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Shows With Contributions by Tom Munson

Why the Crow Is Black

Out of the 810 species of North American birds, the only completely black birds are the crow and the raven. Here's a story that explains why the crow is black, according to Native American tradition. When Crow came into the world, he wore all the colors of the rainbow, but the other animals and... read more »

Topics & Themes:  myth

Hunters' Names for Ducks

Hunters have nicknames for waterfowl that capture the distinctive sound and sight of these birds, such as "Spoonbill" for this Northern Shoveler. And why is the Northern Pintail called a "Sprig"? WNPR listener David, in Belchertown, MA, tells us that the answer can be found in Gurdon Trumbull's... read more »

Topics & Themes:  language

October Migrants - Look Who's Back!

In the October sunlight, a Lincoln's Sparrow – like this one – sings energetically from a hedgerow. Soon a Fox Sparrow chimes in. Both nested in Alaska last summer but will spend the winter farther south. The Snow Geese are moving, too. A massive movement of birds takes place in the fall. The... read more »

Topics & Themes:  migration, vocalization

Amazing Aquatic American Dipper

The American Dipper stands on a rock in a stream, bobbing up and down on its long legs - "dipping" - hence the name. But watch! This nondescript bird steps off a small boulder right into the torrent, and begins to peer under water. What the American Dipper might lack in bright color it more than... read more »


Palouse Country

The Palouse country in southeastern Washington features rolling hills, fertile soils, and grassland birds like this Western Meadowlark, which nests in native vegetation between wheat fields. Horned Larks are less choosy, nesting in the wheat fields and fledging their broods before harvest time.... read more »


Olive-sided Flycatcher

What a comfort it would be if every bird song were as easy to recognize - and remember - as that of this Olive-sided Flycatcher. Some people think it sounds like "quick-THREE-beers" or "what PEEVES you." Do you drink coffee? Then you can help Olive-sided Flycatchers, when you choose to drink... read more »


The Tail of the Wren

The House Wren presents us with a classic bird image. That jaunty tail, twitching sharply as the wren scolds, puts an exclamation point on the bird's perky voice and attitude. The word "wren" comes to us intact from the Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon languages, where it referred specifically to the... read more »

Topics & Themes:  language

The Elusive Virginia Rail

The Virginia Rail is a secretive bird, a relative of coots and cranes. And it's a bird you'll more often hear than spy. The rail takes its name from its narrow body - "as skinny as a rail" - an adaptation to its favorite marshy habitats. A Virginia Rail walks hidden, squeezing through dense reeds... read more »


Sage Sparrows Return

A chill wind ruffles the feathers of a male Sagebrush Sparrow (formerly known as the Sage Sparrow), as he sings atop a tall sagebrush. It is late February, a few miles from the Columbia River in Central Washington. Sagebrush Sparrows are arriving north from wintering in the Southwestern deserts.... read more »

Topics & Themes:  migration

Tiniest Bird on the Continent

The tiniest bird in continental North America: the Calliope Hummingbird - a 3-1/4-inch jewel, weighing in at just a tenth of an ounce. These birds migrate north each spring from Western Mexico. From its perch, a male Calliope Hummingbird surveys its territory. This exquisite bird was named for... read more »

Topics & Themes:  migration