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vocalization

Birds Talk, People Squawk

Darvin Gebhart is a champion goose-caller. But there are also birds that use human language. Sparkie Williams was a famous parakeet, or budgerigar, that lived in England in the 1950s. He recorded commercials for bird seed and released his own hit single "Pretty Talk." Alex, the African Grey... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  humor, vocalization

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

Barred Owl Revives

The emphatic hoots of Barred Owls resonate in the still of a winter's night. These owls initiate their vocal courtship in winter. Their signature hooting sequence has been memorably described as "who-cooks-for-you?! who-cooks-for-you-all?!" Watch for them at dawn or dusk, as they fly low to the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  rehabilitation, vocalization

Black-capped Chickadee

If you hang a simple feeder outside your window, you might attract this Black-capped Chickadee and many other birds. Fill the feeder and install it close to any room where you spend time. Hang the feeder within three feet of the window to keep the birds from colliding with the glass. That way, if... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdfeeding, vocalization

The Barred Owl Calls

Barred Owls are very territorial, and they don't migrate. Solitary calls from a male in early spring probably mean that he has not attracted a mate. In May and June, he continues to hoot, though less frequently. By summer, breeding season has passed. Maybe this solitary Barred Owl is what some... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Barn Owls Let You Know

The structure and delicate softness of its feathers allow a Barn Owl to approach its prey almost without sound. The Barn Owl's ability to locate prey by sound, even when concealed by snow or leaves, is the most precise of any animal yet tested. This young Barn Owlet is about five weeks old and... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Evening's Last Singer

After sunset, the American Robin sings faster and more elaborate versions of his daytime songs. Some birds have more than 100 songs! They time their singing to the intensity of light as well as to the time of sunset. When dark clouds roll in, they get rolling earlier. Males sing mainly to attract... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

What Birds Can Hear in Songs

What does the Winter Wren hear in a song? It's a long story... What we hear as a blur of sound, the bird hears as a precise sequence of sounds, the visual equivalent of seeing a movie as a series of still pictures. That birds can hear the fine structure of song so acutely allows them to convey... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

First Songster of the Day

Why do birds start their songs so early in the morning? Many are announcing that they've made it through the night. Some males grab the first opportunity to remind others of their territories and to fend off other males. Certain migratory males signal their location and availability to females... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Acorn Woodpecker

He doesn't sound exactly like Woody Woodpecker, but the Acorn Woodpecker was probably the model for the cartoon character. The story goes that Walter Lantz and his new bride, Grace, were on their honeymoon in a cabin in California. A racket on their roof drew them outside, where they spotted an... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  Hollywood, humor, vocalization

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