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science

Navigating by Earth's Magnetic Field

How do birds navigate? They steer by landmarks and by the sun and stars. A keen sense of smell helps some birds chart their course. And, it turns out, migrating birds also find their way by responding to the magnetic field of the earth. Iron-rich magnetic crystals inside the upper beak of this... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, science

No Pounding Headache

The Pileated Woodpecker makes loud, hard whacks, as it leans back and then slams its bill into the side of a living tree. Sounds painful, if not downright disabling! How does the woodpecker's brain withstand it? All woodpeckers have an enlarged brain case, so the brain sits above the level of... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Scrub-Jays Plan Breakfast

Caroline Raby and others at Cambridge University conducted experiments with Western Scrub-Jays, playing off the birds' natural tendency to cache food. In the first experiment, the jays cached food in the room where they expected to go hungry the following morning. In the second, they received two... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

What Is Nature Worth?

What is nature worth? Can its value be quantified? Some natural resource economists and policy-makers say it's important to have a common language of dollars and cents when making decisions about land use and environmental management. Dr. Robert Costanza says that nature provides us with many... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Winter - Nature's Cold Storage

For birds and other animals with good natural insulation, winter provides a striking benefit as they scavenge. Bacteria function very slowly or not at all in the cold, preventing dead bodies from rotting. In northern latitudes, ravens and other scavenging birds take advantage of winter's cold... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

When Birds Ruled the Earth

A bird known as Titanis walleri made its home in Florida just a few million years ago. Titanis, as its name suggests, was titanic indeed - a flightless predator, ten feet tall, with a massive hooked bill. Titanis and other birds related to it belong to a group some paleontologists call the ... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  fossil, science

Swainson's Thrush, Power Napper

When the Swainson's Thrush departs its wintering grounds in Mexico or South America, it travels at night. When does it sleep? Recent research by scientists at Bowling Green State University suggests that during migration, Swainson's Thrushes take hundreds of "power naps," lasting only a few... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, science

A Crow That Makes Tools

A crow named Betty learned how to take a straight piece of wire and bend one end into a hook. She then used the hooked end to haul a tiny bucket of meat from the bottom of a long tube. A postage stamp was issued in honor of this New Caledonian Crow. Watch a video of Betty - we've provided a link... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Saltmarsh Sparrow - Interview with Russ Greenberg

Imagine a heat wave, and your body covered in down and feathers. How do birds cope? Well, Saltmarsh Sparrows use their bills to shed excess heat. Russ Greenberg, head of the Migratory Bird Center of the Conservation Biology Institute at the Smithsonian, explains that these birds' bills convect... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Aggressive Warblers and Climate Change

The territories of Townsend's Warblers and Hermit Warblers overlap in Washington State. Ornithologists call the overlap where the two species interbreed a "hybrid zone." The hybrids - like the one seen here - reveal characteristics of both. And they may also lend clues about our changing climate.... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

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