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The Harpy Eagle Is a Huge, Powerful Hunter

Harpy Eagles spend their lives in tall, remote tropical forests in Central and South America, flying from tree to tree in search of food. The eagles are named for the Harpies of Greek mythology, women with the bodies of birds who, on Zeus’s command, snatched people from the earth.Since it takes... read more »

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Marsh Voices at Sunrise

In marshes across the country, birds awaken on a summer morning. Tall dense grasses and reeds often make marsh birds hard to see, but their voices carry easily across the lush, green landscape. You can hear birds like the Redhead, the Sora, the American Bittern, the Ruddy Duck, this Yellow-headed... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Mountain Walk with Bird Songs

A hike through the mountains of the West, from the lowlands to the rocky alpine zones, reveals an incredibly diverse array of beautiful birds: Swainson’s Thrushes, Pine Grosbeaks, American Pipits and so many more to be found. read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, vocalization

Pterodactyls and Birds

Pterosaurs—the giant, leathery flying creatures of the age of the dinosaurs—were giant reptiles, NOT dinosaurs. The pterosaurs had slim bodies and thin-walled, lightweight bones, ideal for flying. They thrived for 160 million years, passing into history after the same asteroid strike that... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  evolution, science

Rapid Evolution in the Galápagos Islands

Scientists have long thought that new species took a very long time to emerge. This thinking has now changed dramatically. On an island in the Galápagos, researchers Rosemary and Peter Grant discovered that a hybrid union of two distinct species of finch produced descendants different from any of... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  evolution

Why Do Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers Look So Similar?

Generations of birders have puzzled over how to tell Downy Woodpeckers from Hairy Woodpeckers. The two species’ patterns of black and white feathers are so alike that it was long thought they were the closest of relatives. The two live in similar woods, nest in similar trees, and eat many of the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  evolution

Who Was That Masked Bird?

Football and baseball players sometimes wear eye black to reduce glare from the sun or stadium lights. According to scientists, some birds — including many shrikes, like this Northern Shrike — have evolved a band of black feathers across their eyes that helps in the same way. The black markings... read more »

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Wrens from North to South

There are nearly ninety species of wrens in the world, and quite a few are exceptional singers. Nearly all of them reside in the Western Hemisphere, with the majority living in Central and South America. The White-bellied Wren ranks among the tiniest, at just under four inches, while the Giant... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Summer Tanagers: Wasp Hunters

Summer Tanagers snatch bees and wasps in mid-air, as they buzz about. Bug in beak, the bird flies to a perch, slams the insect against a branch until it’s dead, then wipes it against the branch to remove the stinger before eating it. Summer Tanagers will also tear open paper-like wasp nests to... read more »

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How Geese Made History

It was the wing feathers of geese that supplied most of the quill pens that were humanity’s prime writing tool for more than 1200 years—from the 6th century until the 1820s, when steel pens took over. The lightweight goose quill has a hollow shaft ideal for storing ink. With a smooth, light... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

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