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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

Barred Owlets Nap

Keeping its talons tightly gripped on a branch, a Barred Owlet will sometimes lie down on its stomach, turn its head to the side, and fall asleep. A young owl doesn't fall out of the tree while it snoozes, because its back toe, the hallux, holds onto the branch. The hallux will not open or let go... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Why Do Chickadees Come and Go?

A chickadee comes in to the feeder, quickly grabs a seed, and flies away. It may return immediately, but it's more likely to wait its turn. When a whole flock of chickadees moves into the yard, it looks as if they form a living conveyer belt. One chickadee after another flies to the feeder and... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdfeeding, science

Goldeneyes and Whistling Wings

On a still winter afternoon, you may hear Common Goldeneyes flying low across the water. Whistlers, their wings sibilant, make the sound - as Ernest Hemingway wrote - of ripping silk. Common Goldeneyes nest in cavities, in northern boreal forests. Enjoy seeing the birds of BirdNote every day... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science, sound

Why Dippers Dip

Why does the American Dipper dip? One possibility is that the dipper's repetitive bobbing, against a background of turbulent water, helps conceal the bird's image from predators. A second theory asserts that dipping helps the bird spot prey beneath the surface of the water. But this theory about... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Birdsong Wanes with the Season

It's late summer, and migratory birds are departing. Many resident birds remain, but their voices are now quiet. During fall and winter, birds don't need to sing to establish a breeding territory or attract a mate. Many songbirds lose the ability to sing. The part of the brain used for singing... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science, vocalization

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