Shows With Contributions by Mary McCann

Two Muscovy ducklings standing on grass, their soft fuzzy yellow bodies and dark eyes and beaks seen in overcast light.

From Egg-laying to Hatching and Beyond

Waterfowl like this Muscovy duckling spend up to 30 days in the egg, so they’re able to walk, swim, and feed themselves as soon as they hatch. We call these chicks precocial. By contrast, the chicks of most songbirds spend less time maturing in the egg. They must continue to develop in the
Barn Swallow at nest with hungry chicks. The Barn Swallow parent has a dark blue back and reddish-orange throat, and one Barn Swallow chick has its yellow beak open, while the other Barn Swallow chick has beak closed, showing the yellow "gape" around its beak.

Swallows Return to Nest

Each spring, eight species of swallows — including this Barn Swallow — migrate north from the tropics to nest in North America. Tree Swallows and Purple Martins are especially dependent on man-made nestboxes. Tree Swallows nest over much of the continent, while Purple Martins are most
A Common Grackle perched in sunlight, looking to its right, the black plumage showing iridescent dark blue on the breast and purple on the head. The grackle's beak is open as it calls, and its tail is fanned out.

The Harsh Beauty of Grackle Songs

Ranging from metallic hisses to electronic yodels, sounds of grackles may not be music to our ears—but they have their own rough beauty, a distinctive, primal harshness. Grackle songs evolved to carry through their nesting habitats — dense marshes and brushy landscapes — where more lyrical
An Ovenbird holding a twig or pine needle in his beak, his body in 3/4 profile with his head turned to the right. The Ovenbird's wings and back are soft greenish brown, his chest white with patchy vertical dark brown stripes. Atop his head, a golden streak is flanked by two brown stripes.

Spring Birds Arrive in the Eastern Forest

May in an Eastern hardwood forest, and the chorus of spring birdsong is nearing its peak. The Carolina Wren, a year-round resident, has been singing since the end of winter. The resounding notes of this Ovenbird let us know it has returned safely from Belize, after a long flight across the
A female Hooded Merganser leading a brood of ducklings; the ducklings are very small and adorably fuzzy and swim close behind her on the sunlit water.

Just Whose Ducklings Are Those?

It’s spring, and a female duck swims across a pond with ducklings in tow. Some of the youngsters might not be her own. Wood Ducks and others may lay some of their eggs in other ducks’ nests — or in the nests of other kinds of ducks, like Common Mergansers and goldeneyes. Biologists call
A Great Bustard with his grey head and wispy beard contrasting with the brindled reddish brown and black wing, back, and tail feathers. The Great Bustard is standing amidst vivid greenery and his tail is turned up at a sharp angle.

Great Bustard

A Great Bustard shows off to a group of females by inflating special neck sacs – producing what sounds like a massive sneeze followed by a Bronx cheer. He flips his wings almost upside down to reveal bright white undersides, while fanning his tail and long, white throat whiskers. Three
Black-faced Solitaire

Black-faced Solitaire - Elusive Singer

In wet mountain forests of Costa Rica, a slate-gray bird like this one sings as it moves furtively in the dense understory. It’s the Black-faced Solitaire. Naturalist and birding guide Roger Melendez has been listening to its eerie and gorgeous song for over 20 years. But even Roger has a
Wilson's Snipe

Two Wings and a Tail

The Wilson's Snipe lives in marshes and muddy areas, where it probes for worms and other squirmy delights. But when spring comes, it takes to the air. The male Wilson's Snipe circles high above in a series of roller-coaster arcs, each descent marked by a loud and distinctive sound. This
Female Red-winged Blackbird perched on a stem, her head turned toward her right shoulder

Female Blackbirds Choose Their Mates

One male Red-winged Blackbird’s marshland territory may include five—or even as many as fifteen—nesting females. And he makes an effort to mate with every one of them. Biologists call this polygyny - when one male claims breeding rights with multiple females. But while this may look like
Song Sparrow seen in right profile, perched on a branch in sunshine

Song Sparrow in your Brush Pile

Song Sparrows are found throughout the United States and into Southern Canada. To bring them into your garden, plant thick, low vegetation, or create a brush pile. This sparrow is celebrated - and named - for its singing. Without its melodious song, this furtive bird could be overlooked