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West

Tricolored Blackbirds Face the Future

Tricolored Blackbirds nest primarily in California, but smaller groups breed from the state of Washington to Mexico’s Baja California. They look a lot like Red-winged Blackbirds, except Tricolored males have dark red epaulets and white bars on their wings instead of scarlet epaulets and yellow... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Gray Camouflage: Dippers and Female Harlequin Ducks

For some birds that nest along western streams — including American Dippers and female Harlequin Ducks, like this one — the best way to remain inconspicuous is to hide in plain sight—by looking like just another wet, gray stone. The female Harlequin, resting atop a boulder, is master of... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

Common Poorwills Can "Hibernate"

Common Poorwills don’t sing much when the mercury drops. But they can do something else that is remarkable. As the winter cold deepens, these petite members of the nightjar family can enter a hibernation-like state — and stay like that for hours — or even weeks! Scientists call it torpor. It... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration

Of Grouse and Gizzards

During winter, the Greater Sage-Grouse is wholly reliant on its namesake species — sagebrush — for both shelter and for food. Scientists call this bird "sagebrush obligate," meaning it needs this plant to survive. In the spring, its diet shifts to insects and plants, as it gets ready for the most... read more »

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Western Tanagers Are Flashes of Bright Color

Western Tanagers dart from tree to tree, on the lookout for delicious bugs. They’ll find them by scanning the tree bark — or maybe snatching them from mid-air during flight — a tactic called hawking. Come winter, these lovely songbirds head south, where they fit right in with the other brightly... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration

Female Anna's Hummingbird Preening

Living year round along the Pacific Coast of the US and into the Southwest, Anna's Hummingbirds are territorial, feisty little favorites at backyard feeders. This female was photographed perched and preening by Mike Hamilton.Check out these BirdNote shows about Anna's Hummingbirds:Who Was Anna... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  photography, plumage

Saving Chimneys for Vaux's Swifts

Vaux’s Swifts are perfectly adapted to lives spent in the air. They mate on the wing, and their feet and legs are so small they can’t even walk. But they can hang. So at dusk they collect along the inner walls of giant chimneys, at places like Chapman Elementary School in Portland, Oregon.... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  human interaction, migration

In Seattle, Scrub-Jays Are Here to Stay

California Scrub-Jays are moving north up the Pacific coast of North America. The crafty birds join a number of other corvids, the crow- and jay-like birds, that already call the Pacific Northwest home. As climate and weather change, and human development continues, birds everywhere are on the... read more »

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Acorn Woodpecker Granaries

The Acorn Woodpecker is found in parts of the western US. It chips small recesses out of trees to fit the acorns it will harvest throughout the fall. A family of Acorn Woodpeckers may use this storage tree, or granary, for generations. Some of them hold as many as 50,000 acorns. So does the Acorn... read more »

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Two Phoebes Share the West

In the American West, there are two species of phoebe that share the same expansive country. But they occupy different habitats. The Say’s Phoebe prefers dry, open country ranging from tundra to desert. This Black Phoebe is a close cousin to the Say’s. But it is nearly always hunting alongside... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

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