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Shows With Contributions by Rick Wright

A Different Drumming

The drumming of the male Ruffed Grouse is one of the most evocative sounds of the North American forest. Familiar as these accelerating burps are to hunters and hikers, the origin of this bizarre sound was long a mystery. It took the advent of wildlife cinematography to solve the riddle. In the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  sound

Sandgrouse - Desert Water-carriers

Sandgrouse live in some of the most parched environments on earth. To satisfy the thirst of their chicks, male sandgrouse carry water back to the nest in a surprising but effective way: by carrying it in their feathers. Thanks to coiled hairlike extensions on the feathers of the underparts, a... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  plumage

Hanging-Parrots

There are a dozen species of hanging-parrots — also known as bat parrots — in the tropical forests of southern Asia and Indonesia. Clad in bright greens, blues, and reds, they sleep —and sometimes bathe — upside down. No other birds sleep like this. This bizarre behavior probably protects hanging... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ornithology

Capuchinbirds

The peace of the vast Guyanan jungle is abruptly broken with the dawn chorus of male Capuchinbirds, one of the most bizarre birds in South America. The singing male bows forward, then suddenly stretches to his full length, raising a monk-like cowl of feathers around his naked blue-gray head. The... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display

Burrowing Snowbirds

Light, fluffy snow can be up to 90% trapped air — just the thing to keep birds and other animals warm. Ptarmigan spend winter nights in cozy caves they excavate in snow. During truly harsh weather, they will hunker down in their caves through the short arctic day, too. Common Redpolls break... read more »

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William Turner and the First Bird Book

The first printed bird book, The Principal Birds of Aristotle and Pliny, was published in 1544. Written by the English physician and naturalist William Turner, the book is noteworthy for its inclusion of Turner’s personal observations — a real innovation at a time when ancient authorities held... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

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

The Descent of Birdlore

How did Theodore Roosevelt develop his interest in birds? The chain of events may surprise you. As a budding birdwatcher, Roosevelt was influenced by John Bell, a New York City taxidermist. It turns out that Bell started watching birds 50 years earlier on a trip up the Missouri River with John... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, ornithology, reflection

House Sparrows' Dance

In 1559, Duke August of Saxony ordered that the House Sparrows of Dresden be excommunicated. The birds were slipping into Holy Cross Church, where they interrupted the sermon with exuberant chirping and “endless unchaste behavior” before the altar. Now their manic chirping and courtship displays... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display, history

Urban Cooper's Hawks

Next time you’re in the city, look up. When pigeons are wheeling, you might just see a different bird in pursuit. The Cooper’s Hawk, once known as the “chicken hawk,” used to be in steep decline due to hunting and the effects of DDT on breeding. Today, it’s the most abundant of the bird-eating... read more »

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