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Past Shows

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The Nightingale

From Hans Christian Andersen... Long ago, in an emperor's garden, lived a Nightingale. The emperor ordered the bird to be brought to him, and she was locked in a golden cage. When the emperor received a mechanical Nightingale, the real Nightingale was banished. Years later, the emperor lay dying.... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  myth

Singer's Brain Changes with the Seasons

In higher animals, the brain is like a BMW — amazing engineering, but expensive to run. In a human, the brain uses about 10 times more energy than other organs. A bird's system is exquisitely attuned to this expense. Several species, including Black-capped Chickadees, have adapted in a... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science, vocalization

An Avian Big Bang

Many scientists believe that the demise of the dinosaurs began when an asteroid struck the earth 66 million years ago. Some dinosaurs survived, and among them were the early ancestors of birds. Recently an international research team sequenced the genomes of 45 birds of diverse lineages. The... read more »

How Long Does a Robin Live

The mortality rate is high in our familiar songbirds. For robins, it's around 50% each year once young birds have fledged. If a robin survives to midwinter, it lives an average of 1.7 years after that. The oldest robins in your yard might be about six years old, although one banded bird lived... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, nesting, science

Beauty and Secrecy: The Montezuma Quail

The Montezuma Quail is a tiny bird of Mexican mountains and the Southwestern US. It appears boldly colored in the open but disappears into the brush as if invisible. Habitat loss and overgrazing have diminished the bird’s range, but conservation agencies have been working together to protect it... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birding, birdwatching

Why a Gorget Glitters

A hummingbird's brilliant throat feathers are called a "gorget," a term applied in past centuries to the metallic swatch protecting the throat of a knight-in-armor. Light waves reflect and refract off the throat feathers, creating color in the manner of sun glinting off a film of oil on water.... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  plumage

Eagles Rebuild

Bald Eagles build large stick nests in tall trees. These nests endure rough treatment. Rambunctious chicks pull sticks out and flap madly, holding on with their feet, before they fledge. Wind buffets the nest year round. But eagles reuse their nests year after year. Adult eagles break off dead... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

Australia's Rainforest Birds

The rainforests of Eastern and Northeastern Australia harbor many species of birds found almost nowhere else. This Eastern Whipbird — which is more often heard than seen — hangs out in the dense understory. Easier to lay eyes on is the large, pigeon-like Wompoo Fruit-Dove. Feathered in a stunning... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Secretive Varied Thrush

Except in winter, when it gathers in loose flocks to move to lower elevations, this shy bird prefers solitude. The intricate pattern of color on its wings resembles dappled sunlight on the forest floor. Naturalist Louis Agassiz Fuertes called the song of the Varied Thrush, "... as perfectly the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, species account

King Penguins - World's Largest Kazoo Band

While it’s still winter in many parts of North America, it’s summer in Antarctica. And the King Penguins are singing! Some form breeding colonies that number in the tens of thousands. When many pairs of these colorful birds tip their heads back and sing, it sounds like the world’s largest kazoo... read more »

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