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Ponderosa Pine Savanna

In a Western ponderosa pine savanna, tall pines dot an open, grassy landscape. A Western Bluebird flits from a gnarly branch, as this Cassin's Finch belts out a rapid song. The trees here grow singly or in small stands. Upslope, the pines become denser, mixing with firs. Downhill, the trees give... read more »

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Sapsuckers and Hummingbirds

The sapsucker is a type of woodpecker that notches rows of small holes in trees, causing sap to well out. The birds eat the sugary liquid flowing from these sapwells. Tree sap is similar in sugar content to the nectar hummingbirds take from flowers. And it is no coincidence that just as the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

No Pounding Headache

The Pileated Woodpecker makes loud, hard whacks, as it leans back and then slams its bill into the side of a living tree. Sounds painful, if not downright disabling! How does the woodpecker's brain withstand it? All woodpeckers have an enlarged brain case, so the brain sits above the level of... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Henry David Thoreau and the Wood Thrush

In June 1853, Thoreau wrote of an enchanting encounter with the Wood Thrush: "This is the only bird whose note affects me like music. It lifts and exhilarates me. It is inspiring. It changes all hours to an eternal morning." Wood Thrushes thrive in large expanses of forest. And their numbers have... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, vocalization

Yellow-billed Magpies and West Nile Virus

Like their cousins, jays and crows, the Yellow-billed Magpies of California were hit hard by West Nile virus. The disease reduced magpie numbers by half. Habitat loss and poisoning also threaten the birds. They're now on Audubon's watchlist of species of concern. Whether the magpies will develop... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  citizen science

The Wood Thrush and Eastern Forests

The rich, fluting song of the Wood Thrush floats through an eastern deciduous forest. Unfortunately, forests at both ends of their winter and summer range are being cleared for pasture, agriculture, mining, and housing developments. We can help Wood Thrushes and forest birds everywhere by... read more »

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Aggressive Warblers and Climate Change

The territories of Townsend's Warblers and Hermit Warblers overlap in Washington State. Ornithologists call the overlap where the two species interbreed a "hybrid zone." The hybrids - like the one seen here - reveal characteristics of both. And they may also lend clues about our changing climate.... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

What Sudden Oak Death Means for Birds

A California landscape - rolling hills dotted with oak trees. One year-round resident is the Oak Titmouse. In 1985, a pathogen called Sudden Oak Death began attacking California oaks. As the oaks die, they're cut down in an effort to stop the spread of the pathogen. But Oak Titmice require... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  gardening, science

Marbled Murrelet - Interview with Martin Raphael

The endangered Marbled Murrelet is a bird of two worlds. Martin Raphael, a biologist with the Pacific Northwest Research Station, explains: "It lives in the marine world. But then it nests on the limbs of large, old trees. Its fate is tied not only to the fate of the trees, but also on marine... read more »

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The Drumming of the Ruffed Grouse

A male Ruffed Grouse performs his drumming display on a resonant, fallen log in the shelter of a brushy thicket in the forest. Drumming announces a male's territory and his desire for a mate. Ruffed Grouse thrive in young forests. Wildfires once created that type of habitat. Today, wise forest... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display, sound

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