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Shows With Contributions by Frances Wood

Birdsong Wanes with the Season

By this time in September, most migratory birds have departed. Many resident birds remain, but their voices are now quiet. During fall and winter, birds don't need to sing to establish a breeding territory or attract a mate. Many songbirds lose the ability to sing. The part of the brain used for... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science, vocalization

Whip-poor-will

In September, 1851, Henry David Thoreau wrote: "The Whip-poor-wills now begin to sing in earnest about half an hour before sunrise, as if making haste to improve the short time that is left them. As far as my observation goes, they sing for several hours in the early part of the night . . . then... read more »

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Ravens and Crows - Who Is Who

Is that big black bird a crow or a raven? How can you tell? Ravens (seen right here) often travel in pairs, while crows (left) are seen in larger groups. Also, study the tail as the bird flies overhead. A crow's tail is shaped like a fan, while the raven's tail appears wedge-shaped. Another clue... read more »

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Great Blue Heron, Alone Again

Great Blue Herons nest in colonies, in adjoining trees or with several nests in one tree. But by autumn, the adults and gangly young have left the nests to take up solitary lives, a pattern that is the reverse of many other species. After all the "togetherness" of the nesting colonies, the Great... read more »

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Male Mallards Disappear

By late summer, the male Mallard’s need for fancy feathers to attract the females has passed. These birds have molted, and their bright feathers are replaced with mottled brown ones. Subdued colors help camouflage the male ducks, protecting them from predators. Come fall, the male Mallards will... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  plumage

The Call of the Loon

The call of the Common Loon brings to mind a summer visit to northern lakes with sunny blue skies. A "yodel" call is given by males on their breeding territories. The call of the Common Loon that we hear during winter is quite different from the breeding call in summer. Common Loons have another,... read more »

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Small Birds Mob Big Ones

When smaller birds join forces to ward off larger birds, it's called mobbing. This behavior — like calling your family for help — is used by many bird species. The best time to observe mobbing is spring and early summer, when breeding birds are trying to protect their nests and young. Birds... read more »

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American Robin Babies Afoot

After hatching, baby robins spend up to 15 days in the nest. By July, many young American Robins have left the nest, or fledged. But they aren't ready to make it entirely on their own yet, and they follow their parents around, learning to fend for themselves. Outside of the breeding season,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

Towhees' Distractive Plumage

Both this Eastern Towhee and the Spotted Towhee of the West sport a black or dark brown hood and back. And when they fly, their tails flash white. When a hawk gives chase, the towhee's flashing tail-feathers draw the predator's attention. Momentarily distracted, the hawk may come up with just a... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  plumage

Begging Sounds and Postures

After young birds have left the nest and can fly short distances, they still follow their parents and beg for food. They squawk and assume a begging posture, wings drooping and head hunched down. Most young birds, including this European Starling, depend on their parents for days, weeks, or even... read more »

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