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Past Shows

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Songs and Calls - They're Not the Same

To our ear, the haunting song of this Hermit Thrush is musical, even ethereal. To another Hermit Thrush, the song signals that a male is laying claim to a territory and seeking a mate. These thrushes, like other songbirds, broadcast a variety of calls. Call notes can signal many things – alarm at... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

The Longest Day of the Year

On the summer solstice, birds nesting near Juneau, Alaska take advantage of almost 18 1/2 hours between sunrise and sunset. This day in south Texas is considerably shorter, so the Altamira Oriole has only 14 hours to sing. Seattle's Song Sparrows see 16 hours of daylight; Sacramento's only 15.... read more »

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Dawn in the Marsh

It's dawn in a western marsh in mid-summer, and man! Those birds are singin'! The males of more than a dozen species are staking out their territories and attracting mates. One of the noisiest of all is the Red-winged Blackbird. He sings not to attract just one mate, but to gather a whole harem!... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

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

Roseate Spoonbill

Of all the bold colors nature has bestowed on birds, bright pink may be the most surprising. And just about the hottest pink bird of all lives year round along the Gulf of Mexico — the Roseate Spoonbill. These birds stand out, especially when flying against a blue sky. And the spoon-shaped... read more »

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Henry David Thoreau and the Wood Thrush

In June 1853, Thoreau wrote of an enchanting encounter with the Wood Thrush: "This is the only bird whose note affects me like music. It lifts and exhilarates me. It is inspiring. It changes all hours to an eternal morning." Wood Thrushes thrive in large expanses of forest. And their numbers have... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, vocalization

Northern Hawk Owl

The Northern Hawk Owl is one of the least studied and least known of all birds in North America. Northern Hawk Owls are owls, but they share several traits with hawks and falcons: A streamlined body shape, daytime hunting habits, and stiff wing feathers for daytime hunting. (Owls that hunt at... read more »

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The Phoebe and the Pewee

The Eastern Phoebe (pictured here) is one of the most familiar flycatchers east of the Rockies. Because the Eastern Phoebe repeats its name when it sings, it’s a pretty straightforward voice to identify and remember. But there’s another flycatcher east of the Rockies that whistles its name over... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Voices and Vocabularies - Robin's Evening Song

During the day, an American Robin, a member of the thrush family, sings a lovely, familiar song of rich phrases. But as the sun begins to set, robin song takes on a different character. From sunset until dark, a robin adds ethereal whispered notes to its carol, creating a song of remarkable grace... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  sound, vocalization

Common Potoo with Nancy Rumbel

The Common Potoo is a nocturnal bird of Central and South America, known for its camouflage plumage and upright perching. Nancy Rumbel, who composed the theme music for BirdNote, improvises here with the call of the Common Potoo. Using the pentatonic scale of the potoo, Nancy responds with her... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  music, vocalization

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