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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
Summer Tanagers: Wasp Hunters

Summer Tanagers snatch bees and wasps in mid-air, as they buzz about. Bug in beak, the bird flies to a perch, slams the insect against a branch until it’s dead, then wipes it against the branch to remove the stinger before eating it. Summer Tanagers will also tear open paper-like wasp nests to dine on the larvae within. The migratory birds will also eat other insects and spiders, as well as fruits and berries in the summer and over the winter.

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Jul 03, 2022
Where Birds Sleep

All birds need to sleep — or at least snooze — sometime during each 24-hour period. And most sleep at night. A bird (such as these Mallard Ducklings) 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.

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Jul 02, 2022
Music of a Tundra Lake

Many of the waterbirds that winter along the coasts of the Lower 48 spend their summers breeding on tundra ponds and lakes. Loons, grebes, scoters and others call throughout the long summer days. Together, their voices create a symphony that evokes the Arctic north.

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Jul 01, 2022
Birds That Say Their Own Names

Some birds, such as the Northern Bobwhite, take their names from their songs or vocalizations: "Bobwhite! Bobwhite!" The Killdeer is another bird named for its song: "Kill-dee, kill-dee, kill-dee." There are others. "Poorwill, poorwill, poorwill" calls this Common Poorwill. This bird is the cousin of the Whip-poor-will, another bird that calls its own name.

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Jun 30, 2022
Cowbird Mafia

Brown-headed Cowbirds have a sneaky approach to parenthood. They lay eggs in the nests of other songbirds, and the songbird hosts often raise the cowbird chick as their own. It’s called nest parasitism. But sometimes the hosts throw out the odd-looking egg. And when that happens, the cowbirds sometimes retaliate by destroying the hosts’ other eggs. Scientists call this “mafia behavior,” likening it to organized crime groups enforcing their demands on unwilling business partners. 

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Jun 29, 2022
Flyin' in the Rain

Most birds are mostly waterproof. Their feathers, aided by 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 wait out a storm. Afterward, birds once again take to the skies. 

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Jun 28, 2022
The Bustard and the Bee-eater

The massive Kori Bustard struts across the savannahs of Eastern and Southern Africa. Its crested head sits on top of a long neck and stilted legs. And this winged giant has a colorful companion. A small bird called the Carmine Bee-eater perches on the bustard’s back. The Kori Bustard and the Carmine Bee-eater have a symbiotic relationship where at least one of them benefits. While the bustard searches for lizards, rodents, and other prey, it kicks up smaller insects that the bee-eater snatches up. 

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Jun 27, 2022
Killdeer, Master of Distraction

Since Killdeer don’t always pick the safest places to lay their eggs, they’ve developed a clever way to protect their young. They use the art of distraction. When it spots a predator close by, the Kildeer parent will pretend it has a broken wing - calling loudly and limping along as it stretches out one wing and fans its tail.

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Jun 26, 2022
Spider Silk - Duct Tape for Bird Nests

The spider’s web is an intricate piece of precision engineering. Made from large proteins, it’s sticky, stretchy, and tough. So it’s no surprise that many small birds — including this Anna’s Hummingbird — make a point of collecting strands of spider silk to use in nest construction. Spider silk not only acts as a glue, holding the nest together, but it’s flexible enough to accommodate the growing bodies of nestlings. And it’s resilient enough to withstand the bustle of raising those hungry babies.

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Jun 25, 2022
Reckoning with Audubon's Legacy

John J. Audubon’s name is featured in the titles of many bird conservation groups. The Audubon Naturalist Society, or ANS, is one of the oldest, though not the largest, which is the National Audubon Society. In 2021, ANS, that smaller organization based near D.C., announced that they're retiring the Audubon name, given that Audubon enslaved people and held racist, white supremacist views about Black and Indigenous people. Caroline Brewer, who was integral to this decision, says that name changes like this are an opportunity to accept responsibility for the future and build an environmental movement that includes all people. Learn more on the Bring Birds Back podcast.

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Jun 24, 2022
An Indoor Wildlife Adventure

The video game Alba: A Wildlife Adventure lets you have adventures in a stunning virtual landscape while curled up at home with a cup of hot cocoa. The game puts you in the shoes of a birdwatcher and conservationist on a Mediterranean island. As you traverse the animated ecosystems, listen for the calls of over 50 birds, like the Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Northern Shoveler, and Great Cormorant. The game is available on phones, consoles, or your computer.

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Jun 23, 2022
Seasonal Flooding of the Amazon

When it’s predictable and wildlife is well adapted, natural flooding can create a biological bonanza. In the Amazon River Basin, which holds one-fifth of the world’s fresh water, annual rains can raise water levels 30 to 40 feet in just days. Forests turn into vast lakes, dotted with trees, while a massive push of sediment erects new islands almost overnight. It’s a lush world that’s home to some of the world’s most iconic birds, including toucans, macaws, kingfishers, tiger-herons, and this Russet-backed Oropendola.

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Jun 22, 2022
The Dickcissel

In grasslands of the central U.S., birds called Dickcissels sing a quirky song that “spells out” the syllables of their name. Dickcissels are approachable birds, often chirping away while a person walks nearby. But they’re also masters of concealment, hiding their nests from predators in tufts of grass and leafy wildflowers. Dickcissel populations have fallen by 30 percent since the 1960s. Yet the birds persist in searching for places to breed — nesting along roadsides, in pastures, and even in alfalfa fields.

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Jun 21, 2022
Can Crows Laugh at Me?

The American Crow’s rattle call is uncommon, and researchers aren’t sure what it means. It could be a gathering call, a predator alarm, or a call between mates. But if you hear it, you might think it sounds like cackling laughter. However, no one has identified a crow noise that indicates glee at the expense of another creature. It’s just a coincidence that the rattle sounds like a laugh. However, crows can play pranks on other animals: egging on cats to fight and yanking on dog tails for their own amusement. They aren’t pranking for survival — as far as we can tell, it’s just for fun.

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Jun 20, 2022
Indigo Bunting - Bird of the Ecotone

Many birds – like an Indigo Bunting – can be found in ecotones, the borders between two habitats. Indigo Buntings breed in the ecotone between forest and meadow. They are common at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge in Indiana, where grassland and forest are interspersed to produce superb wildlife habitat.

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Jun 19, 2022
Which Species of Bird Sings First in the Morning?

The dawn chorus is that time when, just before sunrise, birds begin to sing. One by one, then all together, their voices join to greet the new day. But which bird sings first? The timing of when a bird joins the chorus seems to depend on how well it can see in low light. So the birds with bigger eyes -- like a Gartered Trogon -- start to sing first.

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Jun 18, 2022
Having Your Tail Scared Off

When a hawk is about to capture a songbird, the songbird has one last trick: a fright molt. It’s when a bird loses feathers due to sudden stress. This usually involves feathers near the tail or rump, where they’re most likely to be attacked as they flee. It can be a saving grace when the bird is about to be caught — similar to a lizard dropping its tail. There’s a downside to having your tail scared off. A tail helps the bird turn and balance in flight. But if dropping feathers lets the bird live to chirp another day, it’s worth it.

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Jun 17, 2022
Precision Flight in Flocks: How Does It Work?

A flock of shorebirds flying wingtip to wingtip seems to act like a single organism, rolling and twisting in exquisite patterns. Flocks like these use a combination of two organizational patterns. One is a “cluster”: lots of birds flying together in a loose, three-dimensional cloud. The second is a basic V-formation, where smaller groups of birds within the flock sync up in V-shapes, like migrating geese. Voilà! Predator avoidance and aerodynamic efficiency.

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Jun 16, 2022
How to Be a Better Wildlife Photographer

Conservation photographer Noppadol Paothong says that if you go out to take pictures of birds, you shouldn’t just aim to take an eye-catching photo. He spends long hours in photo blinds, often watching and studying birds rather than photographing them. He has become deeply familiar with some populations of sage-grouse, to the point that he can recognize individuals. Caring about the wildlife you photograph, particularly for rare and declining species, will make you a better photographer, he says. Noppadol strives to highlight the challenges that birds face through his photos and point toward solutions.

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Jun 15, 2022
Kestrels Love Nest Boxes

This American Kestrel evolved to nest in tree cavities or small caves in cliffs. We humans have made life difficult for kestrels. Development has shrunk the open spaces they need. We’ve cleared away dead trees they rely on for nests and sprayed pesticides that eliminate the insects the birds eat. But we humans are also in a position to help. Volunteers are helping to build and put up nest boxes, improve habitat, and monitor these cool little falcons. Together, we can #BringBirdsBack.

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Jun 14, 2022
Komodo Dragons and Cockatoos

Due to trapping for the pet trade, the talkative and showy Yellow-crested Cockatoo is now considered critically endangered. But scientists recently discovered a stronghold for the species: Komodo Island — yes, the one with the dragons. The Komodo population of Yellow-crested Cockatoos appears stable. The island has been an Indonesian national park since 1980. Park rangers may have helped deter poachers, but community support for conservation and the literal dragons have played a role, too. 

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Jun 13, 2022
Turkey Vulture - Sky Sailor

Although some of the Turkey Vulture's habits may evoke our disgust, these remarkable birds also inspire our awe. With wingspans approaching six feet, Turkey Vultures ride currents of air to make their spring and fall journeys, and to cover the miles of their home range in summer. Gliding on updrafts, or pushed along by weather fronts, Turkey Vultures rarely need to flap their wings more than ten times in a row. To rise above storms, they ride upward on thermals.

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Jun 12, 2022
Fairy-Wrens Sing Secret Passwords to Unborn Chicks

Superb Fairy-wrens teach their embryonic chicks a secret code. This "incubation call" contains a special note that will later serve as a password. When the chicks have hatched, this password enables the adult birds to identify their babies in the darkness of their domed nest. A species of Australian cuckoo lays its eggs in the wren’s nest, hoping to pawn off the task of parenting. But wren chicks learn their mother’s song and incorporate the password note into their begging calls.

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Jun 11, 2022
Spark Bird: Meghadeepa Maity

Meghadeepa Maity grew up in India on the outskirts of a city that still had pockets of green space here and there, like their family’s garden. They started noticing one bird species in particular that flocked to the garden. With their sister, Meghadeepa searched the web and learned the birds were called Oriental Magpie-Robins. This species helped awaken Meghadeepa to the wider world of birds. Now birding in Massachusetts, they’ve helped create a project called The Murmuration that crowd-sources info about how to access birding spots. Contributors can share how safe they felt in a place so that other people know what to expect.

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Jun 10, 2022
Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge

The United States is home to more than 550 National Wildlife Refuges - havens for wildlife, including this Canvasback. But only one refuge can claim the distinction of being international: the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. It hosts millions of migratory ducks annually in the heart of a major metropolitan area!

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Jun 09, 2022
Tenijah’s Birding Journey Continues

Tenijah Hamilton, the host of the Bring Birds Back podcast, has learned a lot since she started birding at the start of the pandemic. She visited a park to show her mom how much she has grown. At first, the birds were sparse. Overcoming her frustration, Tenijah felt like nature was reminding her of lesson number one: birding is supposed to be fun. And soon their luck changed with a Northern Mockingbird flying by. What’s more, Tenijah realized that a birding trip isn’t a waste if you’re with your people. Hear more about Tenijah’s birding journey on Bring Birds Back

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Jun 08, 2022
Have You Ever Seen a Pink Gull?

Some gulls and terns may show a glowing pink color, similar to that of flamingos and spoonbills. This pink color comes from pigments in the birds' food called carotenoids. These gulls and terns are able to convert these naturally occurring pigments to hues that may enhance their success at attracting a mate.

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Jun 07, 2022
Audio Postcard from the Kyiv Zoo

Today, we’re sharing a glimpse of what it was like in mid-March at the bird exhibits in the Kyiv Zoo. Workers at the zoo stayed to take care of the animals during the Russian invasion. They worked long days, doing what it took to keep a zoo running: cleaning stalls and preparing food. They returned to bomb shelters to sleep at night. Julia Vakulenko of the Kyiv Zoo shared recordings of her coworkers caring for the zoo’s birds.

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Jun 06, 2022
Scarlet Tanagers Under the Canopy

In summer, the forests of the eastern United States are home to a bounty of birds, including this gorgeous Scarlet Tanager, which spends most of the year in tropical South America. The male’s body is a dazzling red, in contrast to his black wings and tail. It seems that these boldly colored birds might offer an easy target for a birdwatcher’s watchful gaze, but male Scarlet Tanagers can be hard to spot!

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Jun 05, 2022
Bonding with Mom Through Birding

In this episode, environmental educator and nature enthusiast Nicole Jackson tells the story of an unexpected backyard birding experience when she visited her mom in 2021. When she arrived, Nicole saw typical birds such as robins and jays, but then saw something less common: a brightly colored Blackburnian Warbler! Nicole’s mom asked what she was looking at, and Nicole showed her pictures of all the nearby birds on her phone. Nicole helped her mom create an account on Merlin Bird ID and document her first bird sighting. 

This week is Black Birders Week. Learn how to participate in Black Birders Week here and by following #BlackBirdersWeek on social media.

