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State of the Birds

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 »

Topics & Themes:  flight

Short-tailed Albatross Chick Survives Tsunami

In January 2011, a pair of Short-tailed Albatrosses produced their first chick on Midway Atoll. Never before had this endangered bird bred outside of Japan. But in March, while the parents were foraging at sea, the tsunami that struck Japan also reached Midway, washing the chick off its nest.... read more »

Topics & Themes:  nesting

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 »

Topics & Themes:  breeding display, migration

Henry David Thoreau and the Wood Thrush

In June 1853, Thoreau wrote of an enchanting encounter with the Wood Thrush: "This is the only bird whose note affects me like music. It lifts and exhilarates me. It is inspiring. It changes all hours to an eternal morning." Wood Thrushes thrive in large expanses of forest. And their numbers have... read more »

Topics & Themes:  migration, vocalization

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 »

Topics & Themes:  migration

Midway Project - The Plastic Gyre, with Chris Jordan

Artist Chris Jordan brings a deep energy to a huge environmental problem - the accumulation of plastic debris in the world's oceans. He's photographing its effect on the Laysan Albatrosses of Midway Island. Adult albatrosses mistake pieces of plastic for squid and fish and feed them to their... read more »

Topics & Themes:  nesting

Sandhill Cranes - Interview with Hank Lentfer

Hank Lentfer, author and lifelong Alaskan, helped establish a 4,000-acre refuge for Sandhill Cranes—the Gustavus Forelands Preserve. Today, some 20,000 Sandhill Cranes use the preserve to rest and refuel. Along the way, they've helped Hank make his own journey—one from despair to hope. "It's easy... read more »

Topics & Themes:  environmental champion

Wetland Birds Thrive

While nearly a third of North American bird species are in decline, many birds that depend on wetlands are thriving. Duck breeding populations in 2009 were an estimated 25% above historical averages. Conditions on the breeding grounds have improved since the drought years of the 1980s, but human... read more »

Topics & Themes:  human interaction

Wood Storks and Climate Change

Wood Storks nest in trees, often in big colonies, and only when conditions are just right for them. Because of their feeding technique, they thrive in the early part of the dry season, when receding floodwaters concentrate fish in small pools. But this method of feeding is effective only when the... read more »

Topics & Themes:  nesting

Operation Migration Update

Unlike many other birds that have an inherent sense of direction and destination, young Whooping Cranes have to learn their migration route from the adults. Enter Operation Migration and ultralight aircraft to lead the eastern population of cranes on their journey from Wisconsin to Florida!... read more »

Topics & Themes:  migration