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Past Shows

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Sapsuckers and Sap

Sapsuckers, a specialized group of woodpeckers, don’t actually suck sap. After pecking neat rows of small holes in trees to cause the sugary liquid to flow, the birds lick it up with tongues tipped with stiff hairs. So why doesn’t a sapsucker’s beak get stuck shut? Part of the answer may lie in... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Sparrows Sing in Arizona Monsoon

Midday temperatures in southeast Arizona soar above 100 degrees during the month of July. But relief is coming. A summer monsoon refreshes the Sonoran Desert like a second spring. Grass grows lush, wildflowers spring forth, and birds sing. Cassin’s Sparrows sing their plaintive phrases almost... read more »

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Mountain Walk with Bird Songs

A hike through the mountains of the West, from the lowlands to the rocky alpine zones, reveals an incredibly diverse array of beautiful birds: Swainson’s Thrushes, Pine Grosbeaks, American Pipits and so many more to be found. read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, vocalization

Small Birds Mob Big Ones

When smaller birds join forces to ward off larger birds, it's called mobbing. This behavior — like calling your family for help — is used by many bird species. The best time to observe mobbing is spring and early summer, when breeding birds are trying to protect their nests and young. Birds... read more »

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Seabirds Converge from the Ends of the Earth

Off the coast of North Carolina, at the edge of North America’s continental shelf, the seafloor drops more than 12,000 feet. Seabird researcher Tom Johnson says the nutrient-rich waters of this area nurture a wealth of squid and small fish, attracting seabirds such as these Wilson’s Storm-Petrels... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology

What Do Desert Birds Drink?

In the desert Southwest, water can be scarce. Yet some birds, like this Black-throated Sparrow, thrive in a scorching landscape. The birds obtain moisture from foods like nectar and fruit, as well as insects and other prey. They tuck into the shade in the heat of the day, so they won’t lose water... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology

Pterodactyls and Birds

Pterosaurs—the giant, leathery flying creatures of the age of the dinosaurs—were giant reptiles, NOT dinosaurs. The pterosaurs had slim bodies and thin-walled, lightweight bones, ideal for flying. They thrived for 160 million years, passing into history after the same asteroid strike that... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  evolution, science

Chickadees Clean Up After the Youngsters

Imagine this Black-capped Chickadee flying toward its nest, carrying fresh insects for its chicks. A moment later, it emerges with a tiny white pouch in its bill. The chickadee drops the object into the vegetation below. That outgoing payload is a fecal sac, a remarkable adaptation found in... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

Listening for Bird Song - Featuring Gordon Hempton

We may be more indebted to birds than we know. Acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton explains: “I was curious about the human range of sound . . . it’s a perfect match for bird song,” he says. “If we hear bird song, then we’re also listening to an area that has food, water, and an extended favorable... read more »

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Rapid Evolution in the Galápagos Islands

Scientists have long thought that new species took a very long time to emerge. This thinking has now changed dramatically. On an island in the Galápagos, researchers Rosemary and Peter Grant discovered that a hybrid union of two distinct species of finch produced descendants different from any of... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  evolution

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