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Songbirds: The Large and Small of It

The group of birds called “songbirds” — the perching birds — is incredibly broad. Half the world’s 10,000 birds are in the songbird group, and their range of body sizes is mind-boggling. One of the smallest songbirds in North America is the Golden-crowned Kinglet, barely larger than a hummingbird... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birding, ornithology

What does it take to record the world’s birds?

What does it take to record the world’s birds? BirdNote and Cornell Lab of Ornithology producer and photographer Gerrit Vyn take you deep into the Brazilian forest in search of the critically endangered Araripe Manakin — and deep inside the Lab’s archive.By Gerrit Vyn, Mary McCann and BirdNote... read more »

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Gray Jays

While camping in the mountains, you might see this Canada Jay (formerly known as the Gray Jay — but before that, as the Canada Jay!), boldly swooping into your camp. This handsome jay’s big, black eyes seem to miss nothing — especially food. But the one food Canada Jays don’t eat is conifer seeds... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

Northern Goshawks and Fire

Among the great firs and Ponderosa pines of Stanislaus National Forest in central California, Northern Goshawk nestlings crowd a platform nest of branches and pine needles halfway up a mature fir tree. In 2013, what’s known as the Rim Fire occurred, and some of the area burned with high intensity... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, nesting

Woodpeckers - Some of Nature's Finest Drummers

Yikes! What's that bird doing, pounding on my house? In early spring, a male flicker may drum on a metal stovepipe or other resonant surface – a pole, a sign, the trunk of a tree – attempting to attract a mate and proclaim his territory. Many other woodpeckers do the same. Let's look at a few...A... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display

Pileated Woodpecker roosting holes

Photographer Gregg Thompson had a stroke of good fortune. He writes:In late September, I noticed a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers on this tree trunk. It was too late in the year for them to have any chicks, and after I read a bit, I decided this was a roosting tree. It could have been a nesting... 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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Forest Fires, Recovery, and Birds

Forest fires have profound effects on birds and other wildlife — for better or worse. Birds such as this Black-backed Woodpecker find a bonanza of insects under burned bark and ample snags in which to carve out nest holes. Woodpecker cavities are often reused by birds like bluebirds. And birds... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology

Black-backed Woodpeckers - Pioneers of the Post-Fire Forests

What is it about Black-backed Woodpeckers and fire?Audubon's Alisa Opar wrote in an earlier blog: "Black-backed Woodpeckers are perhaps the most iconic of post-fire species, since they’re wholly reliant on burn zones."Maya Khosla now shares with us her experience of surveying a post-fire area, in... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Do Woodpeckers Harpoon Their Prey?

Because many woodpeckers have pointed tongues, it was once assumed that they “harpoon” their prey. But what they actually do is more complex. Like a safe-cracker in a movie, birds like this Hairy Woodpecker use a killer combination of sensitivity and force. First, as it scales a tree trunk, the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ornithology

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