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Shows With Contributions by Frances Wood

The Butcherbird

The Northern Shrike breeds in the tundra and taiga of the north, but migrates south into the lower 48 for the winter. It has a pleasing and rhythmical song, which it sings even in winter. But its song belies a rather bloodthirsty feeding habit. The shrike impales its prey on sharp thorns or... read more »

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Swallows and Mud - A Myth?

The swallows that make mud nests in spring and catch flying insects all summer are now far south in Mexico, and Central and South America. It's only as recently as the end of the nineteenth century that ornithologists agreed that swallows, including this Cliff Swallow, migrate. Many formerly... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, myth

Autumnal Equinox

Today marks the mid-point between June's longest day and December's shortest day. We may hardly notice, but ancient cultures closely watched the changes in the sun's daily patterns. One legend from the Andes of South America held that only the giant Andean Condor (like the one pictured here),... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  reflection

Ducks - Diving and Dabbling

Autumn brings many species of wintering ducks and seabirds to our waters. Watch carefully. Some dabble along the surface, feeding along shallow edges of lakes and estuaries. Others dive under the water, using their feet and occasionally their wings for propulsion. The male "dabblers" are often... read more »

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Green Heron

The Green Heron forages on the banks of small bodies of fresh water. Relying on its plumage for camouflage, it perches motionless — body horizontal and stretched forward — waiting for small fish to come close. This heron may use "bait" while hunting for fish. It drops a feather, a live insect, or... read more »

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How High Birds Fly II

Bar-headed Geese, champions of high-altitude migration, leave their nesting grounds in Tibet and scale the Himalayan range on their way to wintering grounds in the lowlands of India. How do they do it? These geese have a breathing structure that extracts oxygen from thin air, even at 30,000 feet.... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  flight

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

Ravens and Crows - Who's 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 or triangular.... read more »

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Bird Life at the Grand Canyon

With its awe-inspiring vistas and eons of geologic time on display, the Grand Canyon also offers a unique habitat for birds. What you're likely to see first is this Bronzed Cowbird, strutting on the lawn of a lodge or restaurant. Common Ravens call and squabble. If you're lucky, you may spot the... read more »

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Killdeer, Master of Distraction

Since Killdeer don’t always pick the safest places to lay their eggs, they’ve developed a clever way to protect their young. They use the art of distraction. When it spots a predator close by, the Kildeer parent will pretend it has a broken wing - calling loudly and limping along as it stretches... read more »

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