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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

Black-backed Woodpeckers - Pioneers of the Post-Fire Forests

What is it about Black-backed Woodpeckers and fire?Audubon's Alisa Opar wrote in an earlier blog: "Black-backed Woodpeckers are perhaps the most iconic of post-fire species, since they’re wholly reliant on burn zones."Maya Khosla now shares with us her experience of surveying a post-fire area, in... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Emperor Penguins Launch from the Ocean

These Emperor Penguins feed on fish and squid in the icy ocean. Getting into the sea is easy, but getting out is another story. How does a penguin haul its plump, 80-pound body up and over icy ledges that are several feet high, while avoiding nearby predators? Underwater video has revealed an... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

What Kind of Music Is Bird Song?

Composers from Vivaldi to Beethoven have been inspired by birdsong. But how similar is birdsong to the music we create? Two recent studies offer contrasting answers. One analysis used nearly 250 song examples of the Nightingale Wren, pictured here, a tropical bird widely admired for its haunting... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  music, science, vocalization

Jays Identify Good Nuts by Shaking Them

Some birds stash unopened seeds for use later. But how do they know which seeds are worth the trouble, before expending the energy to open them? A team of scientists from South Korea and Poland may have an answer. As part of a series of experiments, the scientists observed the behavior of Mexican... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ornithology, science

How Birds Stay Cool

On a hot summer’s day, watch a bird such as a crow — or this Purple Martin — very carefully. You’ll never see them sweat, because birds don’t have sweat glands. So how do they keep cool? One way is panting. As the bird breathes rapidly, heat is carried out of its body through the lungs and air... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

A Childhood Love of Birds

Gordon Orians, a writer and science advisor for BirdNote, reflects on how he developed an appreciation of birds and science during his youth. “I think I always had some sort of attraction to birds, and then I started going out bird watching with my dad,” he says. By the time Gordon was in high... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ornithology, reflection, science

Turkey Vultures and Gas Pipelines

Do vultures detect carrion by sight or by smell? The lightbulb moment came to ornithologist Kenneth Stager when a Union Oil employee told him of vultures congregating at the spots along pipelines where gas leaks were occurring. Why would they do that? Because a key ingredient in the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ornithology, science

Robins Are Very Choosy Nesters

When scientists looked at climate data for more than 8,500 robins’ nests in the US, they found that robins will nest only if the mean noon temperature is between 45 and 65 degrees. But even more critical is relative humidity: it needs to be around 50 percent in the middle of the day. What’s so... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  backyard sanctuary, ecology, nesting, science

Oxpeckers and Mutualism

Nature shows set in Africa often show rhinos and other large mammals with small birds on their backs. They're oxpeckers — like the Yellow-billed Oxpecker pictured here. This relationship was long held up as a textbook example of mutualism. Oxpeckers feed almost exclusively on whatever they find... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, science

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