn more at

Jun 28, 2021
The New Jersey Pine Barrens

In southern New Jersey lies a region known as the Pine Barrens, home to many birds, including this Great Crested Flycatcher. With broad tracts of pine forest interspersed with grassland and shrubland, the Pine Barrens remain one of the largest expanses of green in the Northeast, supporting a diversity of plants and animals. Early European settlers tried farming here, but the sandy, acidic soil wasn’t suited to their traditional crops. Upland Sandpipers and Prairie Warblers nest here. Agricultural barrenness has saved the Pine Barrens and its native habitats. If its soils grew traditional crops, it would have – centuries ago – disappeared beneath the plow. Learn more at

Jun 27, 2021
Three Buntings - Indigo, Lazuli, and Painted

Each spring and summer, Indigo Buntings sing their buzzy, jumbled songs from brushy edges throughout the Eastern US. West of the Rockies, a different bunting sings his song. Named for the gemstone lapis lazuli, a male Lazuli Bunting shimmers an iridescent azure. He looks as if he might have been fashioned by a maker of Navajo jewelry. Yet another bunting sings atop thickets and shrubs in the Southeast and south-central US – the Painted Bunting, perhaps one of the most colorful birds in all of North America. Enjoy the bunting singing in your neck of the woods this summer, for this fall, they’ll all be gone to the tropics until next spring. Learn more at

Jun 26, 2021
Common Murres - Nature's Laugh Track

The raucous laughter of the Common Murre rings out from a nesting colony, high on a narrow ledge on a sea cliff. Precarious as their nest site is, Common Murres nest by the thousands along the Pacific Coast, perhaps millions north along the Bering Sea. Their eggs are pointed at one end and blunt at the other, so they spin on the ledge rather than tumbling into the sea. Common Murres stand nearly a foot and a half tall. With legs set far back on their bodies, they look much like the northwestern equivalent of penguins of the Southern Hemisphere. Learn more at

Jun 25, 2021
House Wren - Little Brown Dynamo

House Wrens dart from perch to perch and sing almost nonstop. They’re one of the most thoroughly studied songbird species. House Wrens nest in cavities, including backyard nest boxes. Most migrate south in late summer. The male House Wren sometimes builds multiple nests, allowing his mate to choose her favorite and put her finishing touches on it. Learn more at

Jun 24, 2021
Urban Cooper's Hawks

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. Learn more at

Jun 23, 2021
Spark Bird: Kaeli Swift and the Rooftop Crows

When Dr. Kaeli Swift was in college, she became obsessed with the Corvid family of birds, which includes crows, ravens and jays. She decided to study whether crows learn to recognize certain human faces as friendly. She tried putting a mask on a mannequin holding peanuts, but the crows spotted the trick right away. Swift had to find a creative solution. Learn more at

Jun 22, 2021
Megapodes - Mound-Builders

There’s a group of birds that lay their eggs underground — in geothermally heated burrows, or warm sands, or even mounds of organic material warmed by the heat of decomposition. These megapodes or mound-builders — like this Australian Brushturkey — are found in Australia, New Guinea, and nearby

Jun 21, 2021
Sungrebe: Baby on Board

Birds have developed many strategies for protecting their young. But only one species can tuck its chicks into pouches under its wings, then fly the young to safety. It’s the Sungrebe of Central and South America. Despite the name, they are not closely related to grebes. Sungrebes swim and dive on

Jun 20, 2021
Meadowlarks and Grasslands

The clear, whistled music of the Eastern Meadowlark (seen here) is the unmistakable anthem of eastern North America's farmlands and open country. The Western Meadowlark and its sweet, liquid notes epitomize the natural expanses of the American West. Sadly, birds of such grassy habitats are among the

Jun 19, 2021
Voices and Vocabularies: House Finch or Purple Finch

In parts of the United States, House Finches overlap with similar-looking Purple Finches. Their distinct songs help us sort them out. House Finch songs are jumbled and have a sharp, buzzy note — especially during the breeding season. Purple Finches’ songs, on the other hand, are smoother and lack

