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Birds on the Menu!

You're one lucky duck to have landed at our little diner. This is no fly-by-night joint. May we start you with a drink - a swallow of Old Crow or Wild Turkey, perhaps? You're just in time for the early-bird specials, when toucan eat for the price of one. The Four and Twenty Blackbirds Baked in a... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  humor, language

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

Jaywalking

In 1917, cars had only recently become common, and stepping out into traffic was dangerous. Back then, the term "jay" was slang for a hick, a country bumpkin. Bostonians with little tolerance for rural folk coined the term "jaywalker" to describe someone green to the ways of the city and modern... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  language

As the Crow Flies

Traveling "as the crow flies," eating "like a bird," and being "free as a bird" are just a few of the sayings we use to describe everyday human actions and feelings. But these often don't take into account the birds' real activities, relative to their size.Support for BirdNote comes from the Port... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  language

A Treasure Chest of Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds' names evoke their exquisite qualities and variety, from sabrewings to woodstars to sunangels-to this Violet Sabre-wing. Central and South America are home to well over 300 species of hummingbirds! Find out more about hummingbird migration -- and what hummingbirds might be coming... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  language

The Tail of the Wren

The House Wren presents us with a classic bird image. That jaunty tail, twitching sharply as the wren scolds, puts an exclamation point on the bird's perky voice and attitude. The word "wren" comes to us intact from the Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon languages, where it referred specifically to the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  language

Hunters' Names for Ducks

Hunters have nicknames for waterfowl that capture the distinctive sound and sight of these birds, such as "Spoonbill" for this Northern Shoveler. And why is the Northern Pintail called a "Sprig"? WNPR listener David, in Belchertown, MA, tells us that the answer can be found in Gurdon Trumbull's... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  language

Walking on Eggshells

Walking on eggshells usually means dealing with something delicate, fragile. But eggs are far from fragile. An egg has to be strong enough to withstand the weight of an adult bird during incubation. But the tiny, weak baby bird within has to be able to peck its way out. Is it true that if you... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  language

Sitting in the Catbird Seat

Longtime baseball announcer Red Barber often described a player in a winning situation as "sitting in the catbird seat." So what is "sitting in the catbird seat"? And what is a catbird? The Gray Catbird is a cousin of the mockingbird, and it does sound a little like a cat. During breeding season,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  humor, language, sports

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