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International Migratory Bird Laws

In May, we celebrate migratory birds, including this Common Yellowthroat. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 gave much needed protection to birds, especially migratory songbirds. In 1940, the US and 17 other countries throughout the Americas signed a pact to "protect and preserve - in their... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, science

Homing Pigeons

Pigeon fanciers from around the world race specially bred homing pigeons over distances up to 600 miles. These stalwart and intelligent birds course the skies at speeds greater than 60 miles an hour. In 2005, a homing pigeon flying home to a loft in Norfolk, Virginia earned the record for that... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

Blackbird, by Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney and the rest of the Beatles most certainly grew up hearing Eurasian Blackbirds. Their song is beautiful, so it's no wonder the Beatles chose to weave it into one of their songs. But McCartney wasn't singing about the bird. He was singing about the racial strife in the American... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, music

The Royal Ravens

The Tower of London has a long and notorious history of murderous political intrigue, dungeons, and famous beheadings. And for more than 300 years, the tower has also been home to a set of royally maintained ravens. Since the time of Charles II, at least six ravens have - by royal decree - made... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

Who Was Douglas?

Both Douglas squirrels and the firs they call home bear the name of David Douglas. In 1825 and 1826, the Scotsman Douglas tramped and canoed over 6000 miles of the Pacific Northwest, documenting plants and collecting seeds and cuttings. In 1827, Douglas traveled to the Royal Horticultural Society... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, vocalization

John Burroughs

John Burroughs was probably the most popular nature writer of the late 19th Century. Many consider Burroughs the founder of the modern nature essay. Yet Burroughs wrote not about nature on a grand scale, but about glimpses of nature close to home. He preferred to walk his own backyard woods - on... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, reflection

Frank Chapman and the Solitaire

Frank M. Chapman, born in June, 1864, was the father of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. He became Curator of Birds at the American Museum of Natural History. The author of many books, Chapman carried on an active program of field research in Central and South America. And his choice for the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, ornithology, vocalization

Carrier Pigeons Go to War

In World War I, carrier pigeons were crucial in relaying messages from the front to positions behind the lines. The most renowned was Cher Ami - or Dear Friend - flown by the US Army Signal Corps during the Battle of Verdun in France. The message Cher Ami carried on October 4, 1918, was vital in... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

Poorwills at Night

Close kin to the Whip-poor-will, the nocturnal Poorwill can be heard in summer in canyons at the deep end of dusk. And the Common Poorwill's greatest claim to fame? It was the first bird confirmed to hibernate, based on evidence verified in 1946. Since then, we have learned that Lewis and Clark,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, vocalization

Chickens Circle the Earth

Archaeological discoveries in Chile strongly suggest that chickens reached the New World about 100 years before the first Europeans. They apparently crossed the Pacific aboard outriggers piloted by Polynesian navigators. The DNA found in chicken bones in Chile resembles that of bones found in the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, science

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