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Shows With Contributions by Dennis Paulson

How Long Does a Robin Live

The mortality rate is high in our familiar songbirds. For robins, it's around 50% each year once young birds have fledged. If a robin survives to midwinter, it lives an average of 1.7 years after that. The oldest robins in your yard might be about six years old, although one banded bird lived... read more »

Topics & Themes:  ecology, nesting, science

Why the Black Skimmer Skims

That’s not a distant dog barking. It’s a Black Skimmer in flight, at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia. This striking, black-and-white bird with a red bill and red feet has a most unusual way of feeding. It flies low along the surface of the water with its beak open. Closely... read more »

Topics & Themes:  ecology, ornithology, plumage

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

Franklin's Gull - The Half-time Seagull

Gulls are often called "seagulls," but many spend a lot of time far away from the sea. The Franklin's Gull breeds in freshwater wetlands more than 5,000 miles from its winter home at the ocean. After the breeding season, they ascend high in the sky for their long flight across the Equator to the... read more »

Topics & Themes:  migration

Why Do Some Birds Flock?

When birds like these Dunlin form flocks, each individual is less likely to be captured by a predator. Some shorebirds that forage with their heads down, like godwits, will flock with birds that forage with their heads up, like curlews. Still other birds work together —  like American White... read more »

Topics & Themes:  flight

Attu and Its Island-hopping Rock Ptarmigan

Attu, at the western end of Alaska’s Aleutian chain, is home to the Rock Ptarmigan. Although grouse are not long-distance fliers, Rock Ptarmigans can cross open water, so they occur from one end of the Aleutians to the other. They are supremely adapted for high latitudes, with thick feathers,... read more »


Why Arctic Terns Have Short Beaks

The bill and legs of Arctic Terns are shorter than those of Common Terns. Because Arctic Terns breed in the Arctic and winter in the Antarctic, they are subject to much colder weather than are Common Terns. Birds' bills and legs lose heat, because they're not covered by feathers. Birds in cold... read more »

Topics & Themes:  science

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

Rock Sandpipers Are Tough - Homer Spit Christmas Bird Count

It's winter on Homer Spit in southern Alaska, and Rock Sandpipers feed along the gravelly shore. These small shorebirds scurry this way and that, probing into the gravel and seaweed. Anything that moves is fair game, especially amphipods, the little crustaceans that hop about when exposed. The... read more »

Topics & Themes:  birdwatching, citizen science