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State of the Birds

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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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

Winter Brings Snow Buntings

Snow Buntings begin their lives amid the harsh conditions of the high Arctic. They're prized winter visitors to the northern tier of states. Look for them along shorelines, in farmland, and open country - landscapes that mirror the Arctic tundra where they fledge their young. Snow Buntings face... read more »

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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

Short-eared Owl

Flapping with deep, slow wing-motion, a Short-eared Owl appears almost to float above the ground. This owl has an extensive world range, including North and South America, Europe, and Asia. Still, it's declining, due to development, agriculture, and overgrazing. American Bird Conservancy and... read more »

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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

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

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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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

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

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