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ornithology

How Birds' Names Change

Have you ever heard of a marsh hawk or a sparrow hawk? These long-familiar bird names have passed into history. The study of birds, like any science, remains a work in progress. New findings about birds' DNA or other attributes bring changes in classification of species, often resulting in new... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching, ornithology, science

Grosbeaks' Beaks

Black-headed Grosbeaks and Evening Grosbeaks belong to entirely different families of birds. Both groups evolved oversized bills for opening tough seeds. The Black-headed Grosbeak is closely related to the cardinal, while the Evening Grosbeak is close kin to the goldfinch. The common name they... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ornithology

Gulls or "Seagulls"?

Gulls seem so much a part of the sea that we often just call them "seagulls," a colloquial title for these graceful, ubiquitous creatures. Twenty-two species breed in North America. The Pacific coast is home to the aptly named Western Gulls. The familiar Ring-billed Gull nests all across the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ornithology

Birds Are Evolving Rapidly - Today

House Finches are evolving rapidly and visibly. In 1941, some captive House Finches from California escaped near NYC. They spread rapidly and are now found across most of the US. We know the finches have evolved, because those that survive differ from their parents. Size is one example. Male... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ornithology

Jynx!

A birder may have a target bird so elusive that the bird becomes a kind of "jinx bird." But there was a real bird by that name! The bird once called the "jynx" is known today as the Eurasian Wryneck. When a wryneck is threatened, it twists its head like a snake and hisses. This behavior led to... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching, ornithology

Frank Chapman and the Solitaire

Frank M. Chapman, born in June, 1864, was the father of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. He became Curator of Birds at the American Museum of Natural History. The author of many books, Chapman carried on an active program of field research in Central and South America. And his choice for the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, ornithology, vocalization

How the Robin Got Its Name

When English settlers in the New World encountered the American Robin, they saw in it a reflection of the bird they knew as the Robin in the old country. So they called this one a robin, too. Today the American and British Ornithological Unions together determine how a bird is named. For a... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ornithology

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