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State of the Birds

Black-throated Sparrow Sings in the Desert

The Black-throated Sparrow thrives in the open, arid habitats of the American Southwest. Nature maintains such native landscapes with frequent but relatively cool-burning fires. But decades of fire suppression have altered nature's pattern, setting the stage for hotter, more destructive fires.... read more »

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Prairie Warblers - An Early Successional Species

Despite their name, Prairie Warblers nest in tree farms of recently planted pines, in fields overgrown with scattered shrubs, and in clearings under power lines. Biologists call these “early successional” habitats. They’re characterized by plants that are the first to return to land altered by... read more »

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Lark Sparrow

The Lark Sparrow is large, gorgeous, and unmistakable. Because of its beauty, a Lark Sparrow was chosen for the cover of Sparrows and Buntings: A Guide to the Sparrows and Buntings of North America and the World. Lark Sparrows nest throughout the West and Midwest, in grassy habitats with... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birding, birdwatching

Common Grackles Conservation

Despite their seeming abundance, the numbers of Common Grackles have shrunk by 60% in the last 40 years. Grackles prefer open landscapes with scattered trees, and their numbers peaked as eastern forests were cleared for agriculture in the 18th and 19th Centuries. As eastern forests grew back in... read more »

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Wade Troutman and the Sharp-tailed Grouse

Eastern Washington wheat farmer, Wade Troutman (left), actively manages his farm to protect habitat for the Sharp-tailed Grouse. Jeff Weissman (right) buys Wade's wheat for his bakery in Seattle. Learn more about IRIS, Initiative for Rural Innovation and Stewardship. Gathering Our Voice helps... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  environmental champion

White-throated Swifts

A pair of White-throated Swifts twists and turns, sailing through the air. Dashing headlong across the canyon toward an unyielding wall, the birds disappear at the last second into a slender crevice. This swift is aptly named — and doubly so. The White-throated Swift is among the fastest of all... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  flight

Saltmarsh Sparrow - Interview with Russ Greenberg

Imagine a heat wave, and your body covered in down and feathers. How do birds cope? Well, Saltmarsh Sparrows use their bills to shed excess heat. Russ Greenberg, head of the Migratory Bird Center of the Conservation Biology Institute at the Smithsonian, explains that these birds' bills convect... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Wilson's Phalarope

If any bird is an anomaly, it's the Wilson's Phalarope. In a birdbook, Wilson's Phalaropes are found among the sandpipers. But they forage while swimming. Spinning like tops, they create an upwelling, pulling food to the surface. The breeding of Wilson's Phalaropes is anomalous, too. Females are... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display, migration

Seabirds in Decline

Scoter populations in South Puget Sound have declined by 69% since 1995. Other seabirds -- like this Barrow's Goldeneye -- have not fared well, either. Suspects include heavy metal contamination, a drop in herring populations, derelict fishing gear, and the destruction of shoreline habitat.Find... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  reflection

Southwestern Willow Flycatcher

Willow Flycatchers nest across the northern two-thirds of the U.S. and southernmost Canada. A subspecies, known as the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, nests in the Southwest, as far east as Texas. The Southwestern Willow Flycatcher was listed as endangered in 1995. It's just one of 300 bird... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration

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