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Where Are All the Queen Birds?

In the world of birds, you’ll find King Penguins, King Vultures, King Eiders, 89 species of kingfishers, 11 species of kingbirds, and three species tiny kinglets. But of the 10,000 species of birds around the globe, there are no “queens.”* Once upon a time, there was a species of bird-of-paradise... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, ornithology

Margaret Morse Nice and the Song Sparrow

Few backyard birds in North America are more widespread than the Song Sparrow. But it was the study of this seemingly unremarkable bird that helped shape modern ornithology. In 1928, Margaret Morse Nice began carefully observing Song Sparrows near Columbus, Ohio, where she lived. For eight years,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, ornithology

In Celebration of the Wild Turkey

In 1784, that wise old Ben Franklin groused to his daughter, after the fact, about the choice of the Bald Eagle as our national symbol:For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

Great Missoula Flood - Scablands and Plunge Pools

During the last ice age, a lobe of the ice sheet covering western Canada dammed the Clark Fork River, creating a vast lake in what is now northwestern Montana. Several times during the past 15,000 years, the ice dam broke, sending hundreds of cubic miles of water roaring across the inland... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

50th Anniversary of Silent Spring

September 27th marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. The book awakened the public to the dangers of DDT and other pesticides. But many weren't ready to listen. Her opponents called her "an hysterical woman." Even people who could see the effects of the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  environmental champion, history

Condors in the Pacific Northwest

In 1805, members of the Lewis and Clark expedition, while exploring north of the Columbia River, came upon a California Condor. David Douglas, the English naturalist, collecting the flora and fauna of the Columbia River country in the mid-1820s, found the great birds abundant along the lower... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

An Evening in Sapsucker Woods - With A.A. Allen

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology maintains the largest collection of bird sounds in the world. In 1958, Arthur Allen, the lab’s founder, described An Evening in Sapsucker Woods: “There is a charming spot in the Finger Lakes country of central New York that we know as Sapsucker Woods. Friends have... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, recording

James Swan's Willapa Bay

In 1852, James Swan took up residence in what we now know as Willapa Bay on the southwest coast of Washington State. In his book The Northwest Coast, Swan described the birds he observed on the bay: “white and black swans, white geese, Canada geese, brant, Sheldrake, cormorants, loon, mallard... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

Kipukas and Akis

One of Hawaii’s rarest forest birds is this ‘Akiapola’au. Some of the roughly 1,000 'Akis left on earth live and breed in kipukas on the lower slopes of Mauna Loa, Hawaii’s largest active volcano. A kipuka is an island of native forest surrounded not by water but by recent lava flows - a green... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

Mark Twain and Tropicbirds

When Mark Twain visited Hawaii in 1866, he was able to inspect a live volcano, Halema’uma’u, which he described as “a crimson cauldron.” Twain concluded his impressions of the hellish scene by writing, “The smell of sulfur is strong, but not unpleasant to a sinner.” That eruption came to an end... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

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