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vocalization

Decibels Per Gram

Some of the tiniest birds in the world have impressively loud voices. The Ruby-crowned Kinglet — that bright-headed sprite of the treetops — would be downright deafening if it were just a little bigger. Hummingbirds were originally named for the mechanical buzzing produced by their inconceivably... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

The Phoebe and the Pewee

The Eastern Phoebe (pictured here) is one of the most familiar flycatchers east of the Rockies. Because the Eastern Phoebe repeats its name when it sings, it’s a pretty straightforward voice to identify and remember. But there’s another flycatcher east of the Rockies that whistles its name over... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Australia's Rainforest Birds

The rainforests of Eastern and Northeastern Australia harbor many species of birds found almost nowhere else. This Eastern Whipbird — which is more often heard than seen — hangs out in the dense understory. Easier to lay eyes on is the large, pigeon-like Wompoo Fruit-Dove. Feathered in a stunning... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Celebrating the Vernal Equinox

The vernal equinox, the first day of spring. The moment when the sun is directly above the equator, and day and night are nearly equal all over the world. Yet birds sense the growing hours of daylight through a surge of hormones. It’s time to sing! Both science and folklore tie spring to the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Winter Birds of Southern Florida

It’s winter in North America — a good time to head for the subtropical realms of South Florida and listen to the region’s birds, such as the secretive Mangrove Cuckoo pictured here. Rarely seen, it sings sporadically in winter. When it does, you’re sure to take notice. A sweeter voice belongs to... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Starling Mimicry

The searing cry of a Red-tailed Hawk pierces the air. The distinctive scream is coming from a tree nearby. But when you scan the tree for the form of a hawk, you see only a small, black bird. You’ve been fooled. It’s a starling giving voice to the hawk’s cry. The European Starling — the continent... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Late Fall Sounds to Listen For

By the time November rolls around, the bird songs of summer can seem a distant memory.But there’s always something to listen for. Small birds like chickadees and kinglets, including the Golden-crowned Kinglet pictured here, often mix in flocks while foraging. Geese can be heard overhead in the... read more »

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What Kind of Music Is Bird Song?

Composers from Vivaldi to Beethoven have been inspired by birdsong. But how similar is birdsong to the music we create? Two recent studies offer contrasting answers. One analysis used nearly 250 song examples of the Nightingale Wren, pictured here, a tropical bird widely admired for its haunting... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  music, science, vocalization

Do Parrots Name Their Chicks?

Parrots are among the smartest of birds. But are they clever enough to know each other by name? Research conducted by ornithologist Karl Berg suggests the answer might be yes. Berg’s studies of Green-rumped Parrotlets — such as the one pictured here — indicate that every parrot in a family... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting, vocalization

Listening to Nuthatches

Nuthatches rank high on the list of favorite backyard birds. Compact and stub-tailed, they climb down tree trunks and along the underside of branches with comical ease. One at a time, they flit in for suet and sunflower seeds. But out in the woods, where they spend most of their time, nuthatches... read more »

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