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Shows With Contributions by Mary McCann

Tree Swallows and Feathers

Tree Swallows glisten in the June sunlight, as they swoop and glide, their arcs interlacing in the air. When a white feather flutters down among them, one swallow snatches the feather in its bill and flies upward, as another gives chase. After a moment, the lead bird lets loose the feather, which... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

Designing a Spider Web to Evade Bird Collision

One of the lesser known hazards of a bird’s life — when flitting from shrub to shrub — is collision with spiders’ webs. And when a bird flies through a web, it’s the spider’s hard work that takes the hit. It can take a spider an hour just to repair the damage and get on with the task of snaring... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, science

Powder Down

Hidden below the outer breast feathers of herons, pigeons, doves, tinamous, bustards and some parrots are patches of special down feathers. These feathers are never molted, and they grow continuously. The tips break down into a dust the consistency of talcum powder. Using a fringed claw on its... read more »

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Salmonberry Bird

The native names of birds sometimes distill the essence of their appearance or behavior. In the Cherokee language, for instance, the Meadowlark is called "star," because of the way the bird's tail spreads out when it soars. To the Northwest Coastal people, this Swainson's Thrush is known as the ... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration

Preening 101

If a bird’s feathers get too dried out, they become brittle. To prevent that from happening, most birds have a gland located above the base of the tail that produces oil. They use their beaks to massage oil from the gland into their feathers to keep them supple. A bird first grips a feather in... read more »

Larkspurs: Flowers and Birds

Open a flower guide, and you may find larkspur, owl’s clover, parrot’s beak, wake-robin, peacock plant, and storksbill. And there’s chickweed, hawkweed, ragged robin, cuckoo flower, and hens-and-chicks. At least one flower packs in two bird names: the dove’s-foot cranesbill. There are still more.... read more »

Lazuli Bunting

With its beautiful colors, the Lazuli Bunting might just have inspired Navajo artists. In summer, these beautiful singers inhabit the brushy canyons of Western mountains. And where the Lazuli Bunting sings, you'll often hear the music of Vesper Sparrows and Western Meadowlarks. read more »

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Peacocks in India

Peacocks have been domesticated for thousands of years and now occur everywhere in the world. But to see wild peacocks, you'll need to go to India and Sri Lanka. Where hunted, peacocks are shy and rarely seen, and give loud alarm calls when startled. Where protected, however, they become as tame... read more »

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Dippers on the Elwha

In 2014, the dams on the Elwha River in Washington State were removed. As the river ran free again, salmon from the Pacific were able to spawn upstream for the first time in 100 years, dramatically improving conditions for American Dippers. Recent research has demonstrated that birds with access... read more »

RELATED
Topics & Themes:  ecology

Beaks and Grosbeaks

Beaks suited for opening tough, hard seeds—thick, conical beaks—evolved in more than one lineage of birds. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are related to cardinals, which also have powerful beaks. Evening Grosbeaks belong to the finch family, which includes goldfinches and crossbills—an entire family of... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ornithology

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