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language

A Bird in the Hand

You’ve probably heard the old saying: “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Well, it’s a very old saying, and it’s gone through some changes over the years. In each era, the pragmatic wisdom is clear: Hold on to the sure thing rather than taking a gamble on something better. The saying... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  language

The Owl and the Pussy-cat Went to Sea

During much of his life, Edward Lear, the poet who wrote The Owl and the Pussy-cat, was known for his paintings. Lear’s first major project was a book of paintings of parrots, inspired in part by the friendship and mentoring of John James Audubon. He spent years traveling the globe, painting... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, language

What Do You Call a Group of BirdNote Listeners?

We recently ran a show about collective nouns for groups of birds, A Murder, A Party, A Stare, Or a Siege. At the end, we asked what a group of BirdNote listeners might be called. We asked -- and you answered! Here are some of the suggestions.LisaP and JoeMcA had the same idea. They told us a... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  humor, language

The Swath Uncut

We might not always realize it, but our lives are intertwined with the lives of birds. Sometimes in subtle ways, and sometimes directly. Poet Kevin Black explores that relationship in A Swath Uncut, about a Canadian farmer who once depended on the geese he could hunt to feed his family, and who... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  language, reflection

The Birds of Lake Wobegon

It’s late August, and BirdNote is imagining the bird life at Garrison Keillor’s mythical Lake Wobegon. The loons are now quiet. And the Purple Martins that nested outside the Chatterbox Café? They’re headed for South America. Even the Orchard Orioles - like the pair seen here (female L, male R) -... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  humor, language

Shakespeare's Lark and Nightingale with Rod Molzahn

Birds play important roles in many of Shakespeare’s plays. In Romeo and Juliet, the Lark sings at dawn and the Nightingale’s song fills the evening. At a moment of great peril, the Lark warns the lovers their time is short. Both the Skylark and the Nightingale are nondescript birds – but their... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  language, vocalization

Snipe Hunt

One of the most ethereal of spring sounds is that made by the Wilson's Snipe. Much as if they were playing a reed instrument, the male snipe produces a winnowing sound in flight by metering, with his wings, the flow of air over his tail-feathers. Among the most venerable of practical jokes... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  language

The Eagle Eye

Ever heard the term “eagle eye”? An eagle’s vision is incredibly sharp, and its eyes can weigh more than its brain. The secret to the bird’s exceptional vision is the density of visual cells – the rods and cones – of its retina.Support for BirdNote comes from the Port Aransas Tourism Bureau. Home... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  flight, language, science

A Murder, a Party, a Stare, or a Siege

Collective nouns are a mixture of poetry, alliteration, and description. Victorians often made up creative names for groups of birds, as a parlor game. Many names bring a vision of the birds instantly to mind.How about this spring of teal? These are Green-winged Teal.So what would a bunch of... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  language

Jay and Martin

Just for a LARK, MARTIN and JAY decided to have a SWALLOW. MARTIN's car, a FALCON, was low on PETREL, so he said, "Let's DUCK into a local tavern - TERN here." They had to show IDs at the door, to prove they weren't TANAGERS. MARTIN and JAY met some cute GULLS - PHOEBE, a RAVEN-haired CHICK, and... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  humor, language

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