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Hummingbirds, By a Hair

In April 1778, the explorer James Cook and his crew spent most of the month at anchor in Nootka Sound, off present-day British Columbia. The native people were eager to trade with the Englishmen. According to the British ornithologist Thomas Pennant, Rufous Hummingbirds were among the commodities... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

The Pelicans of Castle Pinckney

Originally built as a fortress and military storehouse, Castle Pinckney in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, bore witness to the first shots of the Civil War. But today — just outside the crumbling walls that once served as a prisoner-of-war camp — anywhere from half a dozen to hundreds of Brown... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

Hummingbird Feeder Homebrew

The familiar components of a hummingbird feeder include a bottle, sugar water, and something red to attract the birds. (But not the water, please! Food coloring can be harmful to hummers. Here's a healthy recipe.) Feeding hummingbirds such as this Anna’s Hummingbird may seem like a recent... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdfeeding, history, human interaction

Sir Walter Raleigh's Bird Book

When Sir Walter Raleigh wanted to tempt English settlers to the new lands of Virginia, he planned a novel marketing technique: a bird book. He commissioned Thomas Harriot and John White to document the birds on an island in present-day North Carolina. Harriot, a linguist, recorded the names of... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

Waxwing Nightlight

The warm colors and bright accents of the Bohemian Waxwing might make you think it glows in the dark. For the better part of two thousand years, that’s what people believed. Pliny reported that their feathers “shine like flames” in the dark forests of central Europe. The Germans allegedly used... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, human interaction, humor, ornithology

The Descent of Birdlore

How did Theodore Roosevelt develop his interest in birds? The chain of events may surprise you. As a budding birdwatcher, Roosevelt was influenced by John Bell, a New York City taxidermist. It turns out that Bell started watching birds 50 years earlier on a trip up the Missouri River with John... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, ornithology, reflection

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

Strange Thoughts, Strange Bird

Toucans, such as this Red-breasted Toucan, fascinate birders and non-birders alike. Imagine what it must have been like when European scientists laid eyes on a toucan for the first time. The bright feathers drew universal admiration. But the bill was another matter. Theories abounded about its... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, ornithology, reflection

Hazel Wolf

The writer Paul Bowles said, “Nothing just happens. It depends on who comes along.” For the Audubon Society in Washington State, that “who” was Hazel Wolf. She was a labor activist, environmental campaigner, and life-long champion of causes she believed in. From 1969 until 1997, Hazel Wolf... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  environmental champion, history

The Eagle Trains the Man

A Golden Eagle perches on the arm of a Kazakh horseman in the Altai Mountains of Northwestern Mongolia. The horseman and bird are hunting golden foxes, hares, even wolves. It is said that as the man trains the eagle, the eagle trains the man. To quote the writer Dave Stamboulis, hunting with... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, human interaction

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