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BirdNote Moments for February 2014

Black Rail © Greg Lavaty

Black Rails by Night II - Written by Bob Sundstrom

And now, a BirdNote Moment!

[Black Rail calling, using the “kee-kee-doo” type calls]

As the February moon rises over a Louisiana marsh, a peculiar sound breaks the nocturnal silence.  [Black Rail calling]

It’s the call of a Black Rail. [Black Rail calling]

Just six inches tall, the Black Rail is a puffball, the shape of a barnyard chick. For birdwatchers, seeing a Black Rail is akin to seizing the Holy Grail: Black Rails are not only tiny and dark, but they are secretive and most active at night.

[Black Rail calling, the “kee-kee-doo” type calls]

Many Black Rails nest in marshes along the Atlantic seaboard and in the Midwest. But in winter they concentrate in the coastal marshes of East Texas, Louisiana, and Florida. Those who support the conservation of wetlands help assure that this shy bird’s comical voice will be heard for many years to come.

[Black Rail calling, the “kee-kee-doo” type calls]   

There’s more to this story at


Listen to the full BirdNote show, "Black Rails by Night" >>


Snowy Owl © Phil Brown

Snowy Owls Are Here! - Written and narrated by Gerrit Vyn

And now a BirdNote Moment!

[Screech of a Snowy Owl]

Snowy Owls are a mystery in many ways. [Music]

Each nomadic owl is on a lifelong journey spanning continents in search of food.

Individuals have been tracked moving from Alaska to the Canadian Arctic to Russia over the course of a just a couple of years. Some wander the pack ice, hundreds of miles of from land where they feed in Arctic darkness on seabirds that they snatch from the water with their hooked talons. [adult screeching]

When one of these arctic wanderers comes south to reside in a farmer’s field, we get to glimpse a moment in a long journey that we as humans can hardly imagine.

For BirdNote, I’m Gerrit Vyn.  To see these owls on video, come to


Listen to the full BirdNote show, "The Snowy Owls Are Here!" >>



Winter Wren © Phil Brown

The Savvy Winter Wren - By Todd Peterson

Now a BirdNote Moment!

[Sound of a chainsaw]

The chainsaw roars and chatters, spitting sawdust, a loud and fearsome force. Then from under the loose bark up pops a large grub, as big as my thumbnail, glistening white. And in the wink of an eye, a Pacific Wren darts from hiding in the underbrush at my feet and gobbles the grub. The wren’s eagerness conveys its great good fortune in finding this feast in the dead of winter.

[Song of the Pacific Wren]

The Pacific Wren – like its cousin, the Winter Wren of the East – finds food wherever it can, sometimes even in the face of apparent danger. And for the surprise and companionship, well, I was happy to oblige.

[Song of the Pacific Wren]

There’s more to this story at


Listen to the full BirdNote show, "The Savvy Wren" >>



American Crow © Joanne Clayton

Crows Preening - Written by Ellen Blackstone

This is BirdNote!

[Calls of Gray-headed Lovebirds]

Parrots of all kinds engage in a public display of affection called “allopreening,” and it’s probably this activity that gave lovebirds their name, but crows show affection, too!

[Vocalizations of a pair of American Crows]

Male and female sit side by side on a wire or branch, often near their nest tree. One stretches out its neck, inviting the other to groom its feathers. The groomer, or preener, twirls individual feathers in its beak, often starting at the back of the head and working around to the front. The bird being groomed turns its head upward, so the preener can reach the feathers under its chin. Its eyes close slightly, making it seem as if the bird is in a daze.

[More vocalization of crows]

There’s more to the story at 

Listen to the full BirdNote show, "Crows Preening" >>


Credits for all four BirdNote Moments

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Call of a Black Rail recorded by G.A. Keller; T. Wiewandt; crickets by N. Tucker; Male Snowy Owl hooting 138288 recorded by Gerrit Vyn, hatchling Snowy Owl sounds 54811 by Martha Fischer; male Snowy Owl alarm call 138288 by Gerrit Vyn; adult Snowy Owl screech 137339 by Stuart McDonald. Song of the Winter Wren recorded by G.A. Keller. Sound of the Winter Wren used with permission by Kevin Colver. Calls of Gray-headed Lovebirds [97517] recorded by L. Wilme. Vocalizations of crow pair [82044] by E. Brown.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2014 Tune In to      February 2014

Sights & Sounds