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Why Do Some Birds Flock?

When birds like these Dunlin form flocks, each individual is less likely to be captured by a predator. Some shorebirds that forage with their heads down, like godwits, will flock with birds that forage with their heads up, like curlews. Still other birds work together —  like American White... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  flight

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... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdfeeding

Gray Jays

While camping in the mountains, you might see this Gray Jay, boldly swooping into your camp. This handsome jay’s big, black eyes seem to miss nothing — especially food. But the one food Gray Jays don’t eat is conifer seeds. The jays hide other food in conifer needles and tuck it under the bark of... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

Birds in the Stars

Many constellations were marked out long ago by ancient Romans and Greeks and the Sumerians before them. Three of today’s nine bird constellations were spotted by the ancients: an eagle, a swan, and a crow, birds familiar then in the Mediterranean region. People of many other cultures also saw... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Male vs. Female Plumage

The males and females of many bird species, like these Blue Jays, look identical. And crows, which at least to our eyes, are all the same color and size. But even if we can’t tell male from female, the birds can. Scientists believe crows may be able to tell each other apart by slight variations... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  plumage

Snake-Eagles Are Awesome

When a soaring Short-toed Snake-Eagle spots a delicious snake, it swoops down, grabs it with its talons, then tears off the snake’s head. Still on the wing, it swallows the entire snake, head first. Smaller than Bald Eagles, they live mainly in Africa and have legs and toes covered in thick... read more »

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Leave the Leaves

To help backyard birds through the winter, do less. Leave the leaves or rake them under plantings. The tasty insects and spiders underneath will be food for the towhee and this Song Sparrow. Don’t deadhead. Pine Siskins and goldfinches love to snack on dead flowerheads. Make an insect hotel out... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  gardening

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... read more »

Teen Birders

Elisa Yang, a teenage birder, couldn’t find a young birder group anywhere in California -- so she created her own. In the San Bernardino National Forest, they hunt for the Mexican Whip-poor-will, an elusive crepuscular bird. The teens don headlamps and hike down a dirt road. Perched on boulders,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birding, birdwatching

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,... read more »

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