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Jun 04, 2022
Bringing Birding Adventures to Broward County

While Sierra Taliaferro was working as a Naturalists in Broward County, Florida, in 2021, she collaborated with Broward County Library to help enhance the public’s knowledge about birding. More people became interested in birding as a safe outdoor activity during the pandemic. Sierra and others designed birding backpacks with field guides and binoculars that could be checked out at 10 libraries throughout the county. Sierra also gave a webinar crash course on how to find birds. The program was a success, with many people checking out the backpacks and creating their own birding adventures.

This week is Black Birders Week. Learn how to participate in Black Birders Week here and by following #BlackBirdersWeek on social media.

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Jun 03, 2022
Dinosaurs in the Here and Now

In this episode, Adé Ben-Salahuddin, an evolutionary biologist in training, reflects on how his connection with birds has changed over the years. The simple fact that birds are the only living dinosaurs left was what drew him to birds for a long time. He would share that fact with visitors on guided tours of the fossil collections at his local museum. During COVID, the museum closed for renovation, so Adé began working at a warehouse instead, surrounded by the sounds of whirring machines and beeping scanners. More recently, he has been visiting a local pond that hosts many species of birds and has developed an appreciation for them as living dinosaurs.

This week is Black Birders Week. Learn how to participate in Black Birders Week here and by following #BlackBirdersWeek on social media.

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Jun 02, 2022
Urban Birding with Deja Perkins

In this episode, urban ecologist Deja Perkins talks about how many bird species live right within bustling cities. Whether you’re on your porch, at your local park, or the parking lot of your favorite store, you can find birds. Deja suggests taking five minutes to focus your attention on birds. Look up in the sky, along power lines and the tops of buildings. Close your eyes and listen — past the sounds of traffic — for the songs of nearby birds. 

This week is Black Birders Week. Learn how to participate in Black Birders Week here and by following #BlackBirdersWeek on social media.

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Jun 01, 2022
Sheridan Alford on Birding and Mental Health

Sheridan Alford helps organize Black Birders Week, which celebrates Black people who love birds with a week of interactive events. She’s passionate about the mental health benefits of birding, especially for people who have experienced trauma. Sheridan says that sitting and journaling about what you observe can help you feel grounded. Becoming aware of the birds living around you can help you tap into their resilience in a changing world. Learn how to participate in Black Birders Week here.

May 31, 2022
Spark Bird: Dara Wilson and the Blue-gray Tanager

While Dara Wilson was working at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in D.C., she introduced visitors to the Amazonia exhibit. She would describe the song of a bird she’d never had the chance to see in the wild, the Blue-gray Tanager. But when Dara moved to Panama, she heard the song that she knew by heart already. Encountering the Blue-gray Tanager in its natural habitat inspired her to keep learning about birds — and to share that knowledge with others as an educator. Dara helps organize Black Birders Week. Find out how you can participate here.

May 30, 2022
The Black Heron

The canopy feeding method used by the Black Heron, also known as the Black Egret, is an impressive trick. It spreads its wings out like it's mimicking an umbrella and waits. Unsuspecting fish think this is shade from vegetation and a safe place to hide — and that is when the bird strikes! This pitch-black heron creates canopies in shallow open waters and seasonally flooded grasslands through Sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar. Culturally, herons are seen as sacred messengers and symbols of prosperity and good fortune. The Black Heron is the bird chosen to represent this year’s Black Birders Week, which begins today. Learn how to participate in this year’s events here.

May 29, 2022
Celebrating Female Bird Day

In 2019, several co-workers at the National Audubon Society formed a team for the World Series of Birding that focused on identifying female birds. Called the Galbatrosses, they sought to highlight how female birds have been understudied and unfairly written off as quieter and less interesting. Since then, the Galbatrosses have led events about IDing female birds and held the first Female Bird Day over Memorial Day weekend in 2020. Learn more at

May 28, 2022
Limpkin - Bird of the Swamp

It's dawn on a spring day in the Big Cypress Swamp of Florida. Mist rises from quiet water into Spanish moss hanging from the cypress branches. A Limpkin is foraging for apple snails. When it touches a big, round shell, it grabs it quickly and pulls it from the water. Then, moving to solid ground, the Limpkin positions the shell, and using the curved tip of its lower mandible, it scissors loose the operculum and pulls out the snail. Learn more at

May 27, 2022
Ospreys and Baling Twine

Each year, two Ospreys known as Charlie and Charlotte nest near the Owl Research Institute in Montana. A webcam of their nest gives people an intimate glimpse into their lives. In 2021, Charlie brought some baling twine into their nest. Baling twine is a plastic string used to bind hay and straw. When brought into a nest, chicks can get fatally tangled — including as many as 10% of Osprey chicks. Fortunately, there are organizations working to protect Osprey chicks from baling twine. Learn more at

May 26, 2022
Night Voices - Nightjars

As darkness descends on a May evening, the voices of many birds go quiet. But for some birds, especially those known as nightjars, the music is just beginning! An Eastern Whip-poor-will shouts out its name. The call of a Common Poorwill echoes across a canyon. A Common Pauraque calls from the thorn scrub. A Buff-collared Nightjar repeats its Spanish nickname, Tucuchillo. And a Chuck-will’s-widow like this one calls from a woodland. Learn more at

May 25, 2022
Songbirds Teach Each Other Tricks

In the UK for years, milk came in bottles with foil caps. Great Tits, a common songbird, learned how to peck through the foil. The skill spread. But how? Researchers trained Great Tits in different ways of opening a box and re-released them. Knowledge of how to open the box spread rapidly, with most birds copying the trained bird in their group. In a follow-up study, the researchers made one method of opening the box more effective. Many birds quickly switched to the better method, suggesting the tits can stand up to peer pressure if they see there’s a better way of doing things. Learn more at

May 24, 2022
Singing Sandpipers

We've all seen sandpipers foraging busily on mudflats or at the ocean's edge. But this Lesser Yellowlegs often carols from the top of a tall conifer in its nesting territory in Alaska. The name "sandpiper" actually comes from the voices of these birds, rather than from their long-billed probing in the sand. While the name refers in particular to the birds' short "piped" -- or whistled -- calls, a number of sandpipers are surprisingly good singers. Learn more at

May 23, 2022
Saving Snags for Red-headed Woodpeckers

Red-headed Woodpeckers excavate cavities in large, dead trees called snags. Yet, over much of the Red-head's range, snags are frequently cut down as unsightly, or because they make good firewood. There are ways we can help the Red-headed Woodpecker -- and many other woodpeckers, too. The key is to leave snags intact. If you must cut down a tree on your property, consider leaving the lower trunk as a snag - a veritable condominium for wildlife!

In the meantime, consider creating a nestbox for a woodpecker. Learn more at

May 22, 2022
Bird Sound Types and Qualities Part III

When it's just too hard to see the bird you hear, let your ears take over! Listen for the qualities of the sound as well as the pattern. A flute-like and upward-spiraling sound is characteristic of this Swainson's Thrush. Quite a contrast to the plaintively whistled notes of a Black-capped Chickadee. Maybe your bird has a raspy quality to its trill, like a Willow Flycatcher, while the ratchety song of a Marsh Wren cuts its way through the dense vegetation of a cattail marsh. Learn more at

May 21, 2022
Ridgway's Rails on San Francisco Bay

Once abundant around San Francisco Bay, the Ridgway’s Rail — formerly known as the California Clapper Rail — is now endangered. In the 19th Century, unregulated hunting plundered the species. In the 20th Century, rampant development reduced salt marsh habitat by 85%. But in the 21st Century, the Ridgway’s Rail has allies. Restoration is under way to increase healthy saltmarsh habitat for these endangered birds. Also, efforts to control the number of predatory cats are improving the chances for the Ridgway’s Rail to survive. Learn more at

May 20, 2022
Haley Scott on Leading Bird Walks

Haley Scott leads bird walks with the Feminist Bird Club in New York City. And she tries to make her walks comfortable for newcomers and experienced birders alike. “We’re all in the process together, we’re all learning the birds together,” she says. She values the inclusive approach of the Feminist Bird Club and makes sure that participants, especially people from historically excluded backgrounds, feel welcome on her walks. Learn more about the Feminist Bird Club here

May 19, 2022
Phainopeplas Glisten

A slim, sleek bird with a spiky crest, Phainopepla comes from the Greek for “shining cloak.” The name refers to the male’s glistening, inky black feathers, which are set off by piercing red eyes. And if the Greek name isn’t helping you picture it, a common nickname might: the goth cardinal. From February to April, they nest in pairs in the arid Sonoran Desert. From May to July, they form nesting colonies in leafy oak and sycamore canyons to escape the summer heat. Learn more at

May 18, 2022
Bring Birds Back Season 2

Last year, Tenijah Hamilton discovered her love of birds – and found out that birds are in trouble. On a mission to help bring birds back, Tenijah joined bird enthusiasts from different backgrounds, identities, and communities to learn and share simple, everyday actions people can take to help the birds that bring us all joy. Follow Tenijah's journey as Bring Birds Back returns for a second season on May 18th -  she brings more tips and helpful information about what we can do to make the world a better place for birds and humans.

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May 17, 2022
Preening 101

If a bird’s feathers get too dried out, they become brittle. To prevent that from happening, most birds have a gland located above the base of the tail that produces oil. They use their beaks to massage oil from the gland into their feathers to keep them supple. A bird first grips a feather in its beak near the feather’s base. Then it slides its beak along the length of the feather toward the tip. This action smoothes together the tiny structures—called barbules—that make up the feather, while also removing dirt and small parasites. Learn more at

May 17, 2022
Rock Climbing Among the Peregrines

Eagle Cliff in New Hampshire’s Franconia Notch State Park is an important nesting site for Peregrine Falcons. Each year, popular climbing routes in the area close temporarily to give nesting falcons their space. After peregrines disappeared from the northeast due to the pesticide DDT, Eagle Cliff was the first natural rock face to host a successful peregrine nest. Now, state agencies and New Hampshire Audubon work with rock climbing groups to decide when to close cliffs in the summer.  Learn more at

May 16, 2022
Gannets and Dolphins

Northern Gannets, fish-eating seabirds, dive headfirst into the ocean at speeds of up to 60 miles an hour, pursuing their prey. Sometimes, they get help. Dolphins herd fish into dense, frantic concentrations near the surface, while gannets take advantage and plunge into the shoals from aloft. Scientists call this a multispeciesfeeding association, a frequent phenomenon on the ocean’s surface. This may seem like evidence of cooperation between species, but it’s more about opportunity. Kittiwakes and gulls, as well as seals and whales, may join in, too. Learn more at

May 15, 2022
Morning on the Bayou

Cypress trees draped with Spanish moss rise from still, dark water. A Barred Owl hoots mightily as an alligator slithers by. It's morning on the bayou. Bayous are found in much of the Southeast from Arkansas to Alabama, across flat land that drains into the Mississippi River. A bayou's luxuriant wetness supports lush growth of trees and shrubs. These in turn offer secluded nesting for a broad range of birds, including the Anhinga, the Yellow-throated Warbler, and this Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. Learn more at

May 14, 2022
Bird Facts Stranger Than Fiction

Novelist Kira Jane Buxton has written several books about a pet crow navigating a post-apocalyptic world. But her writing is full of real-world bird behaviors. She has taken inspiration from how sparrows line their nests with cigarette stubs — which can deter mites — and many other bits of animal trivia. “I maintain that anything I took liberties with, in terms of the more fantasy or fantastical elements of the novel, they're not half as exciting as what's really happening in nature,” she says. Learn more at

May 13, 2022
A Marsh With More Than One Purpose

The Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary in Northwest California is an important stop along the Pacific Flyway, one of the four main routes for bird migration through North America. Visitors are sometimes surprised to learn that this wildlife sanctuary is also the city of Arcata’s wastewater treatment facility. By combining conventional wastewater treatment to natural wetlands, the city has created habitat homes and migratory resting places for over 300 species of birds, including many shorebirds.  Learn more at

May 12, 2022
Tiniest Bird on the Continent

The tiniest bird in continental North America: the Calliope Hummingbird - a 3-1/4-inch jewel, weighing in at just a tenth of an ounce. These birds migrate north each spring from Western Mexico. From its perch, a male Calliope Hummingbird surveys its territory. This exquisite bird was named for the Greek muse of epic poetry, and it's the smallest long-distance avian migrant in the world. Learn more at

May 11, 2022
Ada Limón: The Hurting Kind

Poet Ada Limón often writes about birds, and her new book, The Hurting Kind, is no exception. Birds are a throughline in the book — between the seasons, from childhood to present, and knowing and unknowing. Two of her poems examine opposite sides of the “knowing/unknowing” coin. You can read many more fantastic poems, with and without birds, in Ada Limón's new book, The Hurting Kind.

May 10, 2022
BirdNoir - That Raptor’s an Impostor!

