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flight

Soaring with Redtails

A Red-tailed Hawk soars on broad, rounded wings, the epitome of effortless flight. Without flapping, it traces a leisurely, rising circle. The hawk is riding a thermal, a column of warm rising air generated near the earth's surface by heat from the sun. The Red-tail periodically circles to stay... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  flight

The Eagle Eye

The eye of an eagle is one of the most sensitive of any animal, and may weigh more than the eagle's brain. The secret to the exceptional vision lies in its retina. The density of rods and cones within a raptor's eye may be five times that of a human's. As the Golden Eagle rides hot-air thermals... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  flight, language, science

Hummingbird - Mighty Puffball

What bird can fly straight up and down, backward and forward, and even upside down? A hummingbird can do all this, and fly up to 75 miles an hour. And most amazing of all? This bird can slow from 25 miles an hour to a dead stop in a space no longer than your index finger!Learn more about this... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  flight

Pelagic Birding Trip

If you want to see an albatross, you'll have to go offshore. Our goal lies west: the edge of the Continental Shelf, 35 nautical miles away. In the pelagic realm, we pass among thousands of shearwaters, migrating south to nest near New Zealand, in the austral summer. Someone shouts "Albatross!"... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching, flight

Birds and Navigation

The argonauts of the western Pacific and Polynesia, when navigating the vast distances between tiny islands, observed with great care the migration of birds. Polynesian navigators often carried with them frigatebirds, which they released and followed to land. Risking their lives, ancient... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  flight, migration

Great Snipe - Fastest Long-distance Migrant

One summer, Swedish ornithologists attached tiny tracking devices to ten Great Snipes. A year later, they found that one bird had flown from Sweden to Central Africa, a distance of 4,225 miles, in just three and a half days. Several bird species are known to fly faster than 60 miles per hour, and... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  flight, migration

How High Birds Fly II

Bar-headed Geese, champions of high-altitude migration, leave their nesting grounds in Tibet and scale the Himalayan range on their way to wintering grounds in the lowlands of India. How do they do it? These geese have a breathing structure that extracts oxygen from thin air, even at 30,000 feet.... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  flight

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... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  flight

Bird in Flight, Strong but Light

The feathers of a bird are, for their weight, among the strongest structures in the world. The bones of this Magnificent Frigatebird weigh less than its feathers! To further reduce weight while maintaining strength, many bird bones are fused. In addition, the pectoral and pelvic girdles and ribs... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  flight, science

Chorus Line in the Sky

A flock of small shorebirds (like these Western Sandpipers) twists and turns, glittering in the sky. When threatened by a falcon, these birds take to the air, flying so close together that it's hard for a predator to capture one. A bird at one edge turns toward the middle, and a wave sweeps... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  flight

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