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Some of My Best Friends Are Salt Marshes

Riding the train west to New Haven or New York, you pass salt marshes with old and evocative names like The Saw Pit, Great Harbor, and Old Quarry. Watch for marsh birds — yellowlegs, sandpipers, Snowy Egrets. In the fall, you may find Northern Pintails, teal, and Black Ducks, like this one. We... read more »

Topics & Themes:  birdwatching

Red-necked Phalaropes, Spinners on the Sea

If you’re ever lucky enough to see a Red-necked Phalarope, keep an eye out for its delightful method of feeding. The birds twirl on the surface like little ballerinas, spinning and pecking, again and again. As they spin, the phalaropes force water away from the surface, causing an upward flow... read more »


Shorebirds Aren't Always on the Shore

Shorebirds' lives take them to many places other than the shore. Most of the shorebirds we see along our coasts migrate to the Arctic in summer. Here, many nest on the tundra, some along rushing streams, and others on rocky mountainsides. Long-billed Curlews winter on the Florida, Gulf, and... read more »

Topics & Themes:  migration

Flying South with Pacific Golden-Plovers

In September, a Pacific Golden-Plover wings its way toward the Hawaiian Islands, where it will spend the winter. Its wings span a full two feet. The plover fueled up for migration by plucking summer berries from its Alaskan tundra breeding grounds, storing fat for its 2500-mile flight. After 48... read more »

Topics & Themes:  migration

Peregrine-Shorebird Interaction

Have you ever seen a Peregrine Falcon attack a flock of shorebirds, igniting a breathtaking aerial display? Falcon researcher Steve Herman calls this pattern of evasion "instantaneous synchronicity." The shorebird flock will often form a cone, with the sharpest point shifting continuously to face... read more »


Why Birds Stand on One Leg

Birds' legs have an adaptation called "rete mirabile" that minimizes heat loss. The arteries that transport warm blood into the legs lie in contact with the veins that return colder blood to the bird's heart. The arteries warm the veins. Because the veins also cool the arteries, the bird’s feet... read more »

Topics & Themes:  science

Mother Birds

Happy Mother's Day, from the whole BirdNote team!Avian motherhood is a mixed bag. Peregrine Falcon mothers share duties fairly equally with Peregrine dads. At the other end of the spectrum is the female hummingbird, which usually carries the entire burden of nesting, incubating, and tending the... read more »

Topics & Themes:  nesting

Birds of the Gulf Oil Spill

August 2010 - We share the concern of all who listen to BirdNote for the well-being of the birds that are affected - and are yet to be affected - by the oil spill in the Gulf. Birds such as the Brown Pelican, Snowy Plover, Sandwich Tern, Seaside Sparrow, American Oystercatcher, Willet, Black... read more »


How Young Birds Migrate

Millions of shorebirds -- like these Western Sandpipers at rest for the moment-- migrate southward in August. By the time this year's hatchlings have put on their first full set of feathers and plumped up for the journey, their parents have already flown south. How do the novices find their way?... read more »

Topics & Themes:  migration

How Shorebirds Find Their Way

Shorebirds such as these Pacific Golden-Plovers have a built-in map and a built-in compass. Many night-flying migrants use star patterns to orient themselves, and the fact that the sun always sets in the west makes it a compass point for a bird about to take off on a night flight. Perhaps the... read more »

Topics & Themes:  migration