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Past Shows

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Geese Launching at Bosque del Apache

In winter, flocks of wintering Snow Geese, Ross’s Geese, and Sandhill Cranes stop at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Just before sunrise, the geese are a mass of kinetic and potential energy, like a symphony orchestra tuning up for a big performance. Hunger might launch... read more »

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Long-distance Champions of Migration - With Scott Weidensaul

Arctic Terns are the long-distance champions of migration. Thanks to satellite transmitters and geolocators, we know that some Arctic Terns travel more than 50,000 miles annually! Scott Weidensaul, naturalist and author of Living on the Wind, says these technology tools “make the issue of bird... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, science

Carrier Pigeons Go to War

In World War I, carrier pigeons were crucial in relaying messages from the front to positions behind the lines. The most renowned was Cher Ami - or Dear Friend - flown by the US Army Signal Corps during the Battle of Verdun in France. The message Cher Ami carried on October 4, 1918, was vital in... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

The Cardinal: A Southerner Moves North

Holiday cards often feature gorgeous red cardinals against a snowy landscape. So it’s easy to assume the birds have always been a colorful presence in bleak Northern winters. But cardinals used to be Southern birds. By the second half of the 20th century, though, they were nesting as far north as... read more »

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William Turner and the First Bird Book

The first printed bird book, The Principal Birds of Aristotle and Pliny, was published in 1544. Written by the English physician and naturalist William Turner, the book is noteworthy for its inclusion of Turner’s personal observations — a real innovation at a time when ancient authorities held... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

Wilson's Warblers Benefit from Shade-grown Coffee

Early this fall, the tiny Wilson's Warbler began its long migration to Belize, where it winters. Navigating by the stars, the 1/4-ounce bird made a series of night flights spanning more than 2500 miles. This warbler returns to the same coffee plantation each year. Taller trees that shade the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration

A Bird in the Hand

You’ve probably heard the old saying: “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Well, it’s a very old saying, and it’s gone through some changes over the years. In each era, the pragmatic wisdom is clear: Hold on to the sure thing rather than taking a gamble on something better. The saying... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  language

Margaret Morse Nice and the Song Sparrow

Few backyard birds in North America are more widespread than the Song Sparrow. But it was the study of this seemingly unremarkable bird that helped shape modern ornithology. In 1928, Margaret Morse Nice began carefully observing Song Sparrows near Columbus, Ohio, where she lived. For eight years,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, ornithology

Rock Sandpipers Are Tough - Homer Spit Christmas Bird Count

It's winter on Homer Spit in southern Alaska, and Rock Sandpipers feed along the gravelly shore. These small shorebirds probe for food. Anything that moves is fair game, especially amphipods, the little crustaceans that hop about when exposed. The sandpipers also snap up clams, snails, and... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching, citizen science

Why Some Birds Sing in the Winter

By late January, some resident birds, such as the Northern Mockingbird, are beginning their spring singing. When you step outside on a particularly sunny day this winter, a Fox Sparrow like the one pictured here may be warming up for the coming spring. And as far north as British Columbia,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

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