Below is a list of podcasts relating to birds, conservation, and nature in general. The list is updated on a regular basis, so check back often for new programs and feeds. If you find a feed we should add, if a program is unavailable, or if you discover a program that should be removed, please send an email with the details.

The podcasts listed on this site are not currently produced by or hosted by Beakspeak. They are property of their authors and don't necessarily reflect our views. If you like a particular podcast, please visit their site and show support. Without them, none of this would be possible. Enjoy!

Podcast titles and descriptions are written by their authors. Minor editing may have been done to clean up the format.

• BirdNote Podcast RSS Feed • Birdwatch Radio
• GLRC: Environment Report • Laura Erickson's For the Birds Podcast
• Naturesound, Digital recordings of Birds • NPR: Environment
• On The Wing • Parrot Science
• Rainforestinn.com's Podcasts • Ray Brown's Talkin' Birds
• RSPB Bird Notes • SciQ: Science Revealed Podcasts
• This Birding Life • Whooper Happenings
BirdNote Podcast RSS Feed


12/01/2009

In a recent episode, when we described the V-formation of large migrating birds, we made a mistake in calling it "slipstreaming". An astute listener pointed out that each bird behind the leader is actually taking advantage of the updraft of a corkscrew of air coming off the wingtips of the bird in front. This corkscrew of air is called a tip vortex. Learn more about Canada Geese at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. (1532KB)

11/30/2009

Crows didn't get where they are today by being shy or slow. They take advantage of whatever food they find, where and when they find it. Listener Jerry Campbell told his story of one crow making off with three chips. Catch a video of another clever crow in Japan. Sign up for the BirdNote podcast, and listen to BirdNote any time, night or day. (1583KB)

11/29/2009

DNA tells us the Hawaiian honeycreepers' closest relatives are birds like our backyard House Finches and goldfinches. Millions of years ago, such finches reached Hawaii, where they evolved into one of the most diversified sets of birds on earth, particularly when it comes to the shape of their bills. The Hawaiian honeycreepers include this scarlet I'iwi, whose long, slender, curved bill probes deep into blossoms. Learn more from the Smithsonian. (1586KB)

11/28/2009

The Northern Shrike breeds in the tundra and taiga of the north, but migrates south into the lower 48 for the winter. It has a pleasing and rhythmical song, which it sings even in winter. But its song belies a rather bloodthirsty feeding habit. The shrike impales its prey on sharp thorns or barbed wire, where it can pull it apart and consume it. To learn more about this songbird-raptor, visit Cornell's AllAboutBirds. (1526KB)

11/27/2009

On Thanksgiving Day, if you passed the gravy and giblets, you held in your hands the turkey's heart, liver, and gizzard. What is a gizzard? A bird's stomach is divided into two parts. The first part is a lot like our stomach. But the second part is the gizzard. Birds that eat seeds have a gizzard with tough, thick, muscular walls. Such birds swallow grit, like sand or gravel, which travels to the gizzard, where it helps grind up the seeds. (1556KB)

11/26/2009

In the early 1800s, John James Audubon wrote: "The great size and beauty of the Wild Turkey, its value as a delicate and highly prized article of food... render it one of the most interesting of the birds indigenous to the United States of America." Read Audubon's description of how Wild Turkeys, which walk more than they fly, cross a river. Happy Thanksgiving from the BirdNote team! (1550KB)

11/25/2009

Hiring a local guide when you visit an exotic destination can be a win-win-win situation. You receive the services of a local expert -- and might get to see this Green Violet-ear Hummingbird. The guide has employment. And the birds thrive, because those communities have an economic incentive to protect the birds and their habitats. (1584KB)

11/24/2009

The eye of an eagle is one of the most sensitive of any animal, and may weigh more than the eagle's brain. The secret to the exceptional vision lies in its retina. The density of rods and cones within a raptor's eye may be five times that of a human's. As the Golden Eagle rides hot-air thermals high into the air, it can spot even the slightest movement of its favorite prey, a rabbit, over a mile away. Learn more about this far-seeing raptor at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. (1506KB)

