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science

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

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

How Long Does a Robin Live

The mortality rate is high in our familiar songbirds. For robins, it's around 50% each year once young birds have fledged. If a robin survives to midwinter, it lives an average of 1.7 years after that. The oldest robins in your yard might be about six years old, although one banded bird lived... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, nesting, science

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

Why Arctic Terns Have Short Beaks

The bill and legs of Arctic Terns are shorter than those of Common Terns. Because Arctic Terns breed in the Arctic and winter in the Antarctic, they are subject to much colder weather than are Common Terns. Birds' bills and legs lose heat, because they're not covered by feathers. Birds in cold... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

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