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Birds, Nests, and Camouflage

Bird nests can be hard to find, often hidden in plain sight. Is the clever camouflage simply the result of using building materials that the birds happen to find? A Scottish research team used birds popular in the pet trade, Zebra Finches, to try and find out. The team gave nesting Zebra Finches... read more »

Topics & Themes:  nesting, science

The Secret Stash of Eggshells

Developing eggshells requires a key ingredient — calcium — in larger quantities than the female typically has in her bloodstream. Just how different bird species supply or store calcium for egg-laying isn’t fully known. While some species seek out extra calcium from their... read more »

Topics & Themes:  nesting

Burrowing Owls Hiss Like a Rattlesnake!

Despite its name, the Burrowing Owl doesn’t do much digging. It’s better known for its hair-raising hiss, which may have evolved to mimic the warning of a cornered rattlesnake. The sonic threat of a venomous reptile could be just enough to warn away most unwanted visitors from the owl’s nest... read more »

Topics & Themes:  nesting, science, sound

Inside the burrow of a Rhinoceros Auklet

Everyone knows puffins. Who could forget their comical behavior — with an appearance to match? But you may not know about the Rhinoceros Auklet, a close relative to puffins, found in the Pacific Ocean. Its gray plumage is duller than that of puffins, but during the breeding season it sports a... read more »

Topics & Themes:  nesting, science

Nesting Red-breasted Sapsuckers

Photographer Gregg Thompson spent several days watching the nest cavity of a pair of Red-breasted Sapsuckers, a species of woodpecker found in far western North America. Cavities are generally excavated in dead trees or dead portions of live trees. Pairs may return to nest in the same area — or... read more »

Topics & Themes:  nesting, photography

Common Merganser with adorable young!

This small family of Common Mergansers -- a hen with her eight ducklings -- was photographed by Mike Hamilton near Seattle. This duck species nests in tree cavities resulting from broken limbs or excavated by woodpeckers. The female alone incubates the eggs, which hatch in about a month. The... read more »

Topics & Themes:  nesting

Monitoring Rhinoceros Auklets on Protection Island

The nesting colony of Rhinoceros Auklets on Washington State’s Protection Island is among the largest in the world. The birds’ breeding success reflects the health of surrounding marine waters. Scientists are monitoring the type, number, and food value of the fish the adults provide. And to find... read more »

Topics & Themes:  ecology, nesting, science

From Egg-laying to Hatching and Beyond

Waterfowl like this Muscovy duckling spend up to 30 days in the egg, so they’re able to walk, swim, and feed themselves as soon as they hatch. We call these chicks precocial. By contrast, the chicks of most songbirds spend less time maturing in the egg. They must continue to develop in the nest... read more »

Topics & Themes:  ecology, nesting, ornithology

The Baltimore Oriole

Not all blackbirds are mostly black. This Baltimore Oriole is orange! It’s named after Sir George Calvert, First Lord of Baltimore, whose coat-of-arms carried a gold and black design. In spring and summer, you may see these orioles in the Midwest and eastern US, lighting up the trees where they... read more »

Topics & Themes:  birdfeeding, nesting, plumage

Wood Ducks on the Potomac

Wild, undammed rivers make dangerous neighbors. A sign-board near the riverbank at one of the entrances to Potomac National Park offers direct evidence of the river’s perils — 57 drownings in ten years between Great Falls and Little Falls — about an 11-mile stretch.The Potomac seems most fearsome... read more »

Topics & Themes:  nesting