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Past Shows

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Kipukas and Akis

One of Hawaii’s rarest forest birds is this ‘Akiapola’au. Some of the roughly 1,000 'Akis left on earth live and breed in kipukas on the lower slopes of Mauna Loa, Hawaii’s largest active volcano. A kipuka is an island of native forest surrounded not by water but by recent lava flows - a green... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

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... read more »

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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... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  behavior, flight

Kakapo Boom Through the Night

Kakapos are large, flightless parrots unique to New Zealand. Hoping to attract females, several males gather in a “lek.” They sing at the same time, and the deep-pitched notes carry a long distance. Females may wander in from as much as a mile away. This booming competition goes on for several... read more »

Tree Swallows and Feathers

Tree Swallows glisten in the June sunlight, as they swoop and glide, their arcs interlacing in the air. When a white feather flutters down among them, one swallow snatches the feather in its bill and flies upward, as another gives chase. After a moment, the lead bird lets loose the feather, which... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

Mark Twain and Tropicbirds

When Mark Twain visited Hawaii in 1866, he was able to inspect a live volcano, Halema’uma’u, which he described as “a crimson cauldron.” Twain concluded his impressions of the hellish scene by writing, “The smell of sulfur is strong, but not unpleasant to a sinner.” That eruption came to an end... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

Designing a Spider Web to Evade Bird Collision

One of the lesser known hazards of a bird’s life — when flitting from shrub to shrub — is collision with spiders’ webs. And when a bird flies through a web, it’s the spider’s hard work that takes the hit. It can take a spider an hour just to repair the damage and get on with the task of snaring... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, science

Do Crows Sing?

It’s been said that if someone knows only three birds, one of them will be the crow. They’re common, easy to see, and even easier to hear. But crow voices are complicated. Altogether, crows may use 30 sound elements in different combinations, and one of the most intriguing is their song. Unlike... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Sibelius and the Swans

In April 1915, Finnish composer Jean Sibelius wrote in his diary about seeing 16 Whooper Swans overhead. He was entranced by both the sight and the sound of the swans. He watched them depart — “like a gleaming silver ribbon,” — and declared the image one of the great experiences of his life. And... read more »

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Powder Down

Hidden below the outer breast feathers of herons, pigeons, doves, tinamous, bustards and some parrots are patches of special down feathers. These feathers are never molted, and they grow continuously. The tips break down into a dust the consistency of talcum powder. Using a fringed claw on its... read more »

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