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endangered species

Surfin' Bird Meets Surfbird

The Surfbird - nothing like the "Surfin' Bird" of 1960s Trashmen fame - makes its home along the Pacific Coast. An oddly constructed sandpiper, the Surfbird forages on rocky jetties along the coast. The bird's winter range ranks among the longest and narrowest of any bird, from Kodiak Island to... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  music

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

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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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

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

Sharp-tailed Grouse Dance

Dawn breaks over grassland in the northern Midwest and a dozen male Sharp-tailed Grouse, gathered closely together, face one another in a rough circle. Suddenly, as if in response to a movie director's call for "Action!" the grouse snap into a dance posture. Each bows, holds his wings stiffly... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display

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

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

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

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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