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Past Shows

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Listeners' Stories: Cardinal and Vireo

BirdNote listener, Betsy MacGregor, talks about finding solace in the company of birds. First a bird of the eastern US, a Northern Cardinal, and then a Hutton's Vireo, a bird of the West. The cardinal creates its pure whistle by producing sound in its left and right bronchial tubes simultaneously... read more »

Topics & Themes:  listener story

Bird Songs Reflect Habitat

The Canyon Wren's eloquent song soothes the soul. Naturalist Ralph Hoffman likened it to "the spray of a waterfall in sunshine." Its close cousin, the Marsh Wren, wound up with a harsh, ratcheting song - about as musical as a tiny machine-gun barrage. Birds' songs mirror their environments. The... read more »

Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Tracking Burrowing Owls

Helen Trefry, a wildlife biologist in Edmonton, Alberta, wanted to know where the Burrowing Owls in her part of Canada migrated to. How long did it take them to get to their destinations? Where and how did they spend their stopovers? An amateur radio operator from Texas, along with a network of... read more »

Topics & Themes:  migration, science

Sky Larks in Vancouver

The Sky Lark is a bird whose songful brilliance inspired English poets, and gave its name to the phrase "an exaltation of larks." To glimpse a singing Sky Lark, look high up, where the male flutters and circles perhaps 100 feet off the ground, broadcasting its complex song. Around 1902, Sky Larks... read more »


Birdwatching - Where to Look

How do birdwatchers identify a particular species? Like fishermen who know how to "read the water," it helps to understand habitat. At a wetland full of cattails, for example, you're likely to find a Red-winged Blackbird, because it requires dense marsh vegetation to nest. If you take notes about... read more »

Topics & Themes:  birdwatching

Black Guillemot, Part 2

To feed their young, Black Guillemots search for food at the edge of pack-ice. In 1972, this was a just short trip from Cooper Island. Now it's more than 25 miles. Unable to find sufficient food close by, they're abandoning their chicks in order to save themselves and try again the next year. The... read more »

Topics & Themes:  science

Birds Half Asleep, Half Awake

For birds, a brain that can function while literally half-asleep is important to survival. In flocks of birds at roost, those at the outer edge of the flock often have one eye open. Such birds are truly half-asleep: one brain hemisphere snoozes as the other remains awake and alert. The eye... read more »

Topics & Themes:  science

Limerick Day

May 12 is Limerick Day, the birthday of Edward Lear, author of nonsense verse and limericks. In honor of the day, a limerick written by Dixon Lanier Merritt in 1910: A wonderful bird is the pelican. His bill will hold more than his belican. He can take in his beak, Food enough for a week, I'm... read more »

Topics & Themes:  humor

Interview with Burt Guttman

Do you know someone who's ready to start birdwatching, but is uncertain how to go about it? Burt Guttman, Professor Emeritus of The Evergreen State College, has written a book that can help. In Finding Your Wings, A Workbook for Beginning Bird Watchers, Burt explains: Find a good place. Get a... read more »

Topics & Themes:  birdwatching

Do Birds See Color?

Have you ever wondered if a hummingbird can recognize colors other than red, or if other birds see color? What about this male Scarlet Tanager? Some male birds literally shimmer with brilliant colors-the Wood Duck and peacock, for instance. But color is probably lost on nocturnal birds, which may... read more »

Topics & Themes:  science