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ecology

Secretive Varied Thrush

Except in winter, when it gathers in loose flocks to move to lower elevations, this shy bird prefers solitude. The intricate pattern of color on its wings resembles dappled sunlight on the forest floor. Naturalist Louis Agassiz Fuertes called the song of the Varied Thrush, "... as perfectly the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, species account

Pelicans Go Fishing

Unlike Brown Pelicans, which dive from above to capture fish, White Pelicans feed by forming a group. They swim in a line, and—while herding a school of fish—all dip their heads at once. The pelican's broad bill spreads its huge pouch, as the bird pushes through the water. As each bird lifts its... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology

Unique Chaparral

The dense cover of coastal chaparral supports many birds found nowhere else in the world, including this California Thrasher. The plant species are different, but the chaparral of California is much like shrubby coastal vegetation in southern Europe, South Africa, southern Australia, and Chile.... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology

Ultraviolet Vision

Most birds possess the ability to see color. But birds can also see in the ultraviolet spectrum. Hummingbirds - like this Violet-crowned Hummingbird - may zero in on certain flowers because their petals strongly reflect in the ultraviolet range. Migrating birds may use ultraviolet light to... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, science

Following the Honeyguide

The Greater Honeyguide's demanding call is not aimed at a member of its own species. Instead, the bird guides people in search of honey through the forest, directly to bee hives. The bird flies to a colony of bees living in a hollow tree. The human follower exposes the hive with an ax and takes... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology

Flocking and Foraging

In winter, a foraging flock might include several species of birds: chickadees, kinglets, and even a Downy Woodpecker. Many bird species eat alone, so you might wonder why these birds have chosen to dine together. Different species flocking together to find food enhances the success of all. One... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology

Great Horned Owls Nest

High in a leafless cottonwood, a female Great Horned Owl incubates two eggs. As light snow falls on her back, her mate roosts nearby. Since December, this pair has been hooting back and forth regularly at night. Great Horned Owls nest in winter, because the owlets, which hatch after a month of... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, nesting

Downy Woodpeckers

Coast to coast, border to border, forest to feeder, the Downy Woodpecker goes about its business in 49 states. The smallest woodpecker in the United States, it turns up everywhere there are a few trees, except in the dry deserts of the Southwest and in Hawaii.Sign up for weekly preview email and... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology

Red-wings and Yellow-heads

The Red-winged Blackbird is a familiar denizen of cattail marshes throughout Washington. In marshes east of the Cascades, Red-wings must share space with a larger cousin, the Yellow-headed Blackbird. The two species don't share evenly. Zoologist and blackbird expert Gordon Orians writes: "When... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, nesting

Woodpeckers and Forest Fires

A forest fire roars along a mountain slope once green with spruce and pines, ignited by a lightning strike late in a Northwest summer. Once the fire has run its course, acres of blackened trunks stand silently against the blue sky. But by next summer, woodpeckers have discovered the charred... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology

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