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Shows With Contributions by Dennis Paulson

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 »

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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 »

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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 »

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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 »

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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 »

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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 »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching, citizen science

Crested Caracara

The Crested Caracara, one of North America's most charismatic birds of prey, is common in Texas, and an isolated population lives in Florida. They stride through the grass on long legs, as they hunt for small animals of all kinds. Many Mexicans honor the caracara as their national symbol,... read more »

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Pelicans Go Fishing

Unlike Brown Pelicans, which dive from above to capture fish, White Pelicans feed by forming a group. They swim in a line, and—while herding a school of fish—all dip their heads at once. The pelican's broad bill spreads its huge pouch, as the bird pushes through the water. As each bird lifts its... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology

Rough-legged Hawk

After breeding on Arctic cliffs and tundra hillsides in summer, Rough-legged Hawks winter throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Open country is their ideal territory, where the small rodents they depend on are usually so plentiful that the hawks have enough to eat. But the rodents are cyclic, with... read more »

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Common Mergansers Pushed by the Ice

Around this time of year, Common Mergansers cross the US-Canadian border on their way to wintering grounds in the Lower 48. But how do they know when to go? Ducks are well insulated against frigid winter temperatures, but mergansers can find their fishy prey only by diving below the surface of... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology

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