Shows With Contributions by Mary McCann

Red-bellied Woodpecker perched on branch, its head turned to its left

The Red-bellied Woodpecker and Its Curious Name

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are bold, conspicuous, and vocal, thriving in rural and urban areas east of the Mississippi. Like most woodpeckers, Red-bellieds eat lots of insects. But they also like nuts, berries, and seeds. They can be attracted to back yards with suet cakes, berry bushes, or
American Robin in hawthorn berries

Robins and Berries in Winter

It's mid-winter, and a passing flock of robins suddenly drops out of the sky. A moment ago, the yard was empty of birds, but now it's full. They settle in a bush laden with fruits (like this hawthorne). When the robins pass over a fruiting shrub, those red berries signal like a neon sign
House Finch perched on branch, looking over its shoulder showing red-colored head and throat

Spring Brings New Bird Songs

All winter long, our neighborhood House Finches--like this one--have called to one another with their distinctive, sweet cheeps. And our resident Song Sparrows, with calls that sound like a tiny barking dog. But as the days grow longer in late winter, the lengthening light helps trigger a
Pair of Barred Owls perched on a branch

Here Come the Barred Owls

The emphatic hoots of a pair of Barred Owls resonate in the still of a winter's night. Like many owls, Barred Owls initiate their vocal courtship in winter. And they're among the most vocal. These owls have more than a dozen calls, ranging from a "siren call" to a "wail" to a wonderfully
Sanderling beak down in foam at ocean's edge


Here and there along winter shorelines, little flocks of pale, silvery shorebirds probe at the water's edge, keeping pace with each wave's ebb and flow. These are Sanderlings, small sandpipers that stay through the winter. Rachel Carson, in Under the Sea Wind, described Sanderlings as
Long-eared Owl perched on side of tree, orange eyes gleaming

Long-eared Owl - You Don't See Me!

Long-eared Owls aren’t rare, and they don’t live in remote locations. But their plumage and habits make them incredibly elusive. The mixture of warm browns and cool, bark-like grays lends the bird an astonishingly branch-like appearance. When potential predators approach, the birds close
Altamira Oriole at a feeding station, perched next to a sliced orange

Altamira Oriole

It was only in 1939 that this Altamira Oriole was first found north of the Rio Grande River. Now it happily visits residents on the Texas side of the river, especially where a juicy orange half waits in a backyard feeder. Northerly breeding orioles, like Bullock's in the West and the
A display of eggs at the Natural History Museum, London, showing variation in size, the largest three are from left to right - elephant bird, moa, ostrich

Elephant Birds Laid Really Big Eggs

What bird laid the largest eggs ever known? To date, the record holder is the now-extinct Elephant Bird, a relative of the present-day Ostrich and other large, flightless birds, including rheas, cassowaries, and kiwis. Elephant Birds lived on the island of Madagascar. But by perhaps 1000
Chestnut-backed Chickadee perched on a branch in sunshine

Chickadee Line-up

You'll find the Black-capped Chickadee across the northern US into Canada. The Carolina Chickadee holds sway in the Southeast. Hear the husky voice of a Mountain Chickadee in the Rockies. Travel to Canada for the Boreal Chickadee. This Chestnut-backed Chickadee calls the Pacific Northwest
A gull on San Diego Bay

San Diego Bay in Winter

Birds (including Western Gulls, like this one) and people share San Diego Bay -- a deep-water port, navy ships, pleasure boats, and salt-evaporation ponds. Even so, it’s one of the best bird habitats on the West Coast. Western Sandpipers probe the mud for worms and snails. Egrets stalk the