Jun 18, 2021
Eavesdropping on Babies

Around this time of year, many baby birds are begging their parents for food. A Hairy Woodpecker chick calls from its nest carved deep within a dying tree. A Great Horned Owl juvenile reminds his parents "Hey! I'm over here! Feed me!" Moving from forest to water, we find this American Coot chick

Jun 17, 2021
Helping Birds See Windows

As many as a billion birds in North America die from window collisions each year, and the biggest culprit is low-rise, residential buildings. Tenijah Hamilton, the host of Bring Birds Back podcast, spoke to Josh Morris of Seattle Audubon about what people can do to help birds spot the hazard

Jun 16, 2021
The Baltimore Oriole

Not all blackbirds are mostly black. This Baltimore Oriole is orange! It’s named after Sir George Calvert, First Lord of Baltimore, whose coat-of-arms carried a gold and black design. In spring and summer, you may see these orioles in the Midwest and eastern US, lighting up the trees where they nest

Jun 15, 2021
The Value of a Dust Bath

It might sound strange, but dirt helps birds scrub themselves clean. Birds of all sizes (like the Eurasian Skylark seen here) often scrape a depression in the ground and flick dirt onto their bodies, shimmying to shake it off. Experiments showed that birds use dust to prevent oils from building up

Jun 14, 2021
The Pelicans of Castle Pinckney

Originally built as a fortress and military storehouse, Castle Pinckney in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, bore witness to the first shots of the Civil War. But today — just outside the crumbling walls that once served as a prisoner-of-war camp — anywhere from half a dozen to hundreds of Brown

Jun 13, 2021
How Nestlings Leave the Nest

Young birds leave their nests in different ways. Some shuffle tentatively along the nearest branch and practice flapping their wings, while others take the "big leap." Which path they take depends upon their species and the location of the nest. Young Great Horned Owls clamber out of the nest to

Jun 12, 2021

Sapsuckers drill small holes in the bark of favored trees, then return again and again to eat the sap that flows out. And hummingbirds, kinglets, and warblers come to the sap wells to eat the insects trapped in the sap. Although a sapsucker - like this Red-breasted Sapsucker - may suck a tree's

Jun 11, 2021
The Baddest Birds on the Block

Meet three of the most fearsome predatory birds. The Northern Goshawk is a silver blur when it rockets toward an unsuspecting grouse. The Brown Snake-Eagle snatches six-foot cobras off the ground. And the Eurasian Eagle-Owl preys on animals as large as deer fawns.

Jun 10, 2021
Robins Are Very Choosy Nesters

When scientists looked at climate data for more than 8,500 robins’ nests in the US, they found that robins will nest only if the mean noon temperature is between 45 and 65 degrees. But even more critical is relative humidity: it needs to be around 50 percent in the middle of the day. What’s so

Jun 09, 2021
How to Count Three Billion Birds

A study in 2019 found that North American bird populations had declined by three billion birds in the past 50 years. Tenijah Hamilton, the host of Bring Birds Back podcast, talked to biostatistician Adam C. Smith about how scientists arrived at this shocking number. The hard work of volunteers

Jun 08, 2021
Great-tailed Grackles on the Move

The range and abundance of the Great-tailed Grackle have expanded significantly since 1900, when the species barely reached Texas from Mexico. One winter roost of grackles in South Texas was pegged at 500,000 birds! Great-tailed Grackles can present pest management problems for agriculture and

Jun 07, 2021
Choosing Where to Nest

When it comes to building a house, one of the first decisions is where to put it. The same is true for birds. It's called "nest site selection." And one thing most birds have in common? The female chooses the site. A robin builds its nest on top of a stout branch. This Warbling Vireo hangs its nest

Jun 06, 2021
Great Horned Owl - Hungry Young

Great Horned Owls are found in more varied habitats than any other owl in North America. These owls often nest in trees, but may also nest on cliffs in arid areas far from trees. They nest early in the year, even in the dead of winter. The young hatch a month later, vocalizing inside the egg a few

Jun 05, 2021
Baby Birds Move Out of the Nest

After they leave the nest but before they take flight, many baby birds - especially robins and flickers - spend time on or near the ground. If you see such a baby bird, and your first thought is to "rescue" it, the better thing to do is let it be. Protect it from cats. Then watch from a distance, to

