Welcome to BirdNote!

Birds connect us with the joy and wonder of nature. By telling vivid, sound-rich stories about birds and the challenges they face, BirdNote inspires listeners to care about the natural world – and takes step to protect it.

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Shows With Contributions by Mick Thompson

Great Gray Owl face showing bright yellow eyes and beak

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…
A male Lapland Longspur bird in sunlight on the tundra

Spring Birdsong in the Arctic

Spring has reached the Arctic. Low-growing wildflowers carpet slopes of tundra, and arriving migratory birds begin to sing: Lapland Longspurs, Hoary Redpolls, Snow Buntings, Bluethroats, and more.
A male Rufous Hummingbird with buff-color breast and reddish orange throat is perched at a nectar feeder

Thirsty Rufous Hummingbird

Hummingbirds need to consume five times their body weight each day. This Rufous Hummingbird of the West is looking for flowering plants to quench that mighty thirst on its spring migration. A feeder would work, too. Put a hummingbird feeder up in your yard, and see who turns up!
American Robin with orange breast and dark brown head pulls a worm from a grassy area

The Early Bird

We've all heard that the early bird gets the worm. But research shows that birds dining early and heavily may lower their life expectancy. Socially dominant birds stay lean (and agile at avoiding predators) during the day, and then stoke up later, before a cold night. Subordinate birds…
Anna's Hummingbird drinking from flower

A Natural Feast for Hummingbirds

Hoping to attract hummingbirds to your yard or balcony? One way is to grow native plants. Native plants provide cover, and they offer nectar in spring and summer. They also attract insects, the most important part of a hummingbird’s diet. Just add a source of water for drinking and bathing…
Tiny Northern Saw-whet Owl facing forward perched in evergreen branches

Northern Saw-whet Owl - A Bird with a Lot to Say

For such a small owl, the Northern Saw-whet has a lot to say. And a lot of ways to say it. Males weigh about as much as an American Robin. And they send out at least 11 different calls, including “toot-toot-toot” advertising calls, from late January through May. The rate of calling is…
Cactus Wren in sunshine perched on dried branch.

The Cactus Wren's Signature Voice

Most wrens in North America are small, furtive birds that stay deep in the vegetation. But the Cactus Wren is large, bold, and brassy. These wrens are well adapted to the desert and can get all the moisture they need from their food. Cactus Wren nests are a regular sight in their range of…
A Northern Shrike, showing black horizontal stripe "mask" across its eye, while perched on a twig

The Butcherbird

The Northern Shrike breeds in the tundra and taiga of the north, but migrates south into the lower 48 for the winter. It has a pleasing and rhythmical song, which it sings even in winter. But its song belies a rather bloodthirsty feeding habit. The shrike impales its prey on sharp thorns…
A Steller's Jay faces the viewer, showing bright blue while gripping a branch

Dave Mull and the Courage of Steller’s Jays

Skateboarder and birder Dave Mull remembers the first time he heard a Steller’s Jay imitating a Red-tailed Hawk. “These Steller's Jays were pretending to be something they were not, kind of tricking the world,” he says. It got him into the mindset that he could attempt a terrifying new…
A Hairy Woodpecker nestling peeks out from its nest hole in the side of a tree trunk.

One Species Caring for Another

In North America, the European Starling has gained a bad reputation for competing with native bird species for nest cavities. But researchers in Ontario, Canada, were surprised to see three Hairy Woodpecker nestlings receiving care from both a female Hairy Woodpecker and a European…