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Past Shows

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Birds' Early Warning Systems

A frantic cacophony of loud, rapid birdcalls tells other birds there’s a predator on the prowl. It’s called “mobbing” as birds clamor and dart — back and forth — at the threat. An ongoing study of mobbing and other bird warning behavior suggests that some birds listen in on the warnings of other... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology

Why Do Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers Look So Similar?

Generations of birders have puzzled over how to tell Downy Woodpeckers from Hairy Woodpeckers. The two species’ patterns of black and white feathers are so alike that it was long thought they were the closest of relatives. The two live in similar woods, nest in similar trees, and eat many of the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  evolution

Waterfalls, Caves, and White-collared Swifts

A flight of White-collared Swifts, huge swifts the size of small falcons, wing their way toward a small waterfall in Southern Mexico. Flying up to 100 miles per hour, they slice right through the waterfall into the cave beyond. White-collared Swifts are found from Mexico to Brazil. By day, they... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  flight, nesting

Gaping Blackbirds

Gordon Orians describes an unusual adaptation in blackbirds called gaping: "...the ability to forcibly open the bill against some pressure, so that a bird can push its bill into the base of a grass clump, and forcibly open it, which reveals the insects that may be down hidden in the base. ...... read more »

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Birds Need Water in Summer

Summer is a crucial time to keep your backyard birds supplied with water for drinking and bathing. Birdbaths set at different heights serve a great variety of birds. A wide, shallow birdbath that deepens a bit in the center will suit a broad range of birds - including this Orange-crowned Warbler.... read more »

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American Robin Babies Afoot

After hatching, baby robins spend up to 15 days in the nest. By July, many young American Robins have left the nest, or fledged. But they aren't ready to make it entirely on their own yet, and they follow their parents around, learning to fend for themselves. Outside of the breeding season,... read more »

RELATED
Topics & Themes:  nesting

Who Was That Masked Bird?

Football and baseball players sometimes wear eye black to reduce glare from the sun or stadium lights. According to scientists, some birds — including many shrikes, like this Northern Shrike — have evolved a band of black feathers across their eyes that helps in the same way. The black markings... read more »

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Wimbledon Raptors - And Pigeons

Wimbledon is legendary: the verdant green of the courts, the throngs of fans in sun hats, sightings of royalty ... and lots of pigeons. Since the tennis tournament at the All England Club began in 1877, pigeons nested in the stands and generally made a mess of things. Today, though, very few... read more »

RELATED
Topics & Themes:  human interaction

Towhees' Distractive Plumage

Both this Eastern Towhee and the Spotted Towhee of the West sport a black or dark brown hood and back. And when they fly, their tails flash white. When a hawk gives chase, the towhee's flashing tail-feathers draw the predator's attention. Momentarily distracted, the hawk may come up with just a... read more »

RELATED
Topics & Themes:  plumage

Fairy-Wrens Sing Secret Passwords to Unborn Chicks

Superb Fairy-wrens teach their embryonic chicks a secret code. This "incubation call" contains a special note that will later serve as a password. When the chicks have hatched, this password enables the adult birds to identify their babies in the darkness of their domed nest. A species of... read more »

RELATED
Topics & Themes:  nesting, science, sound

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