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Africa

Snake-Eagles Are Awesome

When a soaring Short-toed Snake-Eagle spots a delicious snake, it swoops down, grabs it with its talons, then tears off the snake’s head. Still on the wing, it swallows the entire snake, head first. Smaller than Bald Eagles, they live mainly in Africa and have legs and toes covered in thick... read more »

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Myles North in East Africa

Sometimes the magic in an archive recording is the person doing the recording. Myles Edward Wentworth North spent his adult life as a civil servant in the British colonies of east Africa. Using equipment loaned by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, he systematically recorded the bird voices ... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  recording

Cisticolas - Chirping, Croaking, and More

This Zitting Cisticola is a little brown bird from a big family of fifty-odd species. Its simple but cheerful song is familiar to people around the Mediterranean. In Africa, where most species of cisticolas are found, they occupy just about any open habitat, from marshlands to agricultural fields... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

The Sociable Weaver's Colonial Nest

When it comes to nests, common sense suggests that large birds build large nests, and small birds build small nests. But in fact, some species of smaller birds build large nests. None, though, builds anything like the communal structures of Sociable Weavers in southern Africa’s arid plains. These... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

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

Alpine Swifts Fly Nonstop

How long can a bird fly without touching the earth? To find out, Swiss scientists attached sensors to Alpine Swifts. The sensors showed long periods when the swifts were gliding and not flapping their wings. Were the birds asleep? Scientists don’t know for sure. It could be that Alpine Swifts... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  flight, migration

What in the World Is a Hoopoe?

The soft, modest hoots of the Hoopoe signal a bird so distinctive and fabled that it’s hard to know where to begin this story. Hoopoes are the only existing members of a unique family of birds: Upupidae. They fly on rounded, zebra-striped wings, fluttering unevenly like a giant butterfly. The... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

Most Kingfishers Don't Fish

In North America, kingfishers fish. But in tropical regions of Asia, Africa, and Australia, most of the roughly 90 species of kingfishers don’t “fish.” They hunt in woodlands, where the smaller ones, like the four-inch Pygmy Kingfisher, eat grasshoppers and centipedes. Larger kingfishers will... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology

Oxpeckers and Mutualism

Nature shows set in Africa often show rhinos and other large mammals with small birds on their backs. They're oxpeckers — like the Yellow-billed Oxpecker pictured here. This relationship was long held up as a textbook example of mutualism. Oxpeckers feed almost exclusively on whatever they find... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, science

Jacana - Lily-trotter

The strange wading birds known as jacanas are nick-named "lily-trotters" for their ability to walk on lilypads. In Jamaica, they're known as "Jesus birds," because they appear to be walking on water — a feat made possible by their long toes. But that's not all that's cool about jacanas.... read more »

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