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Shows With Contributions by Mary McCann

Aldo Leopold and the Field Sparrows

The Field Sparrow was the first bird song Aldo Leopold awoke to on his farm in the 1940s. In his Sand County Almanac, a classic of conservation and nature writing, Leopold brought to life scenes of nature, a month at a time. Field Sparrows aren't as common today as they were in Aldo Leopold's day... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Wrens from North to South

There are nearly ninety species of wrens in the world, and quite a few are exceptional singers. Nearly all of them reside in the Western Hemisphere, with the majority living in Central and South America. The White-bellied Wren ranks among the tiniest, at just under four inches, while the Giant... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Swift Bricks

Common Swifts in Europe nest in eaves and under roof tiles and gables. But modern construction doesn’t have these nooks and crannies, and populations of swifts have been declining. However, there’s a solution called the “swift brick,” a small nesting box that fits right into the wall of a house... read more »

RELATED
Topics & Themes:  nesting

Fruit as a Bribe

In summer, many shrubs bear fruit that birds find irresistible. Elderberries, serviceberries, blackberries, dogwood berries, mulberries, and currants attract many species of birds, including waxwings, tanagers, robins, warblers and this Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Plants offer this bounty in exchange... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, gardening

Flyin' in the Rain

Most birds are mostly waterproof. Their feathers, aided by oil from preen glands, keep them pretty watertight. So why do birds avoid flying during rainstorms? It may have more to do with the air than with the water. Rainstorms tend to occur when atmospheric pressure is low. Air in a low-pressure... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  flight

Swallow-tailed Kite

A bird of prey in the American Southeast takes grace to an utterly new level. It's the Swallow-tailed Kite. A sleek raptor with a deeply forked tail, the Swallow-tailed Kite almost never flaps its wings. The bird makes sudden tight turns, upside-down moves, and quick backward dives, all by... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  flight

The Peacock's Tail: More Than Meets the Eye

When a male Indian Peafowl unfurls its magnificently-colored tail and shakes it, it creates an ultra low frequency sound that we humans can’t hear. But it seems to get the special attention of female birds, called peahens.Today's show brought to you by the Bobolink Foundation. read more »

RELATED
Topics & Themes:  breeding display

Turkey Vultures and Gas Pipelines

Do vultures detect carrion by sight or by smell? The lightbulb moment came to ornithologist Kenneth Stager when a Union Oil employee told him of vultures congregating at the spots along pipelines where gas leaks were occurring. Why would they do that? Because a key ingredient in the... read more »

RELATED
Topics & Themes:  ornithology, science

The Arctic Plain in June

In early June, millions of birds arrive on the Arctic Coastal Plain in Alaska, from all over the world. They're there to attract a mate and raise their young. One shorebird, the Pectoral Sandpiper, has a pectoral sac on its chest. It stands on the ground and inflates this sac, and then takes off... read more »

RELATED
Topics & Themes:  breeding display, nesting

Hearing Loss and Birds

More than 20 years ago, Professor Ed Rubel of the University of Washington discovered that chickens could repair their own damaged hearing. The birds regrow tiny structures in the inner ear, known as auditory hair cells. Most vertebrates can regenerate these cells - but mammals cannot. Studying... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

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