In this episode of BirdNoir, the Private Eye gets a call from his friend Frank, his eyes and ears in the neighborhood. He’s hearing a Red-shouldered Hawk call, but there’s no hawk in sight. Going through the lineup of usual suspects found in backyards, they examine the surprising talent for mimicry found among common birds and finally put the finger on the trickster.  Learn more at

May 09, 2022
Wood Ducks Succeed

Your eye may be drawn to the gorgeous male Wood Duck, but it is the call of the modestly plumaged female you’ll hear. This call tells the male where his mate is, important as the pair stays together through much of the winter and spring. Wood Ducks are among a small number of North American waterfowl that nest in cavities, and many of them nest in boxes we provide for them. Learn more at

May 08, 2022
The Perfect Nestbox

Many native cavity-nesters - including this Black-capped Chickadee - will nest in an artificial birdhouse, or nestbox. Look for a nestbox that's plain wood. If the birdhouse comes with a perch, remove it. It just makes it easier for a predator bird to land and go after the eggs or young. Here's the important part: the entrance hole should be 1-1/8 inches. No more, no less, exactly 1-1/8 inches. That size will let native birds in, and keep non-natives out. Now hang the nestbox out of the way of predators. You can buy a nestbox - or build your own! Learn more at

May 07, 2022
Thick-billed Longspur

It can feel like there’s nowhere to hide in the shortgrass prairie. But the Thick-billed Longspur calls this place home. The bird’s burbling song helps create the high plains’ soundscape. The species was formerly named McCown’s Longspur after a Confederate general who participated in genocide against Native Americans. In 2020, after pressure from the “Bird Names for Birds” movement and others, the species was renamed for its thick bill, which is pale on females and black on breeding males.  Learn more at

May 06, 2022
Which Bird Has the Most Feathers

In general, the bigger the bird, the higher the number of feathers. Someone counted the feathers on a Tundra Swan and came up with 25,216. At least 80% were on the swan’s neck. Penguins, on the other hand, have lots of small feathers all over their bodies. The largest species is the Emperor Penguin, and one project counted around 80,000 feathers on a single bird. That’s nearly sixty per square inch – keeping the penguin insulated and waterproof in harsh climates. But the most feathered creature ever? It may have been a dinosaur! Learn more at

May 05, 2022
The Wild Parrots of San Francisco

Flocks of Cherry-headed Conures, a species native to South America, are now found throughout San Francisco. While a local legend claims that a pet shop owner introduced them by burning the shop down, it’s more likely that that a few of these loud-mouths exasperated their owners until they “accidentally” left a window open. Sadly, wild Cherry-headed Conures are falling ill from rodent poison. A nonprofit, Mickaboo, adopts out healed rescues.  Learn more at

May 04, 2022
Ponderosa Pine Savanna

In a Western ponderosa pine savanna, tall pines dot an open, grassy landscape. A Western Bluebird flits from a gnarly branch, as this Cassin's Finch belts out a rapid song. The trees here grow singly or in small stands. Upslope, the pines become denser, mixing with firs. Downhill, the trees give way to an open grassland. The open structure of this savanna, found on mountain slopes from the Rockies to the Cascades, results from recurring natural fires. Fast-moving blazes sweep through, burning the low vegetation but sparing the larger trees, which are protected by very thick bark. After a fire, grass and wildflowers re-grow quickly. Learn more at

May 03, 2022
Noppadol Paothong on Conservation Photography

Growing up in Thailand, Noppadol Paothong loved the outdoors, and began learning about cameras at just eight or nine years old. He came to the U.S. to study graphic design, but the woman who’s now his wife encouraged him to pursue photography instead. While working at a daily newspaper, he took his first photos of Greater Prairie-Chickens. He’s now a staff photographer for the Missouri Department of Conservation and has produced two books about species of grouse that depend on grasslands. Learn more at

May 02, 2022
What’s a Beak Made Of?

Bird beaks, or bills, come in many shapes and sizes. And birds use them for just about everything: to collect food, preen, fight, court, chop holes in trees, weave nests, and more. In order for a bird to fly, its beak must weigh as little as possible. Beaks are covered with a sheath of a tough material called keratin, which grows continuously because a beak wears down with use. Learn more at

May 01, 2022
Cactus Wren Nest Orientation

Cactus Wrens, which may nest several times between March and September, carefully orient their nests in tune with the season. These bulky twig structures have a side entrance that curves toward the inner chamber. When building a nest for the hot months, the wren faces the opening to receive the afternoon breeze. By contrast, a Cactus Wren building a nest in early March orients the entrance away from the cold winds of that season, keeping the chicks snug and warm. Learn more at

Apr 30, 2022
Joyce Clement: Birds Punctuate the Days

Poet Joyce Clement writes haiku, a traditional Japanese form. While it's often thought of as having three lines with 5-7-5 syllables, Joyce says that the key elements of any haiku are a fragment and a phrase spoken in a single breath. In this sequence of haiku, Joyce juxtaposes punctuation marks with images of birds, drawing on their similar appearances, as well as meaning. Learn more at

Apr 29, 2022
Birds Dress for Spring

It's spring! And for many birds, a time to look their best to attract a new mate. This American Goldfinch has recently molted. Its old, worn-down feathers have fallen out, and new ones have grown in. When goldfinches molt in the fall, they lose these brightly colored feathers. Their winter camouflage helps them blend in with the drab background of the season. Learn more at

Apr 28, 2022
Puffin Bills Glow

Puffins are known for their flashy bills, striped like a giant piece of candy-corn. New research has found that the bills of Atlantic Puffins glow brightly under ultraviolet blacklights. Neon, curved streaks appeared between the different colored segments of a puffin’s bill in this lighting. It’s possible that the UV highlights help the birds further stand out to potential mates. For the experiment, researchers made special puffin sunglasses to protect the birds’ eyes. Learn more at

Apr 27, 2022
Making a Home Among the Saguaros

In the arid Arizona desert, where cacti thrive but trees are scarce, the Gila Woodpecker and Gilded Flicker carve out nest cavities in living saguaros. Tall, old saguaros may be pocked with twenty or more nest holes, bearing witness to decades of woodpecker families. The woodpeckers excavate a new nest every year, leaving the old, now-empty cavities behind. But they don't stay empty for long. Elf Owls, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls, Purple Martins, and Brown-crested Flycatchers all find the slightly used woodpecker cavities superb nest sites. Learn more at

Apr 26, 2022
Sooty Grouse are Hooting

In spring, a male Sooty Grouse calls from a concealed perch high in a tall conifer. Known as “hooting,” it’s a very low-pitched, five or six-note thunking sound. When a female cackles in response, the male flies down and displays to her by strutting and fanning his tail. Females are camouflaged in shades of gray and brown. One of the best times to see a Sooty Grouse is mid-summer, when the female escorts her chicks to the edge of a trail or roadside to search for food. Learn more at

Apr 25, 2022
Seabirds Drink Salt Water

Seabirds have no problem drinking sea water. The salt they take in is absorbed and moves through their blood stream into a pair of salt glands above their eyes. The densely salty fluid is excreted from the nostrils and runs down grooves in the bill. As the drop gets larger, the bird shakes its head to send the salt back to the ocean. A seabird's skull has a pair of grooves for the salt glands right over the eyes.  Learn more at

Apr 24, 2022
Sharp-tailed Grouse on a Lek

During spring at Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge in North Dakota, male Sharp-tailed Grouse  - like the one pictured here - perform their elaborate mating dances on a matted patch of ground called a lek. They stomp their feet, extend their wings, and zip around the lek. Then, in an instant, they stop – stock-still. All this to impress the female grouse observing from the sidelines! This wondrous, strange display is rare. Throughout the world, very few species of birds, perhaps fewer than 100, use leks when breeding.   Learn more at

Apr 23, 2022
A Small Park That Has What Birds Need

Washington Square Park in Manhattan is just 10 acres. But Georgia Silvera Seamans, who leads wildlife surveys there, says there’s a spot that draws in many birds because of its well-developed forest canopy. Georgia is the director of an organization called Washington Square Park Eco Projects that provides environmental education and advocates for the ecological value of the park. She collects stories from city dwellers about their experiences with birds on her podcast, Your Bird Story.

Apr 22, 2022
An Enormous Eagle Evolves

Evolution on islands can produce unusually large species. Haast’s Eagle lived on the islands now known as New Zealand. With a wingspan of 9 feet and weighing up to 30 pounds, the eagle hunted the moa — a flightless bird that stood over ten feet tall. The eagles probably vanished not long after their moa prey went extinct, about 500 to 600 years ago. A site called the Cave of the Eagle contains Maori paintings of Haast’s Eagles, preserving the legacy of this immense raptor. Learn more at

Apr 21, 2022
Surviving Hail Storms

As it began to hail, Marlon Inniss saw several Canada Geese doing something odd. Rather than trying to shield their heads, the geese pointed their bills skyward, directly into the path of the hail. The geese were pointing the smallest surface area of their sensitive bills, the narrow tip, into the hail — minimizing the impact. Inniss’s video of the behavior helped reaffirm an observation made by naturalist Aldo Leopold one hundred years before of Northern Pintails adopting the same stance. Learn more at

Apr 20, 2022
A Cardinal That's Half Male, Half Female

In Texas, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, people have reported seeing Northern Cardinals that are red on one side and brown on the other, indicating that a bird is half male and half female. This anomaly occurs in other species of birds, as well, not just cardinals. Insects, too! Scientists call these bilateral gynandromorphs. Learn more at

Apr 19, 2022
BirdNoir: The Wild Tom Turkey

In this episode of BirdNoir, the private eye gets a call from H. Jon Benjamin about unusual Wild Turkey behavior. A male turkey (known as a “tom”) won’t leave his car alone. He keeps tapping his beak on the car. Then the turkey starts circling the house and looking in all the windows. The private eye reveals how things look from the turkey’s perspective, which points the way to a possible solution. Learn more at

Apr 18, 2022
Wood Buffalo National Park - Birthplace of Whooping Cranes

In Canada, where Alberta meets The Northwest Territories, lies Wood Buffalo National Park, where endangered Whooping Cranes dance, nest, and raise their young. It's a "place of superlatives,” says park superintendent Rob Kent. “Visitors can see pristine ecosystems, 5,000 bison, 150-pound wolves, and the largest freshwater delta in North America.” When summer ends and the juvenile cranes are able to fly, they migrate 2,700 miles to their wintering grounds on the Gulf Coast of Texas. Learn more at

Apr 17, 2022
Nocturnal Migration of Songbirds

If this week's bright full moon pulls you outside, pause for a moment and listen. You might hear migrating songbirds overhead. Most songbirds migrate at night, when fewer predators are out. The migrants stop, feed, and rest during the day. However, many scientists believe that the main reason songbirds migrate at night is that the stars help orient them on their journey. Learn more at

Apr 16, 2022
Audio Postcard from the Kyiv Zoo

Today, we’re sharing a glimpse of what it was like in mid-March at the bird exhibits in the Kyiv Zoo. Workers at the zoo stayed to take care of the animals during the Russian invasion. They worked long days, doing what it took to keep a zoo running: cleaning stalls and preparing food. They returned to bomb shelters to sleep at night. Julia Vakulenko of the Kyiv Zoo shared recordings of her coworkers caring for the zoo’s birds. Learn more at

Apr 15, 2022
How Cliff Swallows Build a Nest

When Cliff Swallows arrive on the breeding grounds in North America, the dirty work begins. The swallows scoop up mud in their beaks and carefully build a gourd-shaped nest with a tapered opening. They add a lining of dry grass to keep eggs warm. It takes days of work and a thousand mouthfuls of mud to finish a single nest—and it’s just one part of a large colony. Learn more at

Apr 15, 2022
Rachel Carson and Silent Spring

Among the most welcome features of spring is the renewal of bird song. Can you imagine a spring without the voices of birds? The silence would -- as they say -- be deafening, the absence of their songs like the loss of one of our primary senses. Rachel Carson's 1962 book, Silent Spring, helped found the modern environmental movement. When you hear the birds (like this Spotted Towhee or its cousin, the Eastern Towhee) sing this spring, remember Rachel Carson, and be grateful. You can learn more at

Apr 14, 2022
Donika Kelly and the Bowerbird

A number of years ago, poet Donika Kelly was trying to figure out how to date, when she saw a nature documentary about a bowerbird. Male Satin Bowerbirds will gather all the blue items they can find, build a beautiful structure called a bower, and do a dance to try to woo the females. Donika found herself wishing that human courtship had such a clear structure, and wrote a series of poems inspired by the bowerbird. Learn more at

Apr 13, 2022
Kinglet Fireworks

Most of the time, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet is neither ruby nor regal. A tiny songbird washed in faded olive-green, the male shows a hint of crimson atop of his head — hardly a ruby crown. But don’t forsake the kinglet for flashier birds. When courting a female or dueling with another male, the kinglet exposes those ruby feathers, and his crown glows with the feathery fireworks that give the bird its name. Now is the time to look for kinglets, as they migrate north across much of the continent toward breeding sites in remote evergreen woods. Learn more at

Apr 12, 2022
Planting Oaks for Birds

Oak trees are an important resource for birds finding insects to feed their young. It takes thousands of caterpillars from an oak tree to raise a single nest of baby birds. By planting an oak species native to your area, you can help ensure that birds are able to raise their young successfully.

