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Migration: Following the Stars

Studies have shown that many songbirds use stars to help guide them, and will fly the wrong way when they are disoriented. Imagine flying thousands of miles without map or compass, in the dark of night. Throughout April, songbirds are traveling north on their annual spring migration. Visit your... read more »

Topics & Themes:  migration, music

Learning to Listen - Patterns in Songs of Song Sparrow

Heidi Hoelting, a musician, listens carefully to the songs of birds. In her piano studio at her home in the woods, she wrote down several variations of the different sounds a Song Sparrow makes. In this BirdNote, Nancy Rumbel plays some of those variations on a bamboo whistle. Listen to all... read more »

Topics & Themes:  music, vocalization

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 »

Topics & Themes:  history, music

The Lowly Starling

Much maligned as a pest and cursed by many as an "invasive species," the European Starling has had many fans, too. Eugene Schieffelin introduced about 50 pairs into the United States in the 1890s. And Rachel Carson noted that the starling carries "more than 100 loads of destructive insects per... read more »

Topics & Themes:  music, vocalization

Mahler's Cuckoo

No bird has been so often evoked and emulated in song and symphony as the cuckoo. Among the best known examples are Handel's The Cuckoo and the Nightingale and the lovely "Andante" by Beethoven. But perhaps the quintessential use of the cuckoo's unique song figures in the First Symphony of Gustav... read more »

Topics & Themes:  music

Carol of the Birds - With Nancy Rumbel

To celebrate the season, Nancy Rumbel, who composed and played the BirdNote theme music, performs "Carol of the Birds." This version was arranged by Nancy herself, with the accompaniment of Pine Siskins, Black-capped Chickadees, a Red-winged Blackbird, Song Sparrow, House Finch, American... read more »

Topics & Themes:  music, vocalization

The Real Story

Birds make their momentous journeys across the continents, navigating by ancient codes and intelligences. The equinoxes proceed to find their balance of day and night. As Rachel Carson wrote: "Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life... read more »

Topics & Themes:  migration, music, reflection