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Past Shows

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How Much Birds Sing

A typical songbird belts out its song between 1,000 and 2,500 times per day. Even though most bird songs last only a few seconds, that's a lot of warbling! A Yellowhammer, a European bunting, may sing over 3,000 times a day. But the Yellowhammer doesn't even come close to the North American... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Paradise-Whydah

A few times each year, the Eastern Paradise-Whydah puts on its party clothes. This small finch is found in East Africa, and males and females generally share the same nondescript appearance. But when it’s time to mate, the male sprouts extravagant, long, black tail feathers two or three times the... read more »

Do Woodpeckers Harpoon Their Prey?

Because many woodpeckers have pointed tongues, it was once assumed that they “harpoon” their prey. But what they actually do is more complex. Like a safe-cracker in a movie, birds like this Hairy Woodpecker use a killer combination of sensitivity and force. First, as it scales a tree trunk, the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ornithology

Instrumental Bird Sounds

Birds communicate with a fascinating array of instrumental sounds, and nearly all are made with their feathers or bills. The territorial drumming of a woodpecker - like this Black-backed Woodpecker - is one example. American Crows clatter their beaks to make rattling sounds. And the remarkable... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  sound

Voices and Vocabularies - Great Horned Owls

Great Horned Owls have a lot to say! When a pair of Great Horned Owls calls in a duet, the female usually hoots first, and the male replies at a lower pitch. Great Horned Owls may also pierce the darkness with an eerie shriek, which may signal a hungry owlet begging for food or a female defending... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  sound

Helpers at the Nest

Brown Jays, like this juvenile, make nesting a family affair. The entire flock takes care of a single nest, which holds four eggs laid by one female in the flock. Each bird brings food to the young. And when the young first leave the nest, the helpers teach them to find food and recognize danger,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

Tallgrass Prairie

Tallgrass prairie, a sea of grass, once stretched from Manitoba to Texas, a landscape of almost unimaginable natural abundance. Heading west, Lewis and Clark came upon savannahs as far as the eye could see, covered with herds of bison, elk, pronghorn, and deer. Only a tiny fraction of the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  environmental champion

The Song of the Woodlark

Woodlarks are birds of the rolling heathlands and forest glades of southern England, as well as other parts of Europe. Like most kinds of larks, Woodlarks are all but impossible to spot on the ground. Fortunately, they sing from the air, as they fly in graceful, circular patterns, their warbled... read more »

Tony Angell, on a Feeding Frenzy of Gulls

Naturalist, sculptor, and illustrator Tony Angell writes: "It was early summer and I looked across the open sea. Its surface gently heaved, suggesting the presence of some great being stirring within. ... In the bay below, a gang of a hundred gulls swirled, surged, and plunged into a herring ball... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  reflection

Loons Go Fishing

You're fishing on a northern lake, when a black-and-white shape torpedoes under your boat. Alerted by the sound of your reel, a Common Loon follows the trout in hot pursuit. If the fish is small, the loon may take it right off the end of your line. If you succeed in bringing the fish to hand, the... read more »

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