Homegrown National Park® is a grassroots call-to-action to regenerate diversity and ecosystem function by planting native plants and creating new ecological networks. Learn more at

Apr 11, 2022
Burrowing Belted Kingfisher

The Belted Kingfisher dashes through the air, warning intruders with its rapid-fire, rattling call. In spring, the best places to see Belted Kingfishers are along sandy banks -- they are busy digging burrows, where they will nest. The holes typically reach three to six feet into the bank, but some nesting holes can extend fifteen feet. Learn more at

Apr 10, 2022
You Could Take a Pigeon to the Movies

A movie runs at 24 frames per second, just right for humans to sense as normal speed. Pigeons process the visual world several times faster. The frantic car chase that puts us at the edge of our seats would likely appear—to a pigeon—more like a slideshow or PowerPoint. A bird’s rapid-fire perception is vital to its staying alive, whether it’s hunting fast-moving prey or eluding speedy predators. From the pigeon’s perspective, humans live in the slow lane. Learn more at

Apr 09, 2022
I Dream of Grosbeaks

Science educator Chidi Paige was working hard preparing her students for the World Series of Birding. Chidi’s students were studying with the goal of identifying the most birds in the kid’s competition. And then something happened that made Chidi wonder if they were thinking about birds a little too much: one of the students began seeing a Rose-breasted Grosbeak in her dreams. The dream ended up having unexpected relevance in the competition. Learn more at

Apr 08, 2022
Unlikely Places to Go Birding

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. Learn more at

Apr 07, 2022
The Cool, Rugged Life of a Snow Bunting

The Arctic is still wintry when male Snow Buntings return to nesting areas in April. There's a big benefit to arriving early enough to claim a prime nest cavity in a rock face or under boulders, where it will be safer from predators. Nesting in chilly rock cavities means extra care must be taken to keep eggs and nestlings warm. That’s why, unlike many other bird species, female Snow Buntings never come off the nest. The males bring them food, giving them more continuous time on the eggs. Learn more at

Apr 06, 2022
Ada Limón and the Birds of Kentucky

When poet Ada Limón moved to Kentucky with her husband for his work, she was having trouble adjusting to her new home. To connect with the place, she began learning about the local birds and plants. She found comfort in the idea of the nearly omnipresent state bird, the Northern Cardinal. That inspired a poem in which the state bird becomes a metaphor for love. Learn more at

Apr 05, 2022
Adopt a Tree to Save the Birds

Many birds depend on caterpillars often found on trees lining city sidewalks. But few insects spend their whole lives on the tree: the next stage is in the leaves and soil under the tree. In cities, that habitat is often compacted and leafless. By adopting a tree and creating a “soft landing” for caterpillars, anyone can help keep birds supplied with the insects they need to survive.

Homegrown National Park® is a grassroots call-to-action to regenerate diversity and ecosystem function by planting native plants and creating new ecological networks. Learn more at

Apr 04, 2022
Walk Down an Arroyo

Arroyo means "stream" in Spanish. With mesquite, yucca, and cactus along their edges, arroyos in the Southwest fill with water only a few times a year, mostly during the heavy rains of late summer. There's a remarkable diversity of wildlife here, including this Pyrrhuloxia. Birds here are most active in the morning, except those that are nighttime specialists. The sounds of life in an arroyo are magical, day and night. Learn more at

Apr 03, 2022
Hovering with Horned Larks

Horned Larks rival meadowlarks as the most colorful birds of North American grasslands. They live in prairies, fields, and tundra, but agriculture and development now intrude on many of the Horned Lark's traditional nesting areas. The farmland Conservation Reserve Program encourages agricultural landowners to plant resource-conserving vegetation. This practice protects topsoil and provides habitat for birds like the Horned Lark, as well as other wildlife. Learn more at

Apr 02, 2022
Bird...NOT! with H. Jon Benjamin

During the COVID-19 pandemic, actor H. Jon Benjamin began sharing his experiences with birds in his “Morning Bird Report” videos on social media. For April Fools Day, BirdNote has invited him to test out his birding-by-sound skills on a one-of-a-kind quiz show: Bird…NOT! Jon has to guess whether the sound is a bird or not — which isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Learn more at

Apr 01, 2022
Those Raucous Jays

A raucous call and a bold flash of blue at your feeder means a jay has arrived. East of the Rockies, your visitor is quite likely a Blue Jay (left). Out west, you're probably seeing a Steller's Jay. These daring blue dandies sound the alarm, announcing the approach of a predator. Often the loud call sends the predator packing. If not, a family of jays may gang up and mob the intruder. And, if that doesn't work, the jay may mimic the call of a Bald Eagle or Red-tailed Hawk -- birds at the very top of the pecking order -- to dissuade the invader. Learn more at

Mar 31, 2022
Listening From Inside the Egg

Shorebird chicks hatch into a dangerous world, so they need to be vigilant from the start. Researchers in Australia noticed that some shorebird chicks began chirping in their final days in the egg. The chirps fell silent when the researchers played recordings of a Little Raven, which hunts for young birds. The finding suggests the chicks are listening carefully and may be able to tell threatening sounds from non-threatening ones. Learn more at

Mar 30, 2022
Montezuma Oropendola - The Golden Pendulum

In a clearing where an ancient Mayan city once stood, the Montezuma Oropendola perches and sings. His courtship display is astonishing: he swings by his feet and sings, his tail describing a golden pendulum - the very source of his name in Spanish - oropendola. Learn more at

Mar 29, 2022
Beautiful and Beneficial Gardening for Birds

Buying enough birdseed to keep all your backyard birds satisfied can run up a big bill. Homegrown National Park® co-founder Douglas Tallamy says that growing native plants in your garden can provide a balanced diet for birds. While there’s a misconception that native plants lead to a messy garden, Tallamy explains that native wildflowers, shrubs and trees can provide both splashes of color and nutritious meals for birds.

Homegrown National Park® is a grassroots call-to-action to regenerate diversity and ecosystem function by planting native plants and creating new ecological networks. Learn more at

Mar 28, 2022
Eagles Rebuild

Bald Eagles build large stick nests in tall trees. These nests endure rough treatment. Rambunctious chicks pull sticks out and flap madly, holding on with their feet, before they fledge. Wind buffets the nest year round. But eagles reuse their nests year after year. Adult eagles break off dead limbs and carry them back to their nests. Bald Eagles have been known to carry sticks more than a mile to their nest. Learn more at

Mar 27, 2022
Thirsty Hummingbirds

Here they come! Rufous Hummingbirds, Black-chins, Broad-bills, Ruby-throats like this one, and others are migrating north after a hot, dry winter in sunny Mexico or Central America. And they’re ready for a drink. You can help these thirsty birds by hanging a hummingbird feeder filled with the right kind of nectar. Select a feeder that you can easily clean on the inside, and one that has plenty of red to attract the birds. Then fill it with sugar water made by dissolving one part sugar in four parts water (use plain table sugar — no honey or sugar substitutes allowed). And please — no red food coloring! Learn more at

Mar 26, 2022
Singing with Fox Sparrows

A modest thicket of trees along a street can be the perfect place to hear one of the earliest bird songs of spring: the Fox Sparrow. You can hear their loud, spirited songs from dense vegetation throughout much of the U.S. The easternmost birds have the rufous color of a Red Fox. Others found further west are a mix of brown, rust and gray. The stocky sparrow reveals itself by vigorously kicking the leaf litter with both feet. Learn more at

Mar 25, 2022
Rivers of Birds

One of the world champions of long-distance migration is the Arctic Tern. Arctic Terns nest across the far northern reaches of the continent during our summer, then fly south to Antarctica for the rest of the year. Some will circle the polar ice-pack before heading north again, completing a total round trip of more than 50,000 miles. Every year. Learn more at

Mar 24, 2022
The Brown Thrasher's Never-Ending Songbook

The Northern Mockingbird isn’t the only mimic bird in town. Brown Thrashers also learn songs from nearby birds and add them to their repertoire. The species has been documented singing over eleven hundred different songs: a mix of imitations and invented little melodies. While mockingbirds usually repeat a song or phrase three or more times before moving on, Brown Thrashers tend to repeat a phrase only twice. Learn more at

Mar 23, 2022
Dawn Song - Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson: "The Birds begun at Four o'clock..." As the first rays of sunlight fill the trees on a spring morning, a symphony of birdsong erupts. As early morning light extinguishes the stars, male birds begin to belt out their songs. One of the magical gifts of spring is the dawn song. Early in the morning, sparrows, chickadees, thrushes, finches, wrens, blackbirds, and warblers - like this Yellow Warbler - all sing at once. Learn more at

Mar 22, 2022
Creating Bird Habitat at Home

One of the biggest threats to birds is the decline in biodiversity due to habitat loss — and the traditional, manicured lawn isn’t helping. Growing native plants in your yard allows you to protect birds at home, says ecologist Douglas Tallamy, who co-founded an organization called Homegrown National Park® to help people transform their lawns into havens for wildlife.

Homegrown National Park® is a grassroots call-to-action to regenerate diversity and ecosystem function by planting native plants and creating new ecological networks. Learn more at

Mar 21, 2022
Celebrating the Vernal Equinox

The vernal equinox, the first day of spring. The moment when the sun is directly above the equator, and day and night are nearly equal all over the world. Yet birds sense the growing hours of daylight through a surge of hormones. It’s time to sing! Both science and folklore tie spring to the renewal of nature, as the world awakens from the long cold winter. Listen carefully, and you might hear the bubbling song of a tiny Ruby-crowned Kinglet, or a Bewick’s Wren tuning up, or a towhee — like this beautiful Eastern Towhee — shouting out its whistled notes. Learn more at

Mar 20, 2022
Australia's Rainforest Birds

The rainforests of Eastern and Northeastern Australia harbor many species of birds found almost nowhere else. This Eastern Whipbird — which is more often heard than seen — hangs out in the dense understory. Easier to lay eyes on is the large, pigeon-like Wompoo Fruit-Dove. Feathered in a stunning combination of green, purple, and yellow, this bird is clearly named for its voice. And a pig-like grunting on the forest floor tells us we’re in the company of the Southern Cassowary. Its helmet — called a casque — makes it look as much like a dinosaur as any living bird. Learn more at

Mar 19, 2022
Female Condors Have Offspring Without Males

A captive breeding program has helped set California Condors on the path to recovery. But when biologists reviewed the family tree for the breeding program, they found a big surprise. Two chicks had DNA that linked them perfectly to their mothers but didn’t match a single male. They arose through parthenogenesis, developing from unfertilized eggs without sperm from a male. These condors are the first case of parthenogenesis in a wild bird species where the females had access to fertile males. Learn more at

Mar 18, 2022
Birds Talk, People Squawk

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.  Watch a video interview with Sparkie Williams and learn more about him at the British-Library.UK. Learn more at

Mar 17, 2022
T and Dart

Author Kira Jane Buxton loves crows — so much that she’s written two novels about a crow named S.T. navigating the extinction of humanity. When she was writing those books, she tried befriending the crows in her neighborhood, and wound up bonding with a pair of them. She named them T and Dart. T, the female, is clumsy and playful. Dart, her mate, is more aloof towards Kira but always shares his food with T. This crow couple helped inspire the fictional crows in Kira’s books. Learn more at

Mar 16, 2022
Black-necked Stilt - The Bird with Outrageous Legs

Visit a shallow wetland in summer, and you might see this slender, black-and-white shorebird with outrageous red legs. The Black-necked Stilt uses its long legs for wading as it feeds on tiny insects and crustaceans on the surface of the water. Stilts are sensitive to drought, which has increased with global climate change. But they readily move to new breeding areas and respond quickly when new wetlands are created.  Learn more at

Mar 15, 2022
BirdNoir: Vultures Come to Town

On this episode of BirdNoir, the Mayor of Bricksville calls the Private Eye with a bit of a problem: “several dozen giant bird-punks loitering on top of City Hall!” The detective figures out the most likely reason why these birds have chosen the top of a building as their hangout, and reveals a side of the story that the mayor hadn’t considered before. Learn more at

Mar 14, 2022
Sound Escapes - Learning to Be a Deep Listener

Gordon Hempton is a sound recordist who has spent his life capturing the sounds of the natural world. He’s learned to be a deep listener, kind of like a sonic meditator. And after a lifetime of traveling the world and listening and recording, he still is amazed by what he hears. Find the whole thing at

Mar 13, 2022
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher: Little Bird with a Big Story

The slim, 4½-inch Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is found over much of the East and Midwest and in parts of the West, too. It actively searches trees and bushes for small bugs to eat, often hovering briefly and flaring a long black-and-white tail. Learn more at

Mar 12, 2022
Danielle Whittaker and the Mystery of Bird Scent

When biologist Danielle Whittaker started studying bird odors, some scientists tried to discourage her, claiming that birds can’t smell. But that only deepened her curiosity. Once, she caught a whiff of a cowbird, which smelled to her like sugar cookies. Danielle and her colleagues studied Dark-eyed Juncos and found that they produce many odors that help influence breeding behavior. Learn more in Danielle Whittaker’s new book, The Secret Perfume of Birds: Uncovering the Science of Avian Scent.

