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Swallow or Swift?

At a glance, swallows and swifts, both graceful fliers, look much alike. But swifts — like this Chimney Swift — have longer, slimmer wings and short bodies, enabling them to glide for long periods. Their glides are punctuated by rapid, stiff bursts of wing-beats. Swallows, on the other hand, flex... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birding, birdwatching, flight

Canary in a Coal Mine

Beginning in 1911, miners in Great Britain carried a canary in a cage with them down into the mines. Why? Carbon monoxide can build to deadly levels, and it has no smell. If the canary weakened or stopped singing, miners knew to get out of the mine — and quickly. Why use a bird instead of, say, a... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

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 ... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting, vocalization

Chickadees Fledge!

Dasha Gudalewicz lives east of Seattle and followed this little family of Black-capped Chickadees.Someone's hungry...Help arrives on the sceneVery tasty. Still hungry...Satisfied for the moment...Good thing, because somebody else is hungry!Just in time!Takin' a break.No wonder the adult chickadee... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

Ameex Testing

Testing is on progress read more »

Anhingas - Snakebirds

In the black water of a Louisiana bayou, the water ripples where a slender form glides just beneath the surface. It appears to be a snake, but look closer at the long, narrow spike of a beak. It’s a Snakebird, a colloquial name for the Anhinga, swimming with just its head and neck above the water... read more »

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Swallow-tailed Kite

There's a bird of prey in the American Southeast that takes grace to an utterly new level: the Swallow-tailed Kite. A sleek raptor with a white head, slender black wings, and a long, deeply forked black tail, the Swallow-tailed Kite almost never flaps its wings. The bird makes sudden tight turns,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  flight

Adaptations for Flight

Birds evolved not only wings, but many other adaptations that make it possible to fly. Feathers provide insulation, waterproofing, and a lightweight means to become airborne. Birds have honeycombed or hollow bones, reducing body weight. And instead of weighty jawbones and teeth, birds evolved a... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  flight

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... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  flight

Northern Goshawks and Fire

Among the great firs and Ponderosa pines of Stanislaus National Forest in central California, Northern Goshawk nestlings crowd a platform nest of branches and pine needles halfway up a mature fir tree. In 2013, what’s known as the Rim Fire occurred, and some of the area burned with high intensity... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, nesting

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