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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

Little Blue Heron, Light and Dark

Two herons, one dark, the other white, feed at the edge of a wooded pond in the South. Both birds are Little Blue Herons. What's going on here? Well, the white bird is a juvenile. These young herons forage with flocks of Snowy Egrets, which stir up prey. The white immatures mix readily with the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  plumage

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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Northern Spotted Owl

A Northern Spotted Owl hoots from deep within a Northwest forest. We know the Spotted Owl best as an unwitting symbol of an ongoing political and economic struggle. We've seen its dark eyes peering from the pages of a newspaper. A Spotted Owl stands about a foot-and-a-half tall. It's adapted to... read more »

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Swainson's Hawks Migrate South

In autumn, hundreds of thousands of Swainson's Hawks migrate to South America. With the help of a satellite tracking device, let's follow an individual male. On September 14, he leaves his breeding territory near Hanna, Alberta; reaches southwest Saskatchewan by September 23; passes through... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration

Aggressive Warblers and Climate Change

The territories of Townsend's Warblers and Hermit Warblers overlap in Washington State. Ornithologists call the overlap where the two species interbreed a "hybrid zone." The hybrids - like the one seen here - reveal characteristics of both. And they may also lend clues about our changing climate.... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Spectacled Eiders Dive in the Ice in Winter

Many Spectacled Eiders spend the winter in ice-free openings in the Bering Sea, above what was once the Bering Land Bridge. In spring, the ducks, which live only along the coasts of Alaska and far eastern Russia, fly to tundra lakes to breed and feed on aquatic insects. After breeding, they... read more »

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The Lobstick Family of Whooping Cranes

The celebrities of the Whooping Crane world have to be the Lobstick family, named for the Lobstick marshes where they nest in Canada. The Lobstick male, at 33, is the oldest Whooping Crane in the wild whose age we know for certain. And Tom Stehn of the US Fish and Wildlife Service tells us the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration

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