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Shows With Contributions by Mike Hamilton

The Flicker's White Rump

When a Northern Flicker takes flight, a bold patch of white feathers flashes on its rump, in contrast to its brown body. This white rump likely evolved as an anti-predator adaptation. A hawk flying in pursuit of a flicker may focus on the white spot rather than the darker image of the whole bird.... read more »

Topics & Themes:  plumage

Nictitating Membranes - Nature's Goggles

For most birds, keen eyesight is critical for survival. But many birds lead lives that can be very hard on the eyes — like flying at breakneck speed, racing for cover into a dense thicket, or diving under water to capture prey. Imagine how the chips fly as this Pileated Woodpecker chisels a... read more »


Why Do Birds Come to Birdfeeders?

A tube of black oil sunflower seeds isn’t “natural”…and neither is a suet cake. Yet as soon as you hang them up, the neighborhood birds, like these female finches, find them. Those grosbeaks at your feeder probably never ate sunflower seeds in nature. Sunflowers grow in open plains, while... read more »

Topics & Themes:  birdfeeding

Why Do Chickadees Come and Go?

A chickadee comes in to the feeder, quickly grabs a seed, and flies away. It may return immediately, but it's more likely to wait its turn. When a whole flock of chickadees moves into the yard, it looks as if they form a living conveyer belt. One chickadee after another flies to the feeder and... read more »

Topics & Themes:  birdfeeding, science

A New Year Dawns

Listen to the earth awaken, as dawn circles the globe. Acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton recorded these sounds around the globe. He's with SoundTracker. read more »

Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Why Birds' Feet Don't Freeze

Have you ever watched ducks walking around in freezing temperatures and wondered why their feet don't freeze? And how do birds, including this Northern Flicker, sit on metal perches with no problem? Birds' feet have a miraculous adaptation that keeps them from freezing. Rete mirabile — Latin for ... read more »

Topics & Themes:  ornithology, science

Who Likes Suet?

Chickadees and titmice, nuthatches and jays, and woodpeckers, like the Pileated pictured here, all love suet. As do birds whose beaks can’t open seeds, like tiny kinglets, and almost any wintering warbler. The Brown Creeper, usually creeping up tree trunks, is a cool bird to discover at your suet... read more »

Topics & Themes:  backyard sanctuary, birdfeeding

Canada Geese - Migratory or Not

It's the time of year that geese migrate south for the winter. Isn't it? So why are there so many geese still hanging around, setting up housekeeping on our parks and golf courses? Did they decide to forgo the long trip north? In the early 1900s, a subspecies of non-migratory geese were imported... read more »

Topics & Themes:  migration

How Birds Stay Cool

On a hot summer’s day, watch a bird such as a crow — or this Purple Martin — very carefully. You’ll never see them sweat, because birds don’t have sweat glands. So how do they keep cool? One way is panting. As the bird breathes rapidly, heat is carried out of its body through the lungs and air... read more »

Topics & Themes:  science

Adaptations for Flight

Birds evolved not only wings, but many other adaptations that make it possible to fly. Feathers provide insulation, waterproofing, and a lightweight means to become airborne. Birds have honeycombed or hollow bones, reducing body weight. And instead of weighty jawbones and teeth, birds evolved a... read more »

Topics & Themes:  flight