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ornithology

Falcons, Parrots, The Tree of Life

Scientists have puzzled for centuries over how different groups of birds are related. Did birds that look physically alike, such as falcons and hawks, arise from a common ancestor, or did they reach those similarities independently? This line of inquiry was given an immense boost in recent years... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ornithology, science

Margaret Morse Nice and the Song Sparrow

Few backyard birds in North America are more widespread than the Song Sparrow. But it was the study of this seemingly unremarkable bird that helped shape modern ornithology. In 1928, Margaret Morse Nice began carefully observing Song Sparrows near Columbus, Ohio, where she lived. For eight years,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, ornithology

Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk... Not a hawk, and not all that common, either!The Common Nighthawk is not, of course, a hawk, but belongs instead to the family Caprimulgidae. This includes Whip-poor-wills, Common Poorwills, Chuck-will’s-widows, and a wide variety of other species, all known as nightjars. They... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ornithology

The Demise of the Passenger Pigeon

On September 1, 1914, Martha, the last known Passenger Pigeon, died in the Cincinnati Zoo. It’s hard to believe there were billions of Passenger Pigeons in the early nineteenth century.By 1900, there were none left in the wild. The last Passenger Pigeon became a symbol of how easily we can... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, migration, ornithology, science

Northern Gannets Plunge-Dive

Just off the North Atlantic coast, hungry Northern Gannets are gathering to feed on fish. From 100 feet in the air, the gannets plummet head-first into the water at 60 miles per hour! Such high-speed collisions would knock most creatures out. But Gannets have evolved air sacs in both the neck and... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ornithology

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 »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, nesting, ornithology

Red Knot Flies to the Moon and Back

A trip to the moon would mean a flight of 239,000 miles, roughly the same as circling the Earth 10 times. This Red Knot, named B95 for its band number, is nicknamed "Moonbird." Why? This male sandpiper was first banded in 1995 and spotted again -- on his migration through New Jersey -- in May... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, ornithology, science

Bushtits Build Their Nest

Mike Hamilton photographed a pair of Bushtits building their sock-like, hanging nest. Both the male and the female work in building the pendulous nest, made from moss, lichen, and spider webs. The female (she's the one with yellow eyes) focuses more on the bowl, while the male builds out the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting, ornithology

Why the Black Skimmer Skims

That’s not a distant dog barking. It’s a Black Skimmer in flight, at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia. This striking, black-and-white bird with a red bill and red feet has a most unusual way of feeding. It flies low along the surface of the water with its beak open. Closely... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, ornithology, plumage

Yellow-rumped Warbler - The Winter Warbler

By winter, most warblers have migrated south. But the Yellow-rumped Warbler, which birders affectionately call “butterbutt” is a lesson in adaptation, notes Bryan Pfeiffer, a writer, naturalist, and educator who lives in Vermont. “In winter, when most of their kin are enjoying insects in the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, migration, ornithology

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