Shows With Contributions by Bob Sundstrom

A Peregrine Falcon perched on a branch in the sunshine, holding its wings up, its tail fanned out

The Alula

Adjusting the flaps on an airplane’s wing allows a pilot to control lift and drag — and the design of these flaps was inspired by the wings of birds. All flying birds have what’s called an alula on each wing. At the center of the front edge of the wing is a structure covered with three to
Wilson's Snipe seen in left profile, its long beak and varied brown and gold plumage offset by a white belly.

Snipe Hunt

One of the most ethereal of spring sounds is that made by the Wilson's Snipe. Much as if they were playing a reed instrument, the male snipe produces a winnowing sound in flight by metering, with his wings, the flow of air over his tail-feathers. Among the most venerable of practical jokes
Wandering Albatross flying low over the water, it's long gray wings stretched out, white body held horizontal, pink beak

Wandering Albatross Molt

Most birds molt and regrow their flight or wing feathers—one at a time along each wing—to stay in prime condition for flying. But for a Wandering Albatross, with a whopping 10- to 12-foot wingspan, that’s a big job! It takes the large albatrosses a full year to molt, and they have to put
Eurasian Magpie in the sunshine, seen in right profile, perched on a fence; it's crisp black, blue and white plumage shining

The Thieving Magpie?

Rossini’s 1815 opera, The Thieving Magpie, tells of a household maid who nearly goes to the gallows for stealing silver from her employers. At the last instant, it’s revealed that the thief was actually a magpie. The opera was so popular in its day that it’s believed to have helped cement
Pileated Woodpecker nest with parent and chicks

What's Inside a Woodpecker's Nest Hole?

Many woodpeckers chisel out deep cavities in tree trunks in order to lay their eggs and raise their brood. The cavities hollowed out by the birds vary in size, depending on the species of woodpecker. The chamber of a tiny Downy Woodpecker descends about a foot from the opening, while the
A Tricolored Blackbird seen in right profile, its black body shining in the sun, the wing showing a red patch with a white line beneath it.

Tricolored Blackbirds Face the Future

Tricolored Blackbirds nest primarily in California, but smaller groups breed from the state of Washington to Mexico’s Baja California. They look a lot like Red-winged Blackbirds, except Tricolored males have dark red epaulets and white bars on their wings instead of scarlet epaulets and
Brown-headed Nuthatch perched on a log, seen in left profile

A Tool-Using Nuthatch

The nuthatch’s beak is all business. Long, slender, sharp: it can pluck a tiny spider from a crevice in the bark or carve a nest hole right through the outer hide of a tree. And the Brown-headed Nuthatch is even known to use tools! Picking up a flake of pine bark in its beak, the bird uses
Adult Cooper's Hawk compared to a juvenile Cooper's Hawk

The Color of Birds' Eyes

Peer into the world of birds, and eyes of many different colors peer back. While eye color isn’t tied to one group of birds or another, a common pattern is a change in eye color as immature birds grow to adulthood. Bald Eagles, Ring-billed Gulls, and ducks such as goldeneyes and scaup have
A male Rose-breasted Grosbeak perched on a leafy branch, his red breast glowing amidst his white plumage and glossy black head.

High Island, Texas

Each spring, millions of songbirds migrate north from the New World tropics to nest in North America. It takes 15 hours on average to cross the roughly 500 miles of the Gulf of Mexico. If wind or rain slows the crossing, the birds are worn out and famished when they reach land. What will
Black-capped Chickadee calling

Singer's Brain Changes with the Seasons

In higher animals, the brain is like a Lamborghini — amazing engineering, but expensive to run. In a human, the brain uses about 10 times more energy than other organs. A bird's system is exquisitely attuned to this expense. Several species, including Black-capped Chickadees, have adapted