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Past Shows

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Ptarmigan Toes

With its rubbery-sounding rattles and clownish red eyebrows, the ptarmigan is quite the stand-out northern bird. As winter approaches, the ptarmigan’s feet grow feathers, and its claws grow longer. All that added surface area means the ptarmigan practically has its own set of snowshoes.Today’s... read more »

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What the Pacific Wren Hears

What does the Pacific Wren hear in a song? It's a long story. What we hear as a blur of sound, the bird hears as a precise sequence of sounds, the visual equivalent of seeing a movie as a series of still pictures. That birds can hear the fine structure of song so acutely allows them to convey... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Clean Nestboxes in October

It’s a wistful moment when your backyard birds — like these Black-capped Chickadees — depart their nestboxes. By October, it’s time for one last duty as nestbox landlord: to clean it out. Cleaning will reduce the incidence of parasites in the box and make it more inviting to next spring’s tenants... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

Purple Martins Head South to the Amazon

The Purple Martin is the largest swallow that nests in the US and Canada. During fall, Purple Martins from western North America migrate to a distinct wintering area in southeastern Brazil — a travel distance of more than 5,000 miles! Scientists believe that Purple Martins started out as a South... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, science

Geese in V-formation

Autumn…and geese fly high overhead in V-formation. But what about that V-formation, angling outward through the sky? This phenomenon — a kind of synchronized, aerial tailgating — marks the flight of flocks of larger birds, like geese or pelicans. Most observers believe that each bird behind the... read more »

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A World of Parrots

Parrots have strong, hooked beaks that are great for cracking tough seeds. Their feet allow them to climb and to hold on to objects, like food. Parrots are known for their legendary intelligence and ability to talk. And they come in almost every color of the rainbow! This Buff-faced Pygmy Parrot... read more »

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Swallows and Mud - A Myth?

The swallows that make mud nests in spring and catch flying insects all summer are now far south in Mexico, and Central and South America. It's only as recently as the end of the nineteenth century that ornithologists agreed that swallows, including this Cliff Swallow, migrate. Many formerly... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, myth

Pinyon Jay

Pinyon Jays take their name from pinyon pines. Extracting the seeds from cones, the jays fill their throats. Then they fly to a caching site, sometimes miles away, to push each seed into the leaf litter. Collectively, they cache millions of seeds, some of which sprout before they can be eaten.... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  gardening

Look Up - A Family of Falconers

For Mike Jackson, a firefighter in Washington, DC, falconry is a family affair. He learned the sport of training and hunting with birds of prey from his dad. Now, he’s a father himself, and he works with birds of prey as a way to connect with the natural world — and his kids. He hopes that when... read more »

The Great Missoula Floods

During the last ice age, part of the ice sheet covering what is now western Canada advanced far enough into Idaho to block a major waterway, now called the Clark Fork River. The ice dam backed up the river, creating a gigantic lake in (what is now) Montana. Every so often, the weight of all that... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

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