Mar 11, 2022
Identify Bird Sounds on Your Phone

An online tool called BirdNET uses artificial intelligence to identify bird songs and calls. And Cornell’s well-known Merlin Bird ID app now has sound ID, too. It’s as simple as opening the app, choosing “Sound ID,” and hitting record. It can pick out multiple species in the same recording. Learn more at

Mar 10, 2022
Geese Aloft: Flock Voices of March

Geese migrate north between February and April, making stopovers along the way to rest and eat. Most are bound for their breeding grounds in the far north. But we’ll hear them again soon, on their way back south in October. Click play and learn how to tell some North American species apart by sound! Learn more at

Mar 09, 2022
Games Make Bird ID Fun

When science educator Chidi Page began teaching her students how to identify birds, she wanted a way to engage kids and help them learn quickly. Unable to find one for sale, Chidi decided to make her own game. Similar to the game “Guess Who,” players ask questions about what the game’s characters look like, such as “Does your bird have a crest?” or “Does it have an eye ring?” Chidi named the game “Which Is It,” a phrase that sounded like an inquisitive bird call. Learn more at

Mar 08, 2022
Why a Gorget Glitters

A hummingbird's brilliant throat feathers are called a "gorget," a term applied in past centuries to the metallic swatch protecting the throat of a knight-in-armor. Light waves reflect and refract off the throat feathers, creating color in the manner of sun glinting off a film of oil on water. The gorget of this Rufous Hummingbird is stunning! Learn more at

Mar 07, 2022
Florida Scrub-Jay

Thousands of years ago, rising sea levels isolated much of the Florida peninsula as an island. During that long isolation, a unique oak-scrub ecosystem developed. The Florida Scrub-Jay is one of many special animals and plants that evolved with this habitat. Because they depend on acorns during winter, Florida Scrub-Jays can survive only in oak scrub. Populations have declined because the birds have lost much of their special habitat to citrus groves, pastures, and development. Happily, many birds are now protected by the Archbold Biological Station and other preserves. But there's still more to be done! Learn more at

Mar 06, 2022
House Finches - Red and Yellow

House Finches eat many kinds of seeds and fruits. A careful look at male House Finches at a feeder shows that, while most males show red feathering, some are decidedly more orange - and some even yellow. House Finches acquire their coloration from pigments known as carotenoids in the foods they eat. Learn more at

Mar 05, 2022
The Royal Pigeons

Despite their modern reputation, pigeons were once beloved by royalty. Akbar the Great, ruler of the Mughal Empire in the 16th Century, kept over 20,000 pigeons. Owning pigeons in parts of Europe was a privilege restricted to the nobility. Pigeon ownership became a flashpoint during the French Revolution, when commoners finally gained the right to raise pigeons. Learn more in Rosemary Mosco’s new book, A Pocket Guide to Pigeon Watching. Learn more at

Mar 04, 2022
Great Tinamou, Eerie Voice in the Jungle

The eerie sound of the Great Tinamou can be heard in the lowland jungle throughout much of Central and South America. Secretive — and almost impossible to see — Great Tinamous call early and late in the day. And their voices carry a long distance. Learn more at

Mar 03, 2022
The Warbler That Loves Pines

The Pine Warbler is one of the few warblers that make appearances at bird feeders. They live year round in pine forests of the southeast U.S. and several Caribbean islands. Early spring is a good time to see them migrating through cities in the Midwest and the East Coast. If there’s a pine or two nearby, look for them picking through pine needles for food. Their song, heard throughout the year, is a sweet-sounding trill. Learn more at

Mar 02, 2022
The Great Horned Owl Nest

When Great Horned Owl eggs hatch, the downy owlets are the size of newborn chickens. Their mother broods them day and night. A few weeks later, the owlets can be left alone while both adults resume hunting at twilight. Great Horned Owl young remain in the nest for about six weeks, then climb out onto nearby branches. They begin taking short flights at seven weeks, and can fly well at 9-10 weeks. Learn more at

Mar 01, 2022
White-tailed Hawks on the Texas Coastal Plain

The White-tailed Hawk thrives in the grassy plains of the Texas Coastal Plain, where many tropical species reach the northern limit of their ranges. White-tailed Hawks often hunt by kiting: hovering like a kite in the breeze with the wings held in a “V” above the body, dropping suddenly on their prey. When a grass fire breaks out, they hunt small animals fleeing from the fire’s edge. Learn more at

Feb 28, 2022
Nest Cavities - Book Early

Tree Swallows and bluebirds — like this Western Bluebird — are among the earliest northbound migrants to arrive, heralding spring a month before the equinox. These species will nest only in cavities, such as old woodpecker holes or man-made nestboxes. But the supply of specialized nest sites is limited, and competition is intense. By arriving early, these swallows and bluebirds improve their chances of securing unoccupied cavities. To learn more about building nestboxes, visit

Feb 27, 2022
Leaping with Sandhill Cranes

With a graceful leap, wings outstretched, Sandhill Cranes welcome the longer days. The stately cranes are courting, renewing an annual dance they perform in earnest as the days lengthen into spring. Sandhill Crane pairs remain together for life, and their spirited dance plays an essential role in reaffirming this bond. Learn more at

Feb 26, 2022
The Nasally Fish Crow

The harsh caws of American Crows are one of the most familiar bird calls in North America. Fish Crows sometimes join flocks of American Crows as they forage for food. The two crow species look similar, but have a distinct call that sounds a bit like an American Crow with a stuffy nose. The Fish Crow is found in much of the eastern U.S. and is spreading to new areas north and west to breed. Learn more at

Feb 25, 2022
Spark Bird: Rodney Stotts on Bringing Eagles Back to DC

Rodney Stotts is a master falconer who teaches people of all ages about raptors. In the 1990s, he helped reintroduce eagles to the Anacostia River, which runs through Washington, DC. As part of the Earth Conservation Corps, Rodney helped take care of eagle chicks sent from Wisconsin, where the species was more plentiful. Now, Bald Eagles consistently nest along the river, meaning that people living nearby can enjoy them. Learn more at

Feb 24, 2022
Flying with Birds and Bats

Bats and birds have evolved very different ways of flying. Birds have stiff feathers projecting from lightweight, fused arm and hand bones; bats have flexible wings of membranes stretched between elongated fingers. While birds use the strong downstroke of their wings to fly, bats support their weight on the upstroke, too, by twisting their wings backward. Bats tend to be more agile in flight, while many birds can fly with greater speed. Learn more at

Feb 23, 2022
Flocking and Foraging

In winter, a foraging flock might include several species of birds: chickadees, kinglets, and even a Downy Woodpecker. Many bird species eat alone, so you might wonder why these birds have chosen to dine together. Different species foraging in a group to find food enhances the success of all. One species assists the foraging of others. It's known as "commensal feeding." And more eyes and ears help protect the flock, too. Learn more at

Feb 22, 2022
Meet the Robo-Penguin

Gentoo Penguins are the fastest penguins in the world. A group of researchers used the penguin’s streamlined shape to design a new undersea robot called the Quadroin. This robo-penguin has sensors to measure ocean conditions and currents. It’s particularly suited to studying eddies, which are smaller and short-lived than major ocean currents but help draw nutrients to the ocean surface, supporting the marine food web. Learn more at

Feb 21, 2022
Falcons, Parrots, The Tree of Life

Scientists have puzzled for centuries over how different groups of birds are related. Did birds that look physically alike, such as falcons and hawks, arise from a common ancestor, or did they reach those similarities independently? This line of inquiry was given an immense boost in recent years when an international research team unraveled the genetic codes of 48 species of birds. The results are emerging, including a revised evolutionary tree for birds that places falcons such as this American Kestrel — and parrots such as this Rainbow Lorikeet — on adjoining branches. Learn more at

Feb 20, 2022
Jacana - Lily-trotter

The strange wading birds known as jacanas are nick-named "lily-trotters" for their ability to walk on lilypads. In Jamaica, they're known as "Jesus birds," because they appear to be walking on water — a feat made possible by their long toes. But that's not all that's cool about jacanas. The males, including the Comb-crested Jacana pictured here, can carry their young under their wings. Picture this colorful wading bird, crouching down and spreading his wings. The young scoot in under him, and he sweeps them up and carries them off, tiny legs dangling from under his wings. Learn more at

Feb 19, 2022
Finding Food When it Snows

Fresh-fallen snow is beautiful, but it poses a challenge to birds. The ground where they found food is now covered by several inches of snow. Birds such as juncos and other sparrows flit under bushes where snow doesn’t cover the ground. Finches and chickadees pick at the seed heads of plants sticking out above the snow, while robins (like this American Robin) seek out dried fruits. Nuthatches and woodpeckers cling to trees as they search for insects within the bark. Learn more at

Feb 18, 2022
Sandgrouse - Desert Water-carriers

Sandgrouse live in some of the most parched environments on earth. To satisfy the thirst of their chicks, male sandgrouse carry water back to the nest in a surprising but effective way: by carrying it in their feathers. Thanks to coiled hairlike extensions on the feathers of the underparts, a sandgrouse such as this Burchell's Sandgrouse can soak up and transport about two tablespoons of liquid. The sandgrouse chicks use their bills like tiny squeegees, “milking” their father’s belly feathers for the water they need. Learn more at

Feb 17, 2022
Trumpeter Swans Rebound in Arkansas

Trumpeter Swans weigh over 25 pounds and measure about five feet from beak to tail. They were nearly hunted to extinction by the turn of the twentieth century. In Arkansas, a small flock of Trumpeter Swans began spending the winter at Magness Lake in the 1990s. It has now grown to one of the biggest winter swan flocks in the Southeast. In recognition of its value to the swans, Magness Lake has been designated an Important Bird Area. Learn more at

Feb 16, 2022
Dining with Sanderlings

While many shorebirds have gone south, tiny sandpipers called Sanderlings are easy to find on winter shores. They follow the waves as they lap in and out, probing the swirling sand for prey. They often eat various small crustaceans such as mole crabs, isopods, and amphipods. But they also enjoy miniature clams, polychaete worms, and horseshoe crab eggs. They’ll even catch flying insects or eat plant matter. Learn more at

Feb 15, 2022
Raven's Love Song

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. Learn more at

Feb 14, 2022
Franklin's Gull - The Half-time Seagull

Gulls are often called "seagulls," but many spend a lot of time far away from the sea. The Franklin's Gull breeds in freshwater wetlands more than 5,000 miles from its winter home at the ocean. After the breeding season, they ascend high in the sky for their long flight across the Equator to the coasts of Peru and Chile. Now deserving the name "seagull," the Franklin's Gulls roost on the beach and dive for anchovies in the cold Humboldt Current. Habitats of the world are connected by the birds that go between them. Learn more at

Feb 13, 2022
Birders and Hunters

Thanks in part to the political will and financial contributions of waterfowl hunters and such organizations as Ducks Unlimited, natural wetlands that might otherwise have been lost have been preserved. Take a field trip with your local Audubon chapter to see what you can see. Maybe you'll see one of these Blue-winged Teal. You can learn more about duck stamps and how they help protect habitat for migratory waterfowl at

Feb 12, 2022
Hovering Is Hard Work

Hummingbirds are built for hovering flight, with flexible wrists that rotate their wings in a rapid figure-eight motion that generates almost constant lift. Eurasian Skylarks, on the other hand, hovers by fluttering its wings 10-12 times per second, singing all the while. Some raptors such as American Kestrels use a different strategy: by flying into the wind, they can float in place while they scan for prey. Learn more at

Feb 11, 2022
Bird Tracks in the Snow

Look for the stories birds tell with their tracks in the snow. A crow swaggers, leaving right-and-left steps much as a walking human would. Juncos under a birdfeeder leave a hopping pattern of tiny footprints in side-by-side pairs. Look for beak marks, where a bird picked up a choice morsel or probed the ground. Tell-tale signs sometimes tell stories of life and death. You might see mouse tracks end suddenly, just where you find the imprint of an owl's wings. Find out more about animal tracking at the Wilderness Awareness School. And learn more in Bird Tracks and Sign: A Guide to North American Species, a book by Mark Elbroch.

Feb 10, 2022
Storm-Petrels: Myth and Reality

Sailors once believed Wilson’s Storm-Petrels foretold a dangerous tempest. There might be a grain of truth: the tiny seabirds might find a little shelter from the gusts near a ship. Wilson’s Storm-Petrels are found in every ocean. When foraging, their feet patter across the surface, stirring up prey. Their fondness for feeding in cold, salty water could make them an indicator for changes in ocean conditions due to climate change. Learn more at

Feb 09, 2022
When Does a Crossbill's Bill Cross?

