Image: The Ultimate Bird Drawing Throwdown Showdown Graphic featuring images of David Sibley and H. Jon Benjamin

Join BirdNote tomorrow, November 30th!

Illustrator David Sibley and actor H. Jon Benjamin will face off in the bird illustration battle of the century during BirdNote's Year-end Celebration and Auction!


Shows With Contributions by Gordon Orians

Common Raven in snow

Winter - Nature's Cold Storage

For birds and other animals with good natural insulation, winter provides a striking benefit as they scavenge. Bacteria function very slowly or not at all in the cold, preventing dead bodies from rotting. In northern latitudes, ravens and other scavenging birds take advantage of winter's…
Iridescent green Talamanca Hummingbird hovering, poised to sip nectar from flowers.

What Makes an Efficient Flying Bird?

Every bird species uses its wings a little differently, and some are specialized for highly efficient flight. But that means going without other abilities. Swallows and hummingbirds (like this Talamanca Hummingbird) capture their food on the wing, but they can’t walk. Swifts, which are…
Australian Brush Turkey sitting on its nest on the ground

Megapodes - Mound-Builders

There’s a group of birds that lay their eggs underground — in geothermally heated burrows, or warm sands, or even mounds of organic material warmed by the heat of decomposition. These megapodes or mound-builders — like this Australian Brushturkey — are found in Australia, New Guinea, and…
Female Common Eider with a creche of chicks

Common Eiders Favor Close Relatives

Some species of birds try to save energy by tricking others into incubating their eggs. But if the parasitic female is a related species, she may have an advantage. After studying the nests of Common Eiders, such as the one pictured here, researchers at the University of Gothenburg in…
House Finch in spring

Birds Are Evolving Rapidly - Today

House Finches are evolving rapidly and visibly. In 1941, some captive House Finches from California escaped near NYC. They spread rapidly and are now found across most of the US. We know the finches have evolved, because those that survive differ from their parents. Size is one example…
Snail Kite

Snail Kite - Bird of the Everglades

When Florida became a state in 1845, the legislature declared the Everglades, America's largest wetland, totally worthless. In 1905, Napoleon Bonaparte Broward was elected governor on a campaign to drain them. So over the years, the slowly flowing "River of Grass" has been replaced by a…
A Great Tit facing the camera, head turned to its right, with yellow breast and large vertical black stripe up the center and around the throat.

Songbirds Teach Each Other Tricks

In the UK for years, milk came in bottles with foil caps. Great Tits, a common songbird, learned how to peck through the foil. The skill spread. But how? Researchers trained Great Tits in different ways of opening a box and re-released them. Knowledge of how to open the box spread rapidly…
American Redstart perched on a branch

American Redstart - The Tale Is in the Tail

Who knew that this American Redstart’s feathers could reveal so much information about its life? For example, the more intense the color of a male American Redstart’s feathers, the better his chances of holding a good winter territory, which means access to good nutrition. Being well fed…
Siberian Grouse

Alexander Archipelago - Lessons for Climate Change

How will birds and other wildlife respond to global climate change? We can learn many lessons from the Alexander Archipelago, a chain of islands in southeast Alaska. Less than 10,000 years ago, these islands were covered by ice. Sea levels were 100 meters lower than today, allowing many…
Red-winged Blackbird gaping its beak while foraging

Gaping Blackbirds

Gordon Orians describes an unusual adaptation in blackbirds called gaping: "...the ability to forcibly open the bill against some pressure, so that a bird can push its bill into the base of a grass clump, and forcibly open it, which reveals the insects that may be down hidden in the base.…