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science

Falcons, Parrots, The Tree of Life

Scientists have puzzled for centuries over how different groups of birds are related. Did birds that look physically alike, such as falcons and hawks, arise from a common ancestor, or did they reach those similarities independently? This line of inquiry was given an immense boost in recent years... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ornithology, science

Birds, Nests, and Camouflage

Bird nests can be hard to find, often hidden in plain sight. Is the clever camouflage simply the result of using building materials that the birds happen to find? A Scottish research team used birds popular in the pet trade, Zebra Finches, to try and find out. The team gave nesting Zebra Finches... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting, science

Why Should You Care About Birds?

Gordon Orians, BirdNote science advisor and blackbird expert, believes we should appreciate nature “simply because of its intrinsic wonder.” He says, “Often people would ask me, 'What good are blackbirds?’ and I would sometimes answer by saying, 'Well, what good is a symphony orchestra?' It turns... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching, reflection, science

Diving Birds – Below the Surface

By December, an array of diving birds that nested at far northern latitudes are wintering on temperate waters across the continent. If we could watch them under water, we'd see this Common Loon racing like a torpedo. A goldeneye dives under water and swims about 10 feet from the surface, while... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Wishbones and Dinosaurs

The anatomical structure we call the wishbone was long thought unique to birds. But fossil discoveries of recent decades have shown that some dinosaurs, including the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex, and the Velociraptors of ”Jurassic Park,” also had wishbones. And there is now wide consensus among... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  fossil, humor, science

The Demise of the Passenger Pigeon

On September 1, 1914, Martha, the last known Passenger Pigeon, died in the Cincinnati Zoo. It’s hard to believe there were billions of Passenger Pigeons in the early nineteenth century.By 1900, there were none left in the wild. The last Passenger Pigeon became a symbol of how easily we can... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, migration, ornithology, science

The Most Abundant Birds in North America

By August, most birds in North America have finished nesting, bringing legions of new birds into the world. These Mourning Doves, which prosper in many environments, are among the most abundant birds on the continent. Their population is estimated at 350 million! In second place is the American... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, science

Burrowing Owls Hiss Like a Rattlesnake!

Despite its name, the Burrowing Owl doesn’t do much digging. It’s better known for its hair-raising hiss, which may have evolved to mimic the warning of a cornered rattlesnake. The sonic threat of a venomous reptile could be just enough to warn away most unwanted visitors from the owl’s nest... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting, science, sound

Inside the burrow of a Rhinoceros Auklet

Everyone knows puffins. Who could forget their comical behavior — with an appearance to match? But you may not know about the Rhinoceros Auklet, a close relative to puffins, found in the Pacific Ocean. Its gray plumage is duller than that of puffins, but during the breeding season it sports a... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting, science

Climate Change Is Pushing Tropical Birds Off the Mountaintop

In New Guinea in the 1960s, scientist Jared Diamond documented birds like this Mountain Kingfisher living at all elevations on Mount Karamui. Today, scientists Ben and Alexa Freeman have documented an important change. Birds are moving “upslope” to escape warming temperatures that are disrupting... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

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