A young crossbill starts life with a wedge-shaped beak. As it grows up and starts to feed itself by removing conifer seeds from their tough packaging, the tips of its bill begin to grow rapidly — and then they cross. By the time the bird is a month and a half old, the tips of its bill become fully crossed. Learn more at

Feb 08, 2022
Non-Vocalization: Many Ways to Make Noise

Many birds have creative ways to make noise without using their voices. Ruffed Grouse use their wings to make echoing booms. Wilson’s Snipes make a high-pitched sound called winnowing as air passes across their tail feathers. Palm Cockatoos swing a stick against a tree to tap out a beat.

This show was produced by World According to Sound. BirdNote and World According to Sound are teaming up for an immersive, 70-minute, virtual event about the sounds of birds. Learn more at

Feb 07, 2022
Anna's Hummingbirds Winter in the North

Most hummingbirds retreat south in autumn, but Anna's Hummingbirds are found in northern latitudes throughout the year. Since 1960, they've moved their year-round limit north from California to British Columbia. They're taking advantage of flowering plants and shrubs, as well as hummingbird feeders. But how do they survive the northern cold? They suspend their high rate of metabolism by entering a state of torpor – a sort of nightly hibernation, where heart rate and body temperature are reduced to a bare minimum. Many hummingbirds, including those in the high Andes, rely on the same strategy. Learn more at

Feb 06, 2022
American Coots

American Coots settle onto lakes and estuaries, forming rafts of hundreds, even thousands, of birds. They like to feed on aquatic vegetation, and sometimes they lumber ashore to nibble at grasses and agricultural crops. The coot's lobed toes help it swim and maneuver under water. To get airborne, the coot requires a long, running takeoff. Be sure to watch the video of a coot feeding on the Chesapeake Bay. Learn more at

Feb 05, 2022
Rodney Stotts on Becoming a Falconer

Rodney Stotts decided to become a falconer after years of working with injured raptors and teaching young people about wildlife. When he reached out to potential mentors, some couldn’t picture him, a Black man, as a falconer. But Rodney eventually found a mentor and began training and handling birds of prey. Now a certified master falconer himself, he introduces kids from the Washington, DC, area and beyond to the majesty of raptors. Learn more at

Feb 04, 2022
Light and Song - Sparks in Winter

Even in winter, some birds — including Black-capped Chickadees, House Finches, and American Robins — greet the sunrise with song. We normally hear the dawn chorus in springtime, when birds sing to define territory and attract mates. But birds don’t breed by warmth alone. Day length is a far more reliable spark than weather. We know that photo-receptors in birds’ brains sense the increasing light. It triggers the production of hormones, which helps bring on the breeding season. Our early birds aren’t breeding in February. But they’re warming up. Learn more at

Feb 03, 2022
Conserving Wetlands for Black Rails

Black Rails are marsh-inhabiting birds, more often heard than seen. Many Black Rails nest in marshes along the Atlantic seaboard and in the Midwest. But in winter they concentrate in the coastal marshes of East Texas, Louisiana, and Florida, areas that face many threats. US populations of Black Rails have declined greatly. In recent decades, the enactment of laws protecting wetlands has improved the bird's prospects. Still, the Black Rail remains on American Bird Conservancy's "red list." Learn more at

Feb 02, 2022
Spark Bird: Chidi Paige and the Yellow Warbler

When Chidi Paige moved from Nigeria to the U.S., she began running a youth STEM program and had to teach lessons on bird identification. She was in for a challenge: she had to learn the local bird species quickly. On a birding trip, she spotted a Yellow Warbler in a pine tree. The beautiful warbler got Chidi hooked on birding. She has designed several games to make learning bird identification fun for kids. Learn more at

Feb 01, 2022
Biomimicry - Japanese Trains Mimic Kingfisher

In the 1990s, train engineers in Japan built trains able to travel nearly 170 miles per hour. The problem was that when the trains exited a tunnel, the air in front of their bullet-shaped noses expanded rapidly, creating a loud “tunnel boom.” The chief engineer, a birder, looked to the shape of a kingfisher’s bill to design long, narrow train noses that parted the air. The trains became both quieter and more efficient. Learn more at

Jan 31, 2022
Short-eared Owl

Flapping with deep, slow wing-motion, a Short-eared Owl appears almost to float above the ground. This owl has an extensive world range, including North and South America, Europe, and Asia. Still, it's declining, due to development, agriculture, and overgrazing. American Bird Conservancy and Partners in Flight consider this bird at-risk. But the federal Conservation and Wetland Reserve Programs are showing promise for Short-eared Owls, by preserving large blocks of habitat. Let your elected representatives know that you support these programs! Learn more at

Jan 30, 2022
Costa Rica Winter Sunrise

On a winter morning in Costa Rica, a colorful choir welcomes the day. A pair of Bay Wrens sings a brisk duet just before sunrise. Perched in the upper canopy of the tropical lowland forest, a group of Keel-billed Toucans calls out. In a nearby tree, Purple-throated Fruitcrows (like this one) add their voices to the chorus. Then a male Montezuma Oropendola belts out an electrifying series of notes — one of the most distinctive voices in the tropics. Finally, a Bright-rumped Attila calls from its perch. Learn more at

Jan 29, 2022
Unlikely Duets: Extremes of Bird Sound

This show pairs birds that make sounds on opposite extremes: the highest-pitched bird, the Black Jacobin hummingbird, duets with the Southern Cassowary, one of the lowest-pitched birds. The faint, buzzy song of the Grasshopper Sparrow joins the voice of the White Bellbird, the loudest bird in the world.

This show was produced by World According to Sound. BirdNote and World According to Sound are teaming up for an immersive, 70-minute, virtual event about the sounds of birds. Learn more at

Jan 28, 2022
Why Do Birds Come to Birdfeeders?

A tube of black oil sunflower seeds isn’t “natural”…and neither is a suet cake. Yet as soon as you hang them up, the neighborhood birds, like these female finches, find them. Those grosbeaks at your feeder probably never ate sunflower seeds in nature. 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. Learn more at

Jan 27, 2022
Rhea Nesting Is Mind-boggling

A typical bird nest will have maybe four to six eggs neatly arranged by the parent to hunker down on. But in one Rhea nest, you may find between 50 and 80 eggs! And they’re not all from the same set of parents. Male Rheas mate with several females and then build a single nest on the ground to hold all the eggs from each of them. Learn more at

Jan 26, 2022
Spark Bird: Rosemary Mosco's Bird and Moon

Rosemary Mosco was drawn to birds as a shy child, because they rewarded patience. In college, she struggled to connect with her classes in anthropology. She began volunteering with a group in Toronto that tries to stop birds from hitting windows. At the same time, she created a cartoon about a lonely bird that befriends the moon and flies around the city having adventures. She now combines art and science as a cartoonist and science writer. Learn more at

Jan 25, 2022
Winter Brings Falcons

A Merlin — like this one — hunts boldly from a high perch. A Peregrine Falcon dives on a hapless pigeon, with an air speed approaching 200 miles per hour. The Gyrfalcon can fly down even the fastest waterfowl in a direct sprint. A Prairie Falcon blends in with its background. And the smallest North American falcon of all, the American Kestrel, hovers a field, watching for a mouse or large insect. Learn more at

Jan 24, 2022
Reddish Egret - Lagoon Dancer

The Reddish Egret, a particularly glamorous heron, is best known for its startling antics in capturing fish. When fishing, the egret sprints across the lagoon, weaving left and right, simultaneously flicking its broad wings in and out, while stabbing into the water with its bill. Fish startled at the egret’s crazed movements become targets of that pink dagger. At times, the bird will raise its wings forward over its head, creating a shadow on the water. It then freezes in this position for minutes. Fish swim in, attracted by a patch of shade and . . . well, you know the rest. Learn more at

Jan 23, 2022
Nictitating Membranes - Nature's Goggles

For most birds, keen eyesight is critical for survival. But many birds lead lives that can be very hard on the eyes — like flying at breakneck speed, racing for cover into a dense thicket, or diving under water to capture prey. Imagine how the chips fly as this Pileated Woodpecker chisels a cavity. Fortunately, birds have evolved a structure for protecting their eyes. Beneath the outer eyelids lies an extra eyelid, called the nictitating membrane. It helps keep the eye moist and clean while guarding it from wind, dust, and hazards. Learn more at

Jan 22, 2022
Song Sparrows Across the Continent

Song Sparrows can be heard singing almost everywhere in the United States. People have recorded their song along rivers and lakes, in cities and towns, and in fields and forests.

This show was produced by World According to Sound. BirdNote and World According to Sound are teaming up for an immersive, 70-minute, virtual event about the sounds of birds. Learn more at

Jan 21, 2022
On a Cold, Cold Night

When the bitter cold of winter arrives, songbirds face an emergency: how to keep warm through the night. On normal nights, many prefer sleeping solo in a sheltered spot. But in severe cold, some kinds of birds may have a greater prospect of survival by roosting with others. Learn more at

Jan 20, 2022
Birds on the March with Army Ants

As thousands of army ants march through a rainforest in Panama looking for food, countless insects try to escape. Antbirds follow the ants, waiting for flying insects to leave their hiding spots so they can swoop down and catch them. About 300 species of animals, including 29 bird species, depend on army ants for their survival. It’s thought to be the largest association of animals tied to a single species in the world. Learn more at

Jan 19, 2022
Great Horned Owls Nest

High in a leafless cottonwood, a female Great Horned Owl incubates two eggs. As light snow falls on her back, her mate roosts nearby. Since December, this pair has been hooting back and forth regularly at night. Great Horned Owls nest in winter, because the owlets, which hatch after a month of incubation, must remain near their parents a long time compared to many other birds — right through summer and into early fall. Learn more at

Jan 18, 2022
Spark Bird: Kira Jane Buxton's Crow Rescue

Kira Jane Buxton wrote two novels about a foul-mouthed pet crow navigating the extinction of humanity. But her love for crows began just a few years before writing the books. She found an injured crow surrounded by 60 others calling out in alarm. Though Kira was nervous, she took the crow to a wildlife rehabilitator. Sadly, the crow didn’t survive. But since then, Kira has bonded with her local crows and visits them regularly. Learn more at

Jan 17, 2022
How Evolution Reshaped the Woodcock

Evolution works with what's at hand. So if you start with a normal bird skull – bill pointing forward, eyes oriented front or sideways, ears behind eyes – and introduce the challenge of seeing behind your head while your bill is pushed deeply into the soil, what do you get? The American Woodcock! With its long bill constantly probing the soil for earthworms, its entire skull has been rearranged. Relative to other birds, woodcocks' eyes have moved toward the top and rear of the skull, pushing the ear openings downward. Apparently the brain followed suit! Learn more at

Jan 16, 2022

The peace of the vast Guyanan jungle is abruptly broken with the dawn chorus of male Capuchinbirds, one of the most bizarre birds in South America. The singing male bows forward, then suddenly stretches to his full length, raising a monk-like cowl of feathers around his naked blue-gray head. The unmistakable noise attracts female Capuchinbirds, which jostle each other ruthlessly in the quest to get close to the studliest of the displaying males. The alpha male with the best singing technique will be the only one to mate. Learn more at

Jan 15, 2022
Songs in Slow-Motion

By slowing down the songs of the Crested Oropendola (seen here) and the Tui, all the notes and harmonies stand out. While these details normally rush past the human ear faster than our brains can process, birds are alert to the subtleties of other birds’ songs.

This show was produced by World According to Sound. BirdNote and World According to Sound are teaming up for an immersive, 70-minute, virtual event about the sounds of birds. Learn more at

Jan 14, 2022
Filming Rare Storks in Their Nests

Photographer Gerrit Vyn traveled to northeastern India to document the daily life of the Greater Adjutant stork. These endangered birds nest high in trees on privately owned land in the state of Assam, where they’re known as Hargila. Conservation biologist Purnima Devi Barman helped Gerrit get a stork's-eye view by building a bamboo tower near the canopy of a Hargila nesting tree. Learn more in the documentary Hargila from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Jan 13, 2022
Saving the Hargila

Conservation biologist Purnima Devi Barman returned to Assam, India, where she grew up, to work with a highly endangered bird, the Greater Adjutant stork. The species nests in populated areas of Assam, where it’s known as Hargila. Because they’re scavengers, some see Hargila as unclean and remove trees where they nest. Purnima has found creative ways to connect Hargila to people’s daily lives and culture in Assam. Learn more at

Jan 12, 2022
Trogons Nest with Wasps

The "Violaceous" Trogon (recently split into three species), which nests in Mexico, Central America, and northern South America, often excavates its dwelling within a large, active wasp or termite nest. It begins by devouring some of the insects, then digs a cavity large enough to accommodate the birds and their eggs. While they may continue to snack on resident wasps or termites throughout nesting, the trogons never eliminate all the insects, creating a nest that few predators would dare disturb. Learn more at

Jan 11, 2022
BirdNoir - Dial E for Eagle

In this BirdNoir mystery, the private eye fields a call from a woman who says a large bird that looks like a Bald Eagle stole a Rainbow Trout from her pond. Through a process of elimination, the detective is able to rule out a few likely suspects and arrive at the probable answer. When you think you’ve spotted an eagle, remember to examine all the evidence. Learn more at

Jan 10, 2022
Tree Swallows Spend the Winter

Most swallow species that nest in North America eat almost nothing except flying insects. When the bugs die off in the fall, the swallows head south to winter in the tropical zones of Central and South America and the Caribbean. However, Tree Swallows can also eat small fruits. If Tree Swallows arrive in the north before the insects are out, they’ll supplement their diets with fruit, giving them a competitive advantage for limited nesting sites. Learn more at

Jan 09, 2022
A Swirl of Snow Geese

Snow Geese nest from far northeastern Russia to Greenland, in the arctic and subarctic. They winter in large flocks on the deltas of rivers in northwestern Washington, areas along the Eastern Seaboard, and throughout the Mississippi Flyway. Watching Snow Geese in flight, Barry Lopez described them, "as if the earth had opened and poured them forth, like a wind, a blizzard, which unfurled across the horizon above the dark soil ... great swirling currents of birds in a rattling of wings..." Learn more at

Jan 08, 2022
From Simple to Complex Bird Sounds

Explore how bird songs increase in complexity from the guttural hiss of a Turkey Vulture, to the short songs of Henslow’s Sparrows, and to the elaborate song repertoire of the Brown Thrasher.