11/23/2009

This month, the Bufflehead returns from the boreal forests of Canada and Alaska to winter in our waters. Its nicknames include little black-and-white duck, bumblebee duck, buffalo-headed duck, butterball, and spirit duck. Buffleheads have elaborate courtship displays that they perform throughout the year, except during the post-breeding molt and in the early fall. (1537KB)

11/22/2009

The Tower of London has a long and notorious history of murderous political intrigue, dungeons, and famous beheadings. And for more than 300 years, the tower has also been home to a set of royally maintained ravens. Since the time of Charles II, at least six ravens have -- by royal decree -- made their home in the tower. They are given ample food, comfy quarters, and private burials in the moat near Traitor's Gate. Learn more at Historic-UK. (1609KB)

11/21/2009

As the winter sun sinks over the Coulee Lakes, hundreds of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches suddenly appear, an undulating cloud that swarms into the upper levels of the basalt cliffs. The finches nest high in the mountains in summer, and roam the countryside in large flocks in winter. Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches roost for the night in a colony of abandoned swallow nests on basalt cliffs. (1589KB)

11/20/2009

Hunters have nicknames for waterfowl, which capture the distinctive sound and sight of these birds, such as "Spoonbill" for this Northern Shoveler. And why is the Northern Pintail called a "Sprig"? WNPR listener David, in Belchertown, MA, tells us that the answer can be found in Gurdon Trumbull's 1888 Names and Portraits of Birds Which Interest Our Hunters, p. 38. Trumbull says that sprig is short for sprig-tail. In this case "sprig" means twig, as in a decorative sprig of holly or a sprig of thyme added to a soup. (1554KB)

11/19/2009

Although you may see Dark-eyed Juncos in the summer, come fall many more - those that have been nesting in the mountains or farther north - arrive to spend the winter. These juncos often visit birdfeeders for winter feasting. Dark-eyed Juncos forage on the ground. The flash of white tail-feathers when one is alarmed alerts other members of the flock, and is also part of the courtship display. (1601KB)

11/18/2009

Twenty-five years ago, there were twice as many scaup in North America as there are today. Starting in 1986, non-native zebra mussels spread rapidly throughout the Great Lakes. And scaup love to eat them. However, zebra mussels and other shellfish accumulate contaminants, including selenium, from refineries and farm fields. And selenium is toxic to wildlife in any more than minute concentrations. Scaups (like this Lesser Scaup) that have high levels of selenium may not be able to reproduce. Learn more. (1555KB)

11/17/2009

Project FeederWatch, sponsored by Cornell and National Audubon, is a window on the birds of winter. Through Project FeederWatch, scientists are able to track the movements of birds - including this Pine Siskin - and understand trends in population and distribution. Participate by counting birds at your own feeder. The count starts in November and lasts through the winter. (1575KB)

11/16/2009

Take a walk around a lake in late November, and you'll find male ducks in their most brilliant breeding colors. These ducks have lost their nondescript late-summer feathers, known as "eclipse plumage." Male dabbling ducks - like this Green-winged Teal - look their finest in late fall and winter, the season of courtship and pair-bonding. Learn more about ducks at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. (1534KB)

11/15/2009

Black Scoters are sea ducks that spend the winter on saltwater bays. They are large, strong ducks and buoyant swimmers with a habit of cocking their tails upward. Black Scoters nest each summer on freshwater tundra ponds. Each fall, they can be found on bays all across the Northern Hemisphere. An unmistakable clue to their presence? -- their mysterious, musical wail. Learn more at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. (1545KB)

