Shows With Contributions by Mary McCann

Northern Pygmy Owl, showing "eyes" on back of head

Pygmy-Owls' False Eyes

This Northern Pygmy-Owl appears to have eyes in the back of its head. But why? One theory is that large false eyes may create the illusion that the owl is much bigger than its 6 and 3/4-inch size. A more current theory is that the false eyes help protect the pygmy-owl's true eyes. Small
Killdeer in flight

Partial Migration - Killdeer Play Leap Frog

The cries of a Killdeer are familiar across most of the US during spring and summer. But where do they go in winter? Killdeer that breed in the southern half of the US and along the Pacific Coast are year-round residents. But those that breed in the northern US and Canada, where winter
Sandhill Cranes in flight at Bosque del Apache

Bosque del Apache, High Desert Oasis

At this time of year, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico is a birder's paradise. The refuge — critical wintering habitat for great numbers of birds — sits where the north edge of the Chihuahuan desert meets the Rio Grande River. Witness the magnificent spectacle of
Fox Sparrow perched on a branch

Little Brown Birds

So many little brown birds look the same. They might be sparrows, or wrens, or finches, or something altogether different. And you often find them together in winter. Learning to tell these "LBBs" apart can be really frustrating for novice birdwatchers. Birds such as wrens, finches, and
Joanna Buehler

Triple-duty Garden - with Joanna Buehler

What can one person do when large-scale human development replaces nearby natural habitat? Seattle-area lakeside resident Joanna Buehler spoke out for clean water and the needs of wildlife. As she watched parking lots and buildings replace wetlands and woods, she created a rain garden
Eurasian Collared-Dove

Eurasian Collared-Doves' Sense of Direction

The Eurasian Collared-Dove is rapidly increasing across the US and southern Canada. This sandy pink bird with the neat black neckband was released in the Bahamas in the 1960s. Brought in as pets, some doves escaped. They made it to Florida a few years later and have been spreading in a
Bufflehead

Bufflehead Return

This month, the Bufflehead returns from the boreal forests of Canada and Alaska to winter in our waters. Its nicknames include little black-and-white duck, bumblebee duck, buffalo-headed duck, butterball, and spirit duck. Buffleheads have elaborate courtship displays that they perform
Russet-backed Oropendola

Seasonal Flooding of the Amazon

When it’s predictable and wildlife is well adapted, natural flooding can create a biological bonanza. In the Amazon River Basin, which holds one-fifth of the world’s fresh water, annual rains can raise water levels 30 to 40 feet in just days. Forests turn into vast lakes, dotted with trees
Puffin with fish in its beak

All Those Fish in a Puffin's Beak

Puffins fly under water into schools of slender fish, filling their large beaks. Fish are wedged into the gape, the stretchy skin at the beak hinge, but the bill edges still line up neatly. The dangling fish won’t slide out because the puffin’s tongue and roof of the mouth are heavily
Flock of Western Sandpipers

Chorus Line in the Sky

A flock of small shorebirds (like these Western Sandpipers) twists and turns, glittering in the sky. When threatened by a falcon, these birds take to the air, flying so close together that it's hard for a predator to capture one. A bird at one edge turns toward the middle, and a wave