This show was produced by World According to Sound. BirdNote and World According to Sound are teaming up for an immersive, 70-minute, virtual event about the sounds of birds. Learn more at

Jan 07, 2022
Black Kites - Do Birds Start Fires?

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.  Learn more at

Jan 06, 2022
Birds Berries and Germination

Some plants have evolved fruits with edible flesh that attract birds. When birds swallow the fruit, they also ingest the seeds. They transport the seeds to new spots for the plants to take root. Birds’ digestive systems grind away the hard outer coating of the seed, making it more likely to germinate. Seeds in a bird’s droppings are pre-packaged in nutrient-rich fertilizer. Learn more at

Jan 05, 2022
Rachel Carson and the Veery

Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, and her beloved friend Dorothy Freeman shared a love of nature… and especially of one particular bird: the Veery, a type of thrush. Plain looking as it is, the Veery has a particularly beautiful song. Learn more at

Jan 04, 2022
City Hawks Versus Country Hawks

Resident Cooper’s Hawks that nest in the urban areas of Albuquerque, New Mexico, are thriving as the populations of doves, their prey, have exploded. The easy prey gives the urban birds a competitive advantage over hawks in more natural habitats, where prey is less concentrated. The soaring numbers of urban Cooper's Hawks could help preserve the genetic diversity of the species far into the future. Learn more at

Jan 03, 2022
Alpine Swifts Fly Nonstop

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. Learn more at

Jan 02, 2022
A New Year Dawns

Listen to the earth awaken, as dawn circles the globe. Acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton recorded these sounds around the globe. He's with SoundTracker.

Jan 01, 2022
Downy Woodpeckers

Coast to coast, border to border, forest to feeder, the Downy Woodpecker goes about its business in 49 states. The smallest woodpecker in the United States, it turns up everywhere there are a few trees, except in the dry deserts of the Southwest and in Hawaii. Learn more at

Dec 31, 2021
Brown Pelicans - Conservation Success

Brown Pelicans are a regular sight today along the Gulf of Mexico and our southern coastlines. But these birds have not always been so plentiful. They were hunted for their feathers and as pests by fishermen. The Migratory Bird Act of 1918 protected their recovery. But by 1970, pesticides were killing pelicans outright and thinning their eggshells. The 1972 Endangered Species Act has helped lead to a gradual comeback. Learn more at

Dec 30, 2021
Birds of Paradise

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. Learn more at

Dec 29, 2021
Bird Seed

When buying seed for your feeders, it’s tempting to get the biggest, cheapest bag. But not all bird seed is the same. Figure out the nutritional value of the seeds and whether your local birds can actually eat them. Black-oil sunflower seeds provide good protein and fat. Other good seeds include white millet and nyjer thistle. Avoid red milo, a livestock grain. And clean your feeding station regularly to prevent the spread of disease. Learn more at

Dec 28, 2021
Freeway Hawks

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. Learn more at

Dec 27, 2021
How Birds Become Red

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. Learn more at

Dec 26, 2021
Why Some Birds Sing in the Winter

By late January, some resident birds, such as the Northern Mockingbird, are beginning their spring singing. When you step outside on a particularly sunny day this winter, a Fox Sparrow like the one pictured here may be warming up for the coming spring. And as far north as British Columbia, Pacific Wrens are singing in earnest by mid-February. So the singing season never entirely stops. Learn more at

Dec 25, 2021
Pigeon Flocks Follow the Leader

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. learn more at

Dec 24, 2021
Graylag Goose

The goose of today’s farmyards was domesticated about 3,000 years ago from the Graylag Goose, the wild species found today throughout much of Europe and Asia. To ancient Egyptians, the goose symbolized the sun god Ra. Greeks linked the goose with Aphrodite, the goddess of love. And geese are prominently featured in the Shijing, the oldest existing collection of Chinese poetry. Learn more at

Dec 23, 2021
The Majestic Gyrfalcon

Gyrfalcons are the largest falcons in the world, with a wingspan of almost four feet and weighing almost five pounds. The name “Gyrfalcon” derives from an Old Norse word for “spear.” During the summer, you’ll find Gyrfalcons on the tundra, where they feed on arctic birds. But in the winter, some will fly as far south as the northern U.S. Learn more at

Dec 22, 2021
How Birds Survived the Asteroid

The asteroid that struck the Yucatán 66 million years ago wreaked worldwide ecological damage, spelling the end for most dinosaurs and destroying the world’s forests. Yet a few bird-like dinosaur groups made it through. Scientists believe that these groups were all ground-dwellers. Though some species could fly, a life on the ground would have been a key advantage in a world without forests. All modern birds evolved from these ancient creatures. Learn more at

Dec 21, 2021
Margaret Morse Nice and the Song Sparrow

Few backyard birds in North America are more widespread than the Song Sparrow. But it was the study of this seemingly unremarkable bird that helped shape modern ornithology. In 1928, Margaret Morse Nice began carefully observing Song Sparrows near Columbus, Ohio, where she lived. For eight years, Nice banded and made detailed accounts of the birds' lives and behavior. The emphasis on bird behavior — and painstaking observation of living birds in the wild — helped shift the focus away from collection, description, and distribution. And it all started with that little brown bird with the melodious song.  Learn more at

Dec 20, 2021
Not Just Any Nectar Will Do

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.  Learn more at

Dec 19, 2021
The Cardinal: A Southerner Moves North

Holiday cards often feature gorgeous red cardinals against a snowy landscape. So it’s easy to assume the birds have always been a colorful presence in bleak Northern winters. But cardinals used to be Southern birds. By the second half of the 20th century, though, they were nesting as far north as Maine, the northern Midwest, and even southern Canada. Learn more at

Dec 18, 2021
Spark Bird: Drew Lanham Takes Flight

Acclaimed ornithologist and writer J. Drew Lanham’s obsession with birds began when he was a kid, when he wished to take flight alongside them. He tried out cardboard wings and an umbrella, trying to defeat gravity. He kept refining his designs and finding better jump-off spots. He eventually gave up on trying to fly, but he never stopped loving birds. Learn more at

Dec 17, 2021
Basalt as Shelter

As the winter sun sinks over the Coulee Lakes, hundreds of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches suddenly appear, an undulating cloud that swarms into the upper levels of the basalt cliffs. The finches nest high in the mountains in summer, and roam the countryside in large flocks in winter. Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches roost for the night in a colony of abandoned swallow nests on basalt cliffs. Learn more at

Dec 16, 2021
Bluebirds Close to Home

Bluebirds can bring flashes of azure color and mellow songs to where you live. The best way to bring them close to home is with nest boxes. You’ll need an untreated wood box with a one-and-a-half inch hole five feet above the ground. Finding the right place for the nest box is important, too. Shrubs that bear small fruits can entice bluebirds. Find instructions for building an effective bluebird nest box  at

Dec 15, 2021
Winter Brings Snow Buntings

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. Learn more at

Dec 14, 2021
Razorbills Swim in Synchrony

Razorbills, a cousin to the puffin, nest in colonies on cliffs. Before they lay eggs, Razorbills take part in two unique social behaviors. In one, the Razorbills swim round and round in a tight mass, then dive as one. Next, they surface with heads aligned and bills held open. In another behavior, dozens of birds swim in a line, then zig-zag in a synchronized pattern across the ocean’s surface. Learn more at

Dec 13, 2021
Just What Are Flamingos?

Few birds are as distinctive as flamingos. Scientists once grouped flamingos with storks and ibises. But a study of flamingo DNA delivered a stunning surprise: their closest living relatives appear to be grebes. And an even bigger surprise: DNA indicates that flamingos and grebes share an ancestry with certain land birds, like doves. So flamingos evolved long legs and necks, just as herons and storks did. But they belong on a completely different branch of the tree of life. Learn more at

Dec 12, 2021
Following the Honeyguide

The Greater Honeyguide's demanding call is not aimed at a member of its own species. Instead, the bird guides people in search of honey through the forest, directly to bee hives. The bird flies to a colony of bees living in a hollow tree. The human follower exposes the hive with an ax and takes much of the honeycomb. Then the honeyguide moves in to feast on bee larvae and beeswax. Learn more at

Dec 11, 2021
Crested Auklets Winter in the Bering Sea

The Bering Sea in winter, framed as it is by Alaska and Siberia, is frigid, stormy, and dark. But remarkably, some birds seem right at home there. The Crested Auklet is one such bird. And they have some unique qualities. Crested Auklets bark like Chihuahuas. Also, these seabirds exude an odor of oranges from a chemical they produce that repels ticks. They nest in immense colonies on Bering Sea islands, and remain nearby through winter, in flocks of many thousands. The auklets present a superb natural spectacle - sight, sound, and smell! Learn more at

Dec 10, 2021
The Wonderchicken!

In 2018, paleontologist Daniel Field took a closer look at specimens from an amateur fossil collector. His team used micro-CT scanning, kind of like a high-energy CAT scan, to visualize the encased fossils. They were amazed to find a tiny bird skull: the earliest known fossil record of a modern bird. The skull looks chicken-like in the front and duck-like in the back. The bird may have looked and behaved like a modern shorebird. Learn more at

Dec 09, 2021
Morning in Oaxaca

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.

Purchasing shade-grown coffee can help our neotropical migrants. Learn more at

Dec 08, 2021
Why Penguin Feathers Don't Freeze

Gentoo Penguins live in the frigid waters of the Atlantic. Only recently have scientists begun to unravel why penguin feathers don’t freeze. An electron microscope revealed tiny pores on the feathers that trap air, making the surface water repellent. This feature, plus a special coating oil from the preen gland, prevents water build-up and delays freezing. Engineers could attempt to apply these principles to prevent icing on plane wings. Learn more at

Dec 07, 2021
Birds on a Cold Night

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. Learn more at

Dec 06, 2021
Recording the Araripe Manakin, With Gerrit Vyn

Near the city of Crato in northeastern Brazil lives a critically endangered little bird — the Araripe Manakin. It’s a little larger than a sparrow, it’s beautiful, and it lives on the slopes of a very small area in the Araripe Plateau. And because the Araripe Manakin wasn’t discovered until the late 1990s, it’s relatively unstudied. Gerrit Vyn of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is on a mission to capture a “clean” recording of the Araripe Manakin — one without human-generated noise in the background. Will he succeed? Learn more at

Dec 05, 2021
Searching for the Araripe Manakin, With Gerrit Vyn

Gerrit Vyn is a sound recordist for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. He recently traveled to northeastern Brazil’s Araripe Plateau in search of the Araripe Manakin, a beautiful white bird with dark wing-tips and tail-feathers — and a deep red hood. The Araripe Manakin is critically endangered, in part because of its limited range. But, as Gerrit observes, human activity also threatens the bird’s survival. Learn more at

Dec 04, 2021
BirdNoir - The Mystery of the Blue Bird

In this episode of BirdNoir, Michael Stein — Private Eye — gets a call from a friend, Danny, who wants to know why the bluest bird he’s ever seen has vanished. But there are many birds that are blue besides the true bluebirds (which belong to the thrush family). To solve the mystery, the detective needs to know the right questions to ask Danny, finding the relevant information to identify the bird and figure out what happened. Learn more at

Dec 03, 2021
Encounter with a Cassowary

In a tropical woodland in eastern Australia, you glimpse a Southern Cassowary, a huge flightless bird that must rate as the most prehistoric looking of all birds. Cassowaries are capable of making remarkable sounds, including the lowest known bird call in the world, barely audible to the human ear! Learn more about the Southern Cassowary at

If you ever miss a BirdNote, you can always get the latest episode. Just tell your Smart Speaker 'play the podcast BirdNote'".

