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State of the Birds

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 »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

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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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 »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, vocalization

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

Frank Bellrose and the Wood Ducks

In the 1800s, Wood Ducks were possibly the most abundant ducks east of the Mississippi. But the draining of wetlands, the cutting of forests, and market hunting caused precipitous declines. In 1918, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act completely banned the hunting of Wood Ducks for 23 years. This... read more »

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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 »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display, migration

Osprey Return to Pennsylvania - Interview with Larry Rymon

Ospreys, common along the rivers of Pennsylvania, stopped nesting there in the 1950s, due to the effects of DDT. But in 1980, Larry Rymon, a professor of biology, began to restore Ospreys to Pennsylvania. Larry says: "Osprey have been a part of this planet's wildlife for 17 million years. They... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting, science

Red-cockaded Woodpecker and Southeastern Forests

Native to the Southeast across to East Texas, Red-cockaded Woodpeckers differ from most woodpeckers. They remain in cooperative family groups throughout their lives. And they excavate nests in living trees rather than dead ones, often reusing the same cavities for decades. The federal government... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

Meadowlarks and Grasslands

The clear, whistled music of the Eastern Meadowlark (seen here) is the unmistakable anthem of eastern North America's farmlands and open country. The Western Meadowlark and its sweet, liquid notes epitomize the natural expanses of the American West. Sadly, birds of such grassy habitats are among... read more »

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Saving Newell's Shearwaters on Kaua'i

On the north shore of Kaua'i, endangered seabirds called Newell's Shearwaters nest in the mountains. After sunset, shearwaters fly out from the highlands to the ocean, using the moon's reflection on the sea to guide them. But some mistakenly fly toward streetlights, lighted resorts, and even... read more »

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