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Past Shows

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Why Do Some Birds Flock?

When birds like these Dunlin form flocks, each individual is less likely to be captured by a predator. Some shorebirds that forage with their heads down, like godwits, will flock with birds that forage with their heads up, like curlews. Still other birds work together —  like American White... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  flight

Jynx!

A birder may have a target bird so elusive that the bird becomes a kind of "jinx bird." But there was a real bird by that name! The bird once called the "jynx" is known today as the Eurasian Wryneck. When a wryneck is threatened, it twists its head like a snake and hisses. This behavior led to... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching, ornithology

Attu and Its Island-hopping Rock Ptarmigan

Attu, at the western end of Alaska’s Aleutian chain, is home to the Rock Ptarmigan. Although grouse are not long-distance fliers, Rock Ptarmigans can cross open water, so they occur from one end of the Aleutians to the other. They are supremely adapted for high latitudes, with thick feathers,... read more »

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Why Arctic Terns Have Short Beaks

The bill and legs of Arctic Terns are shorter than those of Common Terns. Because Arctic Terns breed in the Arctic and winter in the Antarctic, they are subject to much colder weather than are Common Terns. Birds' bills and legs lose heat, because they're not covered by feathers. Birds in cold... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Why Do Birds Come to Birdfeeders?

A tube of black oil sunflower seeds isn’t “natural”…and neither is a suet cake. Yet as soon as you hang them up, the neighborhood birds, like these female finches, find them. Those grosbeaks at your feeder probably never ate sunflower seeds in nature. Sunflowers grow in open plains, while... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdfeeding

The Early Bird

We've all heard that the early bird gets the worm. But research shows that birds dining early and heavily may lower their life expectancy. Socially dominant birds stay lean (and agile at avoiding predators) during the day, and then stoke up later, before a cold night. Subordinate birds have to... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Capuchinbirds

The peace of the vast Guyanan jungle is abruptly broken with the dawn chorus of male Capuchinbirds, one of the most bizarre birds in South America. The singing male bows forward, then suddenly stretches to his full length, raising a monk-like cowl of feathers around his naked blue-gray head. The... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display

Burrowing Snowbirds

Light, fluffy snow can be up to 90% trapped air — just the thing to keep birds and other animals warm. Ptarmigan spend winter nights in cozy caves they excavate in snow. During truly harsh weather, they will hunker down in their caves through the short arctic day, too. Common Redpolls break... read more »

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Gray Jays

While camping in the mountains, you might see this Gray Jay, boldly swooping into your camp. This handsome jay’s big, black eyes seem to miss nothing — especially food. But the one food Gray Jays don’t eat is conifer seeds. The jays hide other food in conifer needles and tuck it under the bark of... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

Gliding with Tropicbirds

With the strong, direct flight of a falcon, a tropicbird can catch a flying fish on the wing, or plunge like an arrow into the sea and — with its serrated bill — capture a squid. Three species of tropicbirds range through most of the tropical latitudes of the world's oceans, and have done so for... read more »

RELATED
Topics & Themes:  myth

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