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Past Shows

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Why Birds' Feet Don't Freeze

Have you ever watched ducks walking around in freezing temperatures and wondered why their feet don't freeze? And how do birds, including this Northern Flicker, sit on metal perches with no problem? Birds' feet have a miraculous adaptation that keeps them from freezing. Rete mirabile — Latin for ... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ornithology, science

Pygmy-Owls' False Eyes

This Northern Pygmy-Owl appears to have eyes in the back of its head. But why? One theory is that large false eyes may create the illusion that the owl is much bigger than its 6 and 3/4-inch size. A more current theory is that the false eyes help protect the pygmy-owl's true eyes. Small birds... read more »

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Habitat Defined

When you think of habitat, think of home. For a jay that lives in the forest, the forest is its habitat – where it finds food, water, shelter, and the company of other jays. Or it might live in your back yard or the bank parking lot down the street. Some birds live in different habitats at... read more »

More Information than from 100 Years of Bird Banding

Geolocators are revolutionizing our ability to track migrating birds. When mounted on the backs of birds like this Common Swift, these tiny technological backpacks reveal fascinating information. For example, when researchers in Europe used geolocators to study Common Swifts, they discovered a... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, science

Rough-legged Hawk

After breeding on Arctic cliffs and tundra hillsides in summer, Rough-legged Hawks winter throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Open country is their ideal territory, where the small rodents they depend on are usually so plentiful that the hawks have enough to eat. But the rodents are cyclic, with... read more »

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Why the Crow Is Black

Out of the 810 species of North American birds, the only completely black birds are the crow and the raven. Here's a story that explains why the crow is black, according to Native American tradition. When Crow came into the world, he wore all the colors of the rainbow, but the other animals and... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  myth

Hunters' Names for Ducks

Hunters have nicknames for waterfowl that capture the distinctive sound and sight of these birds, such as "Spoonbill" for this Northern Shoveler. And why is the Northern Pintail called a "Sprig"? WNPR listener David, in Belchertown, MA, tells us that the answer can be found in Gurdon Trumbull's... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  language

The Music of Black Scoters

Black Scoters are sea ducks that spend the winter on saltwater bays. They are large, strong ducks and buoyant swimmers with a habit of cocking their tails upward. Black Scoters nest each summer on freshwater tundra ponds. Each fall, they can be found on bays all across the Northern Hemisphere. An... read more »

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Turkey in the Straw

Turkey in the Straw was a fiddle tune called Natchez Under the Hill before it was published with words. It became popular during Andrew Jackson's presidency, which would put it on the scene about the early 1830s. We know that Wild Turkeys prefer woodlands to barns with straw. Nevertheless, we... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  music

Why Bird Poop Is White

Birds brighten our lives. They connect us with nature. But sometimes they connect us a bit too directly with nature. Park under the wrong tree - where a flock of starlings or grackles comes to roost - and nature may cover your car so thickly that it takes a trip or two through the carwash just to... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

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