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science

Parrots and Falcons — Long-lost Cousins

Discovering the Tree of LifeDid you ever play with seashells? Get yourself a whole bucket full of 'em, and then try to sort them out? The big, chalky, thick-shelled ones here, the delicate, pastel-colored ones there. A new pile for the swirly-shaped ones…As we try to make sense of the beautiful,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ornithology, science

Speech and Birdsong - The Genetics of Vocal Learning

Some birds are born with the ability to sing. Others learn to sing while they're young — just like humans, who must learn to speak. It turns out that vocal learning in songbirds and humans may have more in common than anyone suspected. Recent DNA research reveals that songbirds and humans share a... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science, vocalization

Beak Meets Seed

Birds like finches, chickadees and this Northern Cardinal love sunflower seeds, but each species uses a different strategy to extract the meat. When a finch plucks a sunflower seed from the feeder, it uses its tongue to maneuver the seed lengthwise into a groove on its beak. As it closes its beak... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdfeeding, citizen science, 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

What Happens When Birds Get Wet?

Have you ever seen a bird foraging in the rain and wondered why it isn't soaked to the bone? While every bird wears one feather coat, different kinds of feathers – and even different parts of the same feather – can perform various functions. The outermost tips of the main body feathers, called... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  plumage, 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

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