Welcome to BirdNote!

Birds connect us with the joy and wonder of nature. By telling vivid, sound-rich stories about birds and the challenges they face, BirdNote inspires listeners to care about the natural world – and takes step to protect it.

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Shows With Contributions by Gordon Orians

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 So over the years, the slowly flowing "River of Grass" has been replaced by a…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…
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

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…
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…
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…
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.…
Mountain Plover

Ecosystem Engineers on America's Serengeti

Some birds require habitats created by other animals. Two such landscape shapers were the American bison and the prairie dog. With the extermination of millions of bison and prairie dogs, species such as this Mountain Plover and the Burrowing Owl, which require barren ground, greatly…
White Pelicans

Oxbow Lakes Are Often Rich With Birdlife

Many birds look for islands when they want to find a great nesting site, because islands are often protected from mammalian predators. Some of the best places to find islands are oxbow lakes, like many of the ones protected by the National Wildlife Refuge System.