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How Geese Made History

It was the wing feathers of geese that supplied most of the quill pens that were humanity’s prime writing tool for more than 1200 years—from the 6th century until the 1820s, when steel pens took over. The lightweight goose quill has a hollow shaft ideal for storing ink. With a smooth, light... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

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 (as this pair of Laysan Albatrosses is doing), chop holes in trees, weave nests, and more. In order for a bird to fly, its beak must weigh as little as possible.... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Giant Owls of Cuba

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

The Secretarybird: Eagle on Stilts

The Secretarybird of sub-Saharan Africa looks like a slim eagle set on the long, slender legs of a crane. Secretarybirds can fly but prefer to hunt on foot, walking over 20 miles a day and dispatching their prey with powerful kicks of their taloned feet. read more »

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Walking to Connect With Nature

Teenager Asher Millikan came home from Vice President Al Gore’s “climate reality” program inspired to share the story of climate change in her own Denver community. She lead a group of people, young and old, on an exploratory walk through the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.Learn... read more »

The Roost That Saved a Refuge

The Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge was once where some of the country’s dirtiest weapons were produced, like mustard and sarin gas and napalm. The discovery of roosting Bald Eagles in the 1980s helped change the course of this prairie landscape. It started a process of... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  human interaction

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... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  plumage

Why Is My Robin Half White?

If you see a bird with abnormal white feathers, like this American Robin, that bird may have a genetic condition called leucism. Leucistic birds, like all-white birds bred in captivity, have a genetic condition preventing pigments from reaching some — or sometimes all — of a bird’s feathers.... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  plumage

Listen for Tapping

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

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

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Great Horned Owl nestcam - Reno

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Video credit: 
Nevada Dep't. of Wildlife

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