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Christmas Bird Count 2011

In the year 1900, the holiday season was approaching. With that would come the Christmas "Side Count," when, by tradition, you'd go out and shoot as many birds as you could. But a birder named Frank Chapman proposed that people go out and count birds, instead. Today, the Christmas Bird Count is... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  citizen science, science

Tracking Burrowing Owls

Helen Trefry, a wildlife biologist in Edmonton, Alberta, wanted to know where the Burrowing Owls in her part of Canada migrated to. How long did it take them to get to their destinations? Where and how did they spend their stopovers? An amateur radio operator from Texas, along with a network of... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, science

The Rooster

The chicken is perhaps the most widespread avian species in the world - and the exotic Red Jungle Fowl is the ancestor of the hybrid Araucana and Rhode Island Red. Scientists postulate that chickens were first domesticated from jungle fowl in India, about 5,000 years ago. Traders and travelers... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, science

Chickadees on a Cold Night - Interview with Susan Sharbaugh

The Black-capped Chickadees of Fairbanks, Alaska, endure nights as cold as 40 degrees below zero. Dr. Susan Sharbaugh, a scientist at the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, has studied them. She says that each chickadee wedges itself into a tiny cavity. Then the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Black Guillemot, Part 2

To feed their young, Black Guillemots search for food at the edge of pack-ice. In 1972, this was a just short trip from Cooper Island. Now it's more than 25 miles. Unable to find sufficient food close by, they're abandoning their chicks in order to save themselves and try again the next year. The... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Grosbeaks and Monarchs

Black-headed Grosbeaks are one of very few birds that regularly eat Monarch butterflies. Most birds and other animals find the butterflies unpalatable, if not downright toxic. The caterpillars of Monarchs consume milkweeds that contain toxic substances known as cardenolides. The poison is stored... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Black-capped Chickadee - Birdbrain?

In spring, the Black-capped Chickadee adds a new vocalization to its repertoire. When breeding season begins, the tiny brains of Black-capped Chickadees and other songbirds enlarge to enable the birds to create more sounds. After the breeding season is over and the birds no longer need that... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Chickadee Codes

Black-capped Chickadees sometimes add extra dees to their calls. Christopher Templeton has cracked the chickadee code. He found that a relatively small threat, maybe a slow-to-maneuver Great Horned Owl, warranted only two dee notes. But a greater threat, an agile Northern Pygmy-Owl, elicited an... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science, vocalization

Backyard Bird Science

One of the best studies of a North American bird ever written was published by a citizen-scientist named Margaret Morse Nice. Margaret Nice banded more than 800 Song Sparrows in a 40-acre tract in Ohio. Most of us have neither the time nor the 40 acres, but there is still much we can do. Start by... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  citizen science, science

Banding Hummingbirds

Dan Harville has banded more than 11,000 hummingbirds! He affixes a tiny aluminum ring bearing a unique number around the lower part of the bird's left leg. That number will provide vital information to any bander who recaptures it. From the work of the banders, we know that a Rufous Hummingbird,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

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