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Birdwatching 104 - A Summary

How do birdwatchers identify one species from another? First, they look carefully at the bird. What's the overall color? Is its bill long or short, thin or stout? What about its markings -- a ring around its eye or stripe on its head? What's your bird doing? Bird behavior can help you sort out... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching

Birds That Say Their Own Names

Some birds, such as the Northern Bobwhite, take their names from their songs or vocalizations: "Bobwhite! Bobwhite!" The Killdeer is another bird named for its song: "Kill-dee, kill-dee, kill-dee." There are others. "Poorwill, poorwill, poorwill" calls this Common Poorwill. This bird is the... read more »

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Kentucky Warbler

Kentucky Warblers nest in forested regions in much of the East, preferring woodlands with a dense understory, often near streams or other wetlands. These birds can use our help. As their forest habitat shrinks, it’s easier for Brown-headed Cowbirds to find and parasitize the warblers’ nests.... read more »

Grosbeaks and Monarchs

Black-headed Grosbeaks are one of very few birds that regularly eat Monarch butterflies. Most birds and other animals find the butterflies unpalatable, if not downright toxic. The caterpillars of Monarchs consume milkweeds that contain toxic substances known as cardenolides. The poison is stored... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Sounds of the Boreal Forest

The boreal forest is a vast band of spruce and poplar, extending from coast to coast across Alaska and Canada. Called North America's "songbird bread-basket," for a brief time, it teems with song. Birdsongs heard on this show include a Common Loon (like this one), Swainson's Thrush, White... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting, vocalization

White-throated Swifts

A pair of White-throated Swifts twists and turns, sailing through the air. Dashing headlong across the canyon toward an unyielding wall, the birds disappear at the last second into a slender crevice. This swift is aptly named — and doubly so. The White-throated Swift is among the fastest of all... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  flight

Are Birds Nests Reused?

Let’s talk about nests. Every spring, robins build their cup-shaped nests using grass and mud. Orioles weave a hanging sack. It’s hard work, and yet once the chicks fledge, the structures probably won’t be reused. But bigger birds, such as herons, hawks, and eagles, often reuse a nest for many... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

National Symbol - Turkey vs. Eagle

As an old tale goes, after the eagle was chosen for national emblem, Benjamin Franklin questioned the choice. In a letter to his daughter regarding a medal created by the Society of the Cincinnati, he wrote wrily: "The Bald Eagle is too lazy to fish for himself; when the Osprey has taken a fish .... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

The Painted Bunting

Every spring and summer, birders go in search of the superbly colorful birds that come back to the temperate US from tropical regions — including the Painted Bunting. It just doesn’t seem possible that one bird could pack so much visual impact onto a body that’s only slightly larger than a... read more »

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Rufous Hummingbirds in Summer

In July, the female Rufous Hummingbird has fledged her first two nestlings and is just about to fledge another. The chick is now as big as its mother, making the walls of the walnut-sized nest bulge outwards at maximum capacity. It takes about 40 days to fledge each brood, from egg-laying until... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

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