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Past Shows

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The Companionship of Birds

When Brechin Morgan sailed around the world by himself, he experienced severe anxiety on the second night of his voyage. A cormorant sleeping on the deck of his boat brought peace at just the right moment. “I thought, my God, if this bird can sleep on a rocky, rolly boat in the middle of a windy,... read more »

Topics & Themes:  human interaction, reflection

Sound Escapes - Relearn the Art of Truly Listening

Gordon Hempton has spent his life capturing the sounds of the natural world — and learning to really listen to the world around him. He says over the course of our lives we apply more and more filters that dictate what is and isn’t worth our attention. That can help us navigate the human world,... read more »

Topics & Themes:  recording

What's with the Wattles?

Birds like male turkeys or barnyard roosters have a wrinkly, bumpy flap of red skin called a wattle. But what are wattles for? Birds can’t sweat, so wattles help release excess heat. Wattles are also key to courtship displays. Many other birds, including some storks and plovers, also have wattles... read more »

Topics & Themes:  breeding display

Eau de Junco

It’s junco season in North America. Flocks of these white-bellied snowbirds are kicking and scratching on woodland edges and beneath feeders from southern Canada to Mexico. On warm winter days, the males may even break into song. But songs and calls aren’t the only way Dark-eyed Juncos... read more »

Topics & Themes:  plumage

Big Ducks, Small Ducks, and the Economy of Nesting

Ducks that start laying eggs soon after arriving at a suitable nest site are sometimes called “capital” breeders, because they carry with them, in their bodies, all the food and fat reserves they need to begin nesting when they arrive. “Income” breeders arrive at their nesting sites after a long... read more »

Topics & Themes:  nesting

Light and Song - Sparks in Winter

Even in winter, some birds — including Black-capped Chickadees, House Finches, and American Robins — greet the sunrise with song. We normally hear the dawn chorus in springtime, when birds sing to define territory and attract mates. But birds don’t breed by warmth alone. Day length is a far more... read more »

Topics & Themes:  breeding display

The Music of Herring Gulls

For some of us, it’s hard to get excited about gulls. But they are just as fascinating – and have as much to tell us – as other birds. Take the Herring Gull, for example. Its appearance is striking, and its voice is unforgettable. Along the Atlantic coast of North America, the nesting population... read more »

Topics & Themes:  ecology

Raven's Love Song

Ravens are seen as tricksters in many traditions. But Common Ravens have a softer side. During courtship, a pair will often sit side by side, sometimes preening each other's feathers. And during that ritual, one or both may make soft warbling sounds. Raven nestlings sometimes make this same sound... read more »

Topics & Themes:  breeding display, vocalization

Crowned-Pigeons: Big, Beautiful, Threatened

Imagine a pigeon the size of a Turkey Vulture or a Canada Goose! Meet the crowned-pigeon. Four species inhabit the large, equatorial island of New Guinea and a few smaller islands. Crowned-pigeons are forest birds and fruit-eaters, with iridescent purple chests and spectacular, tall, lacy crests... read more »

Topics & Themes:  evolution

Examining Owl Pellets

A roosting owl often leaves visual clues to its whereabouts — a scattering of furry, oval objects below its perch — in the form of pellets. Because owls such as this Great Horned Owl often swallow their prey whole, their digestive system has to deal with bones, fur, and feathers. The owl’s... read more »

Topics & Themes:  ecology