Dec 02, 2021
Spark Bird: A Blackburnian Warbler’s Journey

Justine Bowe fell in love with birds when she was a kid, on a hike with her dad when she saw the fiery colors of a Blackburnian Warbler. Justine now manages the Bird Friendly Coffee program at the Smithsonian Institute's Migratory Bird Center, working with coffee farmers to preserve habitat for birds that migrate to Central and South America. In Colombia, she got to see Blackburnian Warblers spending winter on bird-friendly farms. Learn more at

Dec 01, 2021
Common Redpoll

The tiny Common Redpoll, one of the smallest members of the finch family, weighs only as much as four pennies, yet it survives the cold and darkness of winter in the far North. Most birds depart in autumn to warmer climes. 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. Learn more at

Nov 30, 2021
Welcoming Back Winter Birds

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 — juncos, swans, and more — 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! Learn more at

Nov 29, 2021
Ivory Gull and Conservation

Polar Bears symbolize the icy landscapes of the far north like no other animal. The bear's way of life — its very survival — is inseparable from the Arctic pack-ice. Less familiar is a remarkable bird that shares with the Polar Bear this vital link to ice: this Ivory Gull. The gulls feed on small fish and other marine life, but also scavenge carcasses, including those left by Polar Bears. Global warming has brought increasing change to the world of ice-dependent species such as the Ivory Gull and Polar Bear. Learn more at

Nov 28, 2021
A Blizzard of Snow Geese

An immense field appears to be covered with snow, blanketed in white. But a closer look reveals more than 10,000 Snow Geese. Snow Geese nest on Wrangel Island, in the Chukchi Sea off northern Siberia. Don't miss the amazing video by Barbara Galatti! Learn more at

Nov 27, 2021
Why Birds Eat Snow

In the depths of winter, when open water is frozen over, it can be challenging for birds to stay hydrated. Some birds eat the frozen water all around them. Cedar Waxwings catch snowflakes in mid-air. Black-capped Chickadees drink from dripping icicles. Plenty of other birds scoop up fresh, powdery snow and eat it. It could be worth the calories to melt the snow when searching for liquid water could expose them to predators. Learn more at

Nov 26, 2021
How Much Do Birds Eat?

There used to be a saying about somebody who doesn’t eat much — “she eats like a bird.” But how much does a bird typically eat? As a rule of thumb, the smaller the bird, the more food it needs relative to its weight. A Cooper’s Hawk, a medium-sized bird, eats around 12% of its weight per day. For a human weighing 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. Learn more at

Nov 25, 2021
In Winter, Puffins Lead Very Different Lives

Every summer, puffins — like this Horned Puffin — 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 silent. They spend about seven months alone at sea, before returning once again to their colonies to breed. Learn more at

Nov 24, 2021
Singing Under Streetlights

Some birds have always called nocturnally, but other species are relative newcomers to the nighttime music scene, specifically in urban areas. Birds such as American Robins often sing well into the night. Scientists are studying what environmental cues might lead to this behavior. While artificial light could be a factor, recent studies suggest that some birds may be avoiding daytime city noise by singing nocturnally. Learn more at

Nov 23, 2021
Aplomado Falcon

Aplomado Falcons were once widespread residents of the American Southwest, but by the 1950s, they'd disappeared entirely from the region. Loss of habitat, loss of prey, and pesticides all played a role. But in the 1980s, a group called The Peregrine Fund began breeding captive Aplomado Falcons. Over the next 25 years, 1,500 fledglings were set free in South Texas. At the same time, conservation pacts with private landowners provided more than two million acres of habitat. Learn more at

Nov 22, 2021
Birds of Prey and Nesting Territories

Red-tailed Hawks typically have a nesting territory of about a half-mile to a full square mile, depending on how much food there is. Bald Eagles’ nesting territories range from 2½ square miles to as much as 15 square miles, for the same reason. But the Gyrfalcons in Finland and Scandinavia really need their space! Learn more at

Nov 21, 2021
Swans Come Calling

Trumpeter Swans land in a plowed field to forage for remnant potatoes, grain, and other waste crops. This swan is among the largest of all waterfowl; the Tundra Swan is somewhat smaller. These swans migrate in family groups each fall from nesting sites in Canada and Alaska. Learn more about these swans, and view a map to the Skagit Flats of Washington where you can see them. When you go, please be courteous, and if you stop, pull completely off the roadway. Always respect private property. More info at Northwest Swan Conservation Association and The Trumpeter Swan Society! Learn more at

Nov 20, 2021
Seabirds, Trees and Coral

Palmyra Atoll is a ring-shaped island encircling a lagoon in the South Pacific. The atoll lost many native trees due to U.S. military activity during World War II. Conservationists have worked to restore the ecosystem. Seabirds such as Black Noddies and Red-footed Boobies nest in the island’s rainforest. Their guano enriches the soil, and the soil’s nutrients help support the coral ecosystem that provides fish for the birds. Learn more at

Nov 19, 2021
To Mob or Not to Mob

When a bird of prey flies over, a flock of crows may dive-bomb the predator and give it a noisy escort out of town. An Eastern Kingbird, like this one, will clamp its feet onto the back of a hawk to send it packing. How do they know which birds to chase off and which to ignore? By genetic wiring, or instinct, but also learning. By watching their parents in the act of mobbing, youngsters gain critical knowledge that may save their own skin. Learn more at

Nov 18, 2021
Spark Bird: Nick Belardes and the Vermilion Flycatcher

Author Nick Belardes was walking at a park near his home in San Luis Obispo, California, when he saw a man who seemed in tune with birds. Belardes asked him what the coolest bird around was, and the man replied Vermilion Flycatcher. Belardes and his wife soon went out looking for the ruby-like bird, finally spotting it through rain and mist. He remembers that sighting as a turning point that drew him deeper into the world of birds. Learn more at

Nov 17, 2021
The Gorgeous Gadwall

When you first glimpse a male Gadwall, you might think you're looking at a female Mallard. But take a closer look, and you'll see plumage as richly and subtly colored as an English gentleman's tweed jacket. For a closer look, click Enlarge under the photo. The Gadwall now nests all across the northern US and into Canada. You can probably see one of these handsome birds on a pond or in a marsh near you. Some may even breed in your neighborhood. Learn more at

Nov 16, 2021
Catching Insects

Birds that depend on flies for food have many creative ways of catching their prey. Swallows execute sharp turns and quick changes of speed. Bluebirds watch from a perch, pouncing when the time is right. A Chuck-will’s-widow flies with its scoop-like mouth wide open, engulfing moths and other insects. A Merlin snares dragonflies in its talons. Hummingbirds dart into swarms of midges. Learn more at

Nov 15, 2021
Western Hummingbirds, East

Not long ago, the only hummingbird that someone living in the eastern United States and Canada could hope to see was the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. But things have changed. Today, more and more hummingbird species — such as this Broad-tailed Hummingbird — have been discovered beyond their “normal” ranges. Why is this colorful explosion happening now? Climate change is one possible factor. So are shifts in migration routes. Or it could just be that more people are on the lookout for these relative newcomers. Learn more at

Nov 14, 2021
Habitat Defined

When you think of habitat, think of home. For a jay that lives in the forest, the forest is its habitat – where it finds food, water, shelter, and the company of other jays. Or it might live in your back yard or the bank parking lot down the street. Some birds live in different habitats at different times of year. Many sandpipers summer on the Arctic tundra, but during the rest of the year, they live on coastal tide flats. Learn more at

Nov 13, 2021
A Pocket Guide to Pigeon Watching

Illustrator and science writer Rosemary Mosco is the author of the new book, A Pocket Guide to Pigeon Watching. The book explores humanity’s long relationship with pigeons, from domestication thousands of years ago to fancy pigeon breeding in recent centuries. Rosemary's book not only breaks down the variations to look for in feral city pigeons, but also some of the most bizarre fancy breeds. Learn more at

Nov 12, 2021
How Terns Read the Water

Like an expert angler, a tern can read the surface of the water to find where to catch its next fish. Scientists piloted a drone to track the flight paths of terns on the hunt. The terns sought out turbulent water. A vortex formed by colliding currents traps fish near the surface, where terns can snap them up. Terns fly toward bubbly upwellings to see if the rising water brings prey animals along with it. Learn more at

Nov 11, 2021
Starling Mimicry

The searing cry of a Red-tailed Hawk pierces the air. The distinctive scream is coming from a tree nearby. But when you scan the tree for the form of a hawk, you see only a small, speckled, black bird. You’ve been fooled. It’s a starling giving voice to the hawk’s cry. The European Starling — the continent’s most abundant non-native bird — is an accomplished mimic. Starlings are especially astute imitators of bird sounds that have a whistled feel — like the sound of a Killdeer or quail. They can duplicate a car alarm or phone ring, too.  Learn more at

Nov 10, 2021
Bird Brains in a New Light

Many birds are remarkably clever. New findings help reveal how they can be so smart. In mammals, intelligence is seated in the neocortex, which has neurons arranged in layers and columns. Birds lack a neocortex and were thought to have a forebrain composed of simple clusters of neurons. Recent research indicates that a part of the bird forebrain, the dorsal ventricular ridge, has neurons layed out similarly to those in the mammalian neocortex. Learn more at

Nov 09, 2021
Birds in the Winter Garden

Put your winter garden to work as a haven for birds. Leaves and brush left to compost provide foraging and roosting places, smother this year’s weeds, and feed next spring’s plant growth. Watch for juncos and towhees in the leaf litter, and wrens in the brush. Maybe even a Song Sparrow, like this one! With a little planning, your garden can be a haven for birds year round. Learn more at

Nov 08, 2021
Fancy Fruit-doves in the South Pacific

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. Learn more at

Nov 07, 2021
Common Mergansers Pushed by the Ice

Around this time of year, Common Mergansers cross the US-Canadian border on their way to wintering grounds in the Lower 48. But how do they know when to go? Ducks are well insulated against frigid winter temperatures, but mergansers can find their fishy prey only by diving below the surface of open water. So they’re doing just fine, resting and feeding in southern Canada, until a thin veneer of ice forms on their lake, signaling the time has arrived to head south! Learn more at

Nov 06, 2021
Spark Bird: Walter and Patch

Sculptor and musician Walter Kitundu first became enraptured by birds in 2005 when a Red-tailed Hawk flew four feet above his head. He named the bird Patch, after the white patch on the back of her head, and kept returning to the park to see her. Patch became used to Walter, accepting him as part of the landscape. He documented her transition from juvenile to adult, learning her quirks and mannerisms. Learn more at

Nov 05, 2021
The Music of Black Scoters

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. Learn more at

Nov 04, 2021
The Heart of a Bird

Birds’ four-chambered hearts run larger than those of mammals, relative to body size, and they are coupled with extremely efficient cardiovascular systems. The energy demands of flight require these adaptations. An exercising human has a heart rate around 150 beats per minute. In contrast, an active hummingbird’s heart pumps at 1200 beats per minute; a flying pigeon’s heart beats at 600. Learn more at

Nov 03, 2021
How Long Does a Robin Live?

If a young American Robin survives its first winter, its chances of survival go up. But robins still don’t live very long. The oldest robins in your yard might be about three years old (although thanks to banding, we know of one bird that lived to be almost 14). Learn more at

Nov 02, 2021
A Hawk That Hunts in Packs

Most raptors are solitary birds, but Harris’s Hawks of the southwestern U.S. live and hunt in groups of two to six. After spotting a prey animal, the hawks swoop in from various directions to catch the confused creature. If they miss and their prey takes cover, some of the birds try to flush it out while others lie in ambush. Their teamwork may help them safely pursue bigger animals or capture well-hidden prey. Learn more at

Nov 01, 2021
The Amazing, Head-turning Owl

An owl's seeming ability to rotate its head in a complete circle is downright eerie. An owl's apparent head rotation is part illusion, part structural design. Because its eyes are fixed in their sockets, it must rotate its neck to look around. It can actually rotate its head about 270 degrees – a marvelous anatomical feat. You can learn more about this Eastern Screech-Owl at Cornell's AllAboutBirds.

Oct 31, 2021
The Crows' Night Roost

Crow experts think big communal roosts provide warmth, protection from predators, shared knowledge about food sources, and a chance to find a mate. Follow crows to their roost some autumn evening, if you can, and watch these avian acrobats wheel in for the night. Learn more at

Oct 30, 2021
Migrations: Watching Migration from the Empire State Building

As the sun sets over New York City, author Helen Macdonald takes in the wonders of spring migration from the top of the Empire State Building. She watches a long procession of songbirds pass overhead, but her joy is dampened when she notices some of the birds circling endlessly around the building’s brilliant beacon. Turning off the blaring lights of city skylines — and even suburban homes — can help protect migratory birds at night. Learn more at

Oct 29, 2021
Clean Nestboxes in October

It’s a wistful moment when your backyard birds — like these Black-capped Chickadees — depart their nestboxes. By October, it’s time for one last duty as nestbox landlord: to clean it out. Cleaning will reduce the incidence of parasites in the box and make it more inviting to next spring’s tenants. It will also help you know for sure if it gets used again. Learn more at

Oct 28, 2021
To Breathe Like a Bird

Birds have a highly efficient breathing anatomy that powers the exertion of flight. It is driven by large, thin-walled air sacs located throughout the body cavity that operate like bellows. This parabronchial system for extracting oxygen from the air has a far greater surface area than the lungs of a mammal, making sustained flight possible. Learn more at

Oct 27, 2021
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