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Shows With Contributions by Mary McCann

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

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

National Audubon's Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is birdy at any time of year. But in winter, this mixture of cypress swamp and pineland comes alive with migratory songbirds. On a warm, sunny morning, birds are active all around, from the tops of the tall cypresses to the shrubs along the boardwalk.... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration

Treeswifts: Exquisite Minimalists

The treeswifts of India, Southeast Asia, New Guinea, and beyond make their nests out of bits of plants and feathers and hold it all together with some very sticky saliva. A treeswift’s whole nest is but a tiny cup — just large enough to hold a single egg — stuck to a bare upright branch. The... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

Bohemian Waxwings - Exquisite Winter Visitors

It's winter, and apples litter the ground. A few still hang, frozen and thawed again and again. Suddenly a flock of hundreds of birds rises from the ground beneath the trees, swarming in tight formation, wing-tip to wing-tip. Bohemian Waxwings are erratic winter visitors from their nesting... read more »

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Hooded Merganser

Hooded Mergansers, affectionately known as “Hoodies,” nest across most of the northern US and well into Canada. They’re especially prevalent around the Great Lakes, though some winter as far south as Florida. By November, courtship and pair formation is well under way. And by early spring,... read more »

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Black Kites - Do Birds Start Fires?

In the savanna country of northern Australia, the vegetation is well adapted to the area’s recurrent fires. As flames sweep across the savanna, Black Kites watch for prey like grasshoppers and lizards that flee the fire. But there’s now evidence that Black Kites may actually create fires by... read more »

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Comparing Chickadee Calls

In the Pacific Northwest, you might see both Black-capped and Chestnut-backed Chickadees at your birdfeeder. The Chestnut-back (seen here) sounds different from the Black-capped Chickadee. The call of the Black-capped follows the familiar “Chick-a-dee, dee, dee” pattern. But the call of the... read more »

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An Owl Is Mobbed

A pint-sized Northern Pygmy-Owl, not much bigger than a pine cone, hoots from a tree-top on a winter morning. Before long, this diurnal owl - a determined predator of small birds and mammals - will attract a mob of a dozen or more small birds. Mobbing may be a collective response to danger. But... read more »

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