Jun 04, 2021
How Hummingbirds Got Their Sweet Tooth

All birds lack the typical gene for detecting sweetness, but hummingbirds avidly seek out sugary nectar. It turns out that evolution has transformed hummers’ taste receptors. Mutations to their savory taste receptor gene allowed the receptor to respond to sucrose and other sugars. Scientists haven’t

Jun 03, 2021

Washington Irving called the Bobolink "the happiest bird of our spring...he rises and sinks with the breeze, pours forth a succession of rich tinkling notes ..." Bobolinks nest in hayfields and grasslands, returning north each spring, all the way from southern South America. Listen to more songs of

Jun 02, 2021
Celebrating Black Birders Week

This week is the second annual Black Birders Week. It was created in response to an incident in Central Park in New York City, where a Black birder was racially profiled and harassed. The week invites more Black folks to learn about birding, which has historically been very white. Tenijah Hamilton

Jun 01, 2021
Locating a Bird by Sound

To locate where a sound is coming from, we use time lag. A sound coming from the left is first detected by the left ear, then ever-so-slightly later by the right ear. But the ears of some small birds (like these Carolina Wrens) and insects are too close together for them to use time lag alone. So

May 31, 2021
The Ballet of the Grebes

When a pair of Western Grebes decides it’s time to mate, they call loudly and approach one another. Each bird curves, then straightens, its long neck gracefully. They then face each other, necks on the water’s surface, their bills flipping up drops of water. If attraction prevails, they rush

May 30, 2021
Tufted Titmouse - What's in a Name?

A Tufted Titmouse has just about everything you could ask for in a backyard bird. Petite and strikingly elegant, it’s as perky as a chickadee. In fact, it’s a cousin to the chickadee. And as it comes boldly to your seed or suet feeders, the Tufted Titmouse will even hang upside down like an acrobat

May 29, 2021
World of Warblers

May is the prime month across much of North America to celebrate the return of migratory birds from the tropics. Of all those coming back, it is the warblers that many birders eagerly await. And of the more than 50 species that brighten our spring, many gleam like precious stones. From the sky-blue

May 28, 2021
Ospreys Never Stop Building

Ospreys are remarkable nest builders. Many reuse their massive stick nests from the previous year, but continue tinkering with it once the nesting season begins. And the nest transforms along with the growing chicks. It’s bowl-shaped at first, corralling the young birds, but it gets flatter after

May 27, 2021
Listen for Tapping

Woodpeckers are our most familiar bird carpenters, but other birds also chip out nests in trees and wood structures. Nuthatches — like this Red-breasted Nuthatch — are exceptional wood carvers, with their chisel-like bills. Chickadees will peck into less dense wood, carrying out wood chips by the

May 26, 2021
Heid E. Erdrich - DNA Tribes

Ojibwe writer Heid E. Erdrich's poem DNA Tribes deals with her identity as a Native American woman and the call of the Red-eyed Vireo, which sounds like someone saying “Here I am, where are you?” [Hear more poetry by Erdrich and other contemporary writers on our podcast, BirdNote Presents]

May 25, 2021
Nesting Niches

American Robins (like this male seen here with its young), House Finches, and Song Sparrows may all nest within one small garden. By selecting different nesting strata, the species avoid competing for the same nesting sites. If you plant your garden in multiple layers – trees both short and tall

May 24, 2021
Red-Tailed Hawks - Adaptable Diners

Red-tailed Hawks are found year ‘round in a wide variety of natural landscapes, from meadows to forest edges, deserts, and canyons. One big reason we see Red-tailed Hawks in so many places is their remarkable adaptability as hunters. They vary their diet to what is locally abundant. So along the

May 23, 2021
Unique Chaparral

The dense cover of coastal chaparral supports many birds found nowhere else in the world, including this California Thrasher. The plant species are different, but the chaparral of California is much like shrubby coastal vegetation in southern Europe, South Africa, southern Australia, and Chile. All

May 22, 2021
Endangered Species Day

This Golden-cheeked Warbler nests only in a Central Texas woodland. Its small breeding range is ever more fragmented by residential development, and its numbers are in serious decline. Endangered Species Day was established by Congress to acknowledge the plight of this warbler and many other

