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science

Genetics and Migration

Scientists have found that, at least for some species, a bird’s genes dictate the route it takes when it migrates. For instance, when subspecies of Swainson’s Thrushes interbreed and produce hybrid offspring, those young birds may take mom’s route north and dad’s route south or zigzag between the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, science

Pterodactyls and Birds

Pterosaurs—the giant, leathery flying creatures of the age of the dinosaurs—were giant reptiles, NOT dinosaurs. The pterosaurs had slim bodies and thin-walled, lightweight bones, ideal for flying. They thrived for 160 million years, passing into history after the same asteroid strike that... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  evolution, science

What’s a Beak Made Of?

Bird beaks, or bills, come in many shapes and sizes. And birds use them for just about everything: to collect food, preen, fight, court (as this pair of Laysan Albatrosses is doing), chop holes in trees, weave nests, and more. In order for a bird to fly, its beak must weigh as little as possible.... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

What does it take to record the world’s birds?

What does it take to record the world’s birds? BirdNote and Cornell Lab of Ornithology producer and photographer Gerrit Vyn take you deep into the Brazilian forest in search of the critically endangered Araripe Manakin — and deep inside the Lab’s archive.By Gerrit Vyn, Mary McCann and BirdNote... read more »

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Birds in the Stars

Many constellations were marked out long ago by ancient Romans and Greeks and the Sumerians before them. Three of today’s nine bird constellations were spotted by the ancients: an eagle, a swan, and a crow, birds familiar then in the Mediterranean region. People of many other cultures also saw... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

How Toucans Stay Cool

The Toco Toucan of South America has evolved to stay cool in the sweltering heat of the tropics. Relative to its body size, the Toco Toucan has the largest bill of any bird in the world, accounting for a third of the body’s entire surface area. It’s also laced with blood vessels and wholly... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Designing a Spider Web to Evade Bird Collision

One of the lesser known hazards of a bird’s life — when flitting from shrub to shrub — is collision with spiders’ webs. And when a bird flies through a web, it’s the spider’s hard work that takes the hit. It can take a spider an hour just to repair the damage and get on with the task of snaring... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, science

Hummingbird Bills and Heliconia Flowers

These Purple-throated Caribs live on many of the Antillean Islands in the Caribbean. The female’s bill is long and deeply curved. The male’s is shorter and straighter. And this one species of bird has a specialized relationship with two different species of flowering Heliconia plants. When... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, evolution, science

The Vulture's Iron Stomach

Circling silently above the earth on broad, black wings, vultures need little introduction. We know them as nature's clean-up crew, dining on dead and decaying animals. A unique range of adaptations allows vultures such as this Black Vulture to feast on food that’s off limits for many other... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Nature's Goggles - Nictitating Membranes

They're there and then they're gone — literally in the blink of an eye!The nictitating membrane is a “third eyelid” that extends from the inner corner of the eye to the outer corner. You may see it when a bird (like this Black Vulture) – or certain other creature – blinks. Thinner and more... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  photography, science

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