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Shows With Contributions by Michael Stein

Birds' Early Warning Systems

A frantic cacophony of loud, rapid birdcalls tells other birds there’s a predator on the prowl. It’s called “mobbing” as birds clamor and dart — back and forth — at the threat. An ongoing study of mobbing and other bird warning behavior suggests that some birds listen in on the warnings of other... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology

Waterfalls, Caves, and White-collared Swifts

A flight of White-collared Swifts, huge swifts the size of small falcons, wing their way toward a small waterfall in Southern Mexico. Flying up to 100 miles per hour, they slice right through the waterfall into the cave beyond. White-collared Swifts are found from Mexico to Brazil. By day, they... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  flight, nesting

Birds Need Water in Summer

Summer is a crucial time to keep your backyard birds supplied with water for drinking and bathing. Birdbaths set at different heights serve a great variety of birds. A wide, shallow birdbath that deepens a bit in the center will suit a broad range of birds - including this Orange-crowned Warbler.... read more »

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Who Was That Masked Bird?

Football and baseball players sometimes wear eye black to reduce glare from the sun or stadium lights. According to scientists, some birds — including many shrikes, like this Northern Shrike — have evolved a band of black feathers across their eyes that helps in the same way. The black markings... read more »

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Towhees' Distractive Plumage

Both this Eastern Towhee and the Spotted Towhee of the West sport a black or dark brown hood and back. And when they fly, their tails flash white. When a hawk gives chase, the towhee's flashing tail-feathers draw the predator's attention. Momentarily distracted, the hawk may come up with just a... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  plumage

Birdwatching 104 - A Summary

How do birdwatchers identify one species from another? First, they look carefully at the bird. What's the overall color? Is its bill long or short, thin or stout? What about its markings -- a ring around its eye or stripe on its head? What's your bird doing? Bird behavior can help you sort out... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching

National Symbol - Turkey vs. Eagle

As an old tale goes, after the eagle was chosen for national emblem, Benjamin Franklin questioned the choice. In a letter to his daughter regarding a medal created by the Society of the Cincinnati, he wrote wrily: "The Bald Eagle is too lazy to fish for himself; when the Osprey has taken a fish .... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrikes are found across much of the United States in open country, like pasture and sagebrush. Male shrikes are well known for impaling their prey on thorns, creating a larder that may help impress potential mates. But pesticides and the loss of habitat to residential and commercial... read more »

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Begging Sounds and Postures

After young birds have left the nest and can fly short distances, they still follow their parents and beg for food. They squawk and assume a begging posture, wings drooping and head hunched down. Most young birds, including this European Starling, depend on their parents for days, weeks, or even... read more »

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Summer Tanagers: Wasp Hunters

Summer Tanagers snatch bees and wasps in mid-air, as they buzz about. Bug in beak, the bird flies to a perch, slams the insect against a branch until it’s dead, then wipes it against the branch to remove the stinger before eating it. Summer Tanagers will also tear open paper-like wasp nests to... read more »

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