Shows With Contributions by Mary McCann

A New Zealand Bellbird perched on a flowering branch, the bird's face lightly speckled with pollen and its red eyes shining

New Zealand Bellbird

A forest in New Zealand rings with the sound of bellbirds, also known as Korimako or Makomako. Many bellbirds sing together, especially in the morning. Pairs sing duets. And a pair may counter-sing with its neighbors, perhaps letting them know that this patch of land is taken. It all
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
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
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
Brown Pelican diving

How Brown Pelicans Dive

Brown Pelicans fly just above the surface of the water. They circle high, then diving headfirst, plunge under water to catch fish. But doesn't that hurt? Several adaptations protect pelicans as they dive. First, they have air sacs beneath the skin on their breasts, which act as cushions
Photo comparing a Brown Creeper and a White-breasted Nuthatch

Watching Birds' Behavior

To distinguish one bird from a similar one, watch how the bird moves. Does it flick its wings? Bob up and down? Flip its tail? The White-breasted Nuthatch (right) works its way down the trunk of a tree, while the Brown Creeper works its way up. A field guide usually mentions these
American Robin perched

Cheery American Robin

What was the first bird you noticed as a child? Perhaps you heard the cheery song of the American Robin coming from the top of a nearby tree. Or maybe you saw a robin running and pausing on the lawn, cocking its head before extracting a fat, juicy worm from the ground. The robin is often