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desert

What Do Desert Birds Drink?

In the desert Southwest, water can be scarce. Yet some birds, like this Black-throated Sparrow, thrive in a scorching landscape. The birds obtain moisture from foods like nectar and fruit, as well as insects and other prey. They tuck into the shade in the heat of the day, so they won’t lose water... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology

Red-backed Fairywren - Speciation and Biodiversity

How do new kinds of birds and animals arise in the world? How does nature proceed from having a single species to having two different species? To find out, Dr. Mike Webster of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is studying Red-backed Fairywrens in Australia. These birds, like the male pictured here,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, ornithology, plumage

Sparrows Sing in Arizona Monsoon

Midday temperatures in southeast Arizona soar above 100 degrees during the month of July. But relief is coming. A summer monsoon refreshes the Sonoran Desert like a second spring. Grass grows lush, wildflowers spring forth, and birds sing. Cassin’s Sparrows sing their plaintive phrases almost... read more »

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Bosque del Apache, High Desert Oasis

At this time of year, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico is a birder's paradise. The refuge — critical wintering habitat for great numbers of birds — sits where the north edge of the Chihuahuan desert meets the Rio Grande River. Witness the magnificent spectacle of the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  festival

Birds Winter at the Salton Sea

California's Salton Sea is hot and smelly - and it's also a Mecca for thousands of wintering birds. This inland sea formed when the Colorado River breached floodgates in 1905, forming a lake 45 miles long. The lake has diminished in size and greatly increased in salt concentration, but a single... read more »

Black-throated Sparrow Sings in the Desert

The Black-throated Sparrow thrives in the open, arid habitats of the American Southwest. Nature maintains such native landscapes with frequent but relatively cool-burning fires. But decades of fire suppression have altered nature's pattern, setting the stage for hotter, more destructive fires.... read more »

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Walk Down an Arroyo

Arroyo means "stream" in Spanish. With mesquite, yucca, and cactus along their edges, arroyos in the Southwest fill with water only a few times a year, mostly during the heavy rains of late summer. There's a remarkable diversity of wildlife here, including this Pyrrhuloxia. Birds here are most... read more »

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Cactus Wren Nest Orientation

Cactus Wrens, which may nest several times between March and September, carefully orient their nests in tune with the season. These bulky twig structures have a side entrance that curves toward the inner chamber. When building a nest for the hot months, the wren faces the opening to receive the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

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