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Shows With Contributions by Michael Stein

To Mob or Not to Mob

When a bird of prey flies over, a flock of crows may dive-bomb the predator and give it a noisy escort out of town. An Eastern Kingbird, like this one, will clamp its feet onto the back of a hawk to send it packing. How do they know which birds to chase off and which to ignore? By genetic wiring,... read more »

Old and New Memories of Black-capped Chickadees

Fernando Nottebohm of Rockefeller University studies the growth of neurons in the brains of birds. He’s an expert in the remarkable ability of Black-capped Chickadees to recall the locations of hundreds of stored seeds. Dr. Nottebohm suggests that as demand for memory space peaks, chickadees... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

City Owls

Some owls, like Barred Owls and Great Horned Owls, live in the city. As hunters, they find a lot to eat in the city — like rats or squirrels! Both favor urban parks, cemeteries, and botanical gardens — places with big trees — and both roost during the day. The Great Horned Owl, like this one,... read more »

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The Oystercatcher's World

Black Oystercatchers prey on shellfish in the wave zone, especially mussels and limpets. The waves cause mussels to open often, making them easier to eat. The Black Oystercatcher nests on ledges just off shore, and its eggs and young suffer far less predation by mammals. Contrary to their name,... read more »

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Leave the Leaves

To help backyard birds through the winter, do less. Leave the leaves or rake them under plantings. The tasty insects and spiders underneath will be food for the towhee and this Song Sparrow. Don’t deadhead. Pine Siskins and goldfinches love to snack on dead flowerheads. Make an insect hotel out... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  gardening

Asleep on a Perch

When birds like these Rock Pigeons retire for the night, they seek a place to roost. And while the world of birds includes a variety of sleeping arrangements, many songbirds, such as cardinals or finches, sleep perched in the safety of dense trees or shrubs. When they fall asleep, they stand on... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers

These Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers appear nearly identical, but the Hairy Woodpecker is larger than the Downy, with a distinctly longer bill. And it doesn't have the black spots on its outer tail feathers like the Downy. But even if you can’t observe these spunky birds, you can identify them by... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching, birdwatching by ear, sound

The Eyes of an Owl

Peer into an owl's face – there is something almost human about its large, forward-facing eyes. The Great Gray Owl, which stands two feet tall and weighs 2 and 1/2 pounds, has eyes larger than those of most humans! Enormous eyes enable owls to see in near darkness. An owl's retinal anatomy is... read more »

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Late Fall Sounds to Listen For

By the time November rolls around, the bird songs of summer can seem a distant memory.But there’s always something to listen for. Small birds like chickadees and kinglets, including the Golden-crowned Kinglet pictured here, often mix in flocks while foraging. Geese can be heard overhead in the... read more »

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Blind Snakes and Screech-Owls

During the breeding season, when Eastern Screech-Owls capture the worm-like reptiles known as blind snakes, they deliver them to their chicks alive and wriggling. Some are gulped down immediately, but others escape by burrowing beneath the nest. The surviving “snakes” feed on the insect larvae... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

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