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Shows With Contributions by Mary McCann

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. A fairly large owl - a perching bird is 21 inches tall - Barred Owls are also among the most vocal. More than a dozen Barred Owl calls range... read more »

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Of Grouse and Gizzards

During winter, the Greater Sage-Grouse is wholly reliant on its namesake species — sagebrush — for both shelter and for food. Scientists call this bird "sagebrush obligate," meaning it needs this plant to survive. In the spring, its diet shifts to insects and plants, as it gets ready for the most... read more »

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Why Do Chickadees Come and Go?

A chickadee comes in to the feeder, quickly grabs a seed, and flies away. It may return immediately, but it's more likely to wait its turn. When a whole flock of chickadees moves into the yard, it looks as if they form a living conveyer belt. One chickadee after another flies to the feeder and... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdfeeding, science

How Evolution Reshaped the Woodcock

Evolution works with what's at hand. So if you start with a normal bird skull – bill pointing forward, eyes oriented front or sideways, ears behind eyes – and introduce the challenge of seeing behind your head while your bill is pushed deeply into the soil, what do you get? The American Woodcock!... read more »

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Costa Rica Winter Sunrise

On a winter morning in Costa Rica, a colorful choir welcomes the day. A pair of Bay Wrens sings a brisk duet just before sunrise. Perched in the upper canopy of the tropical lowland forest, a group of Keel-billed Toucans calls out. In a nearby tree, Purple-throated Fruitcrows (like this one) add... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  sound, vocalization

Tree Swallows Spend the Winter

Most swallow species that nest in North America eat almost nothing except flying insects. When the bugs die off in the fall, the swallows head south to winter in the tropical zones of Central and South America and the Caribbean. However, Tree Swallows can also eat small fruits. If Tree Swallows... read more »

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The Owl and the Pussy-cat Went to Sea

During much of his life, Edward Lear, the poet who wrote The Owl and the Pussy-cat, was known for his paintings. Lear’s first major project was a book of paintings of parrots, inspired in part by the friendship and mentoring of John James Audubon. He spent years traveling the globe, painting... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, language

Sleeping on the Wing

Some swifts and frigatebirds stay aloft for months. But for a long time, scientists did not know if the birds might be sleeping on the wing. A 2016 study provided answers. Tiny devices attached to the heads of frigatebirds revealed fascinating information: the birds did sleep while aloft, most... read more »

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Western Tanagers Are Flashes of Bright Color

Western Tanagers dart from tree to tree, on the lookout for delicious bugs. They’ll find them by scanning the tree bark — or maybe snatching them from mid-air during flight — a tactic called hawking. Come winter, these lovely songbirds head south, where they fit right in with the other brightly... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration

What Happens When Birds Get Wet?

Have you ever seen a bird foraging in the rain and wondered why it isn't soaked to the bone? While every bird wears one feather coat, different kinds of feathers – and even different parts of the same feather – can perform various functions. The outermost tips of the main body feathers, called... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  plumage, science

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