11/14/2009

The Douglas squirrel is a pint-sized, chestnut-red native resident of forests west of the Cascade rim. They waste no time in telling you--and other squirrels--you're in their territory, particularly if you're near their central larder of conifer cones. Named for Scottish explorer and botanist, David Douglas, the Douglas squirrel sounds a bit like a bird sending out an alarm. Watch a video of a Douglas squirrel chattering. (1547KB)

11/13/2009

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 "terror birds." They were dominant land predators in South America for tens of millions of years. For more about Titanis walleri, visit the Hall of Florida Fossils. (1504KB)

11/12/2009

Father Tom Pincelli is a Catholic priest known to many as "Father Bird." He's a birder and conservationist in the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Southern Texas. One of his favorite birds is this Green Jay. The Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival starts today. Can't make it to Texas? There may be a festival near you. Find out at BirdWatchersDigest.com. (1534KB)

04/19/2009

Warblers can be hard to spot. But unlike many warblers that ply the tops of the trees, the Audubon's Warbler, a subspecies of the Yellow-rumped Warbler, is happy filtering through the lower branches of trees, providing flightless mortals with half a chance of seeing it. The Yellow-rumped Warbler is one of the most common warblers across the United States. (1537KB)

04/18/2009

In late April and early May, shorebird watchers flock to the coast to see the 42 regularly visiting species of shorebirds -- including these Western Sandpipers. Learn more about Washington's shorebirds at BirdWeb.org. (1584KB)

04/17/2009

Marty the Marsh Wren, the image at the top of the screen, is BirdNote's mascot. Marty was photographed by BirdNote advisor, Idie Ulsh. The Marty seen here at left has been all over the world. Take Marty with you on your next trip! Download a copy of Marty, print him out, and pop him in your suitcase. Then take a photo of him at your destination, just like that gnome! Send us a photo and we'll add it to our gallery. (1541KB)

04/16/2009

This Scarlet Tanager, its cousin the Western Tanager, and your latte have a connection. Much of the birds' prime wintering habitat has been turned into coffee plantations. When tall, shade-giving trees are cut down to grow coffee in direct sunlight, the tanagers' winter habitat is also removed. But when plantations grow coffee under a tall canopy of trees, tanagers can thrive in their winter home. (1507KB)

04/15/2009

Seabirds have no problem drinking sea water. The salt they take in is absorbed and moves through their blood stream into a pair of salt glands above their eyes. The densely salty fluid is excreted from the nostrils and runs down grooves in the bill. As the drop gets larger, the bird shakes its head to send the salt back to the ocean. A seabird's skull has a pair of grooves for the salt glands right over the eyes. Learn more about this Western Gull Cornell's AllAboutBirds. (1529KB)

04/14/2009

The American Kestrel is the smallest, most numerous, and most widespread North American falcon. This bird is built for speed, its long pointed wings often bent back at the tip. While hunting, kestrels hover above an open field. These days, the lack of suitable nesting cavities, which limits American Kestrel populations in some areas, has lead to public interest in installing wooden nest boxes. Learn about kestrel boxes -- how to make them and where to place them. (1486KB)

04/13/2009

Birding is often best in the least likely places. At sewage treatment plants, watch for ducks and gulls - and raptors keeping watch over them all. Another place might be your local landfill or dump. The Brownsville, Texas dump was, for years, the only place in the US you could find this Tamaulipas Crow. For a more sedate birding adventure, visit a cemetery. Especially in rural areas and in the Midwest, cemeteries are often repositories of native plants, and thus magnets for migratory birds, which find food--and cover--in those green oases. (1572KB)

04/12/2009

Recent studies show that songbirds use stars to help guide them, and will fly the wrong way when they are disoriented. Imagine flying thousands of miles without map or compass, in the dark of night. Throughout April, songbirds are traveling north on their annual spring migration. Visit your local Audubon to see what bird might be flying over your head tonight. (1542KB)

04/11/2009

You can find birds nearly everywhere. Even parking lots. Next time you're at a mall, grab a coffee, take a seat