May 21, 2021
The Songs of Desert Wrens

The Canyon Wren and Cactus Wren share common ancestry — and they’re close neighbors in the desert southwest. Yet their songs evolved along divergent acoustic lines. The rough trilled phrases of the Cactus Wren song pulse through the dense cactus, while the clear tones of the Canyon Wren echo off the

May 20, 2021
The Marsh Wren's Many Nests

Tiny Marsh Wrens live in wetlands, usually within cattails, reeds, or bulrushes. After choosing his territory, the male weaves up to 15 dome-shaped shells, lashing together cattails, grasses, or reeds. These are called "courting" nests. Then, sitting high atop a perch in the marsh, he sings

May 19, 2021
Flickers and Buffleheads

After a Northern Flicker carves out a nest cavity, chances are the birds will use the cavity for just one nesting season. But the cavity may have a prolonged career as a home for small owls, bluebirds, swallows, and other birds - including the Bufflehead. Buffleheads - like the family seen here -

May 18, 2021
From Egg-laying to Hatching and Beyond

Waterfowl like this Muscovy duckling spend up to 30 days in the egg, so they’re able to walk, swim, and feed themselves as soon as they hatch. We call these chicks precocial. By contrast, the chicks of most songbirds spend less time maturing in the egg. They must continue to develop in the nest

May 17, 2021
Shorebirds in Kansas - Oval Migration Pattern

Almost half of all migratory shorebirds nesting in North America migrate through the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area in central Kansas. Almost all of the continent's Wilson's Phalaropes rest and refuel at the wetlands here. The birds fly a great oval route. In autumn, in the East, they head from

May 16, 2021
Swallows Return to Nest

Each spring, eight species of swallows — including this Barn Swallow — migrate north from the tropics to nest in North America. Tree Swallows and Purple Martins are especially dependent on man-made nestboxes. Tree Swallows nest over much of the continent, while Purple Martins are most prevalent east

May 15, 2021
Three Brown Thrushes

The Swainson's Thrush, the Hermit Thrush, and this Veery are small, brown birds, but their songs clearly distinguish them. The Swainson's Thrush announces its presence in early spring with subtle, limpid "whit" or "wink" sounds. Many rate it among the finest singers. A Veery's phrases tend downward

May 14, 2021
The Harsh Beauty of Grackle Songs

Ranging from metallic hisses to electronic yodels, sounds of grackles may not be music to our ears—but they have their own rough beauty, a distinctive, primal harshness. Grackle songs evolved to carry through their nesting habitats — dense marshes and brushy landscapes — where more lyrical notes and

May 13, 2021
Spring Birds Arrive in the Eastern Forest

May in an Eastern hardwood forest, and the chorus of spring birdsong is nearing its peak. The Carolina Wren, a year-round resident, has been singing since the end of winter. The resounding notes of this Ovenbird let us know it has returned safely from Belize, after a long flight across the Gulf of

May 12, 2021
China's Golden Age of Fossil Discovery

In the mid-1990s, a golden age of fossil discovery began in the Liaoning region of northeast China. The fossils date from 120 to 160 million years ago, when feathered dinosaurs and early birds were flourishing and differentiating. The signature fossil was the world’s first-known feathered dinosaur

May 11, 2021
Silly Willow Ptarmigan

Some bird songs leave us in admiration of their beauty, some with a sense of wonder at their complexity—and others are downright comical. As a maker of silly sounds, the male Willow Ptarmigan beats the Three Stooges hands down. But these sounds are no laughing matter. Where it nests in the shrubby

May 10, 2021
Just Whose Ducklings Are Those?

It’s spring, and a female duck swims across a pond with ducklings in tow. Some of the youngsters might not be her own. Wood Ducks and others may lay some of their eggs in other ducks’ nests — or in the nests of other kinds of ducks, like Common Mergansers and goldeneyes. Biologists call this nest

May 09, 2021
International Migratory Bird Laws

In May, we celebrate migratory birds, including this Common Yellowthroat. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 gave much needed protection to birds, especially migratory songbirds. In 1940, the US and 17 other countries throughout the Americas signed a pact to "protect and preserve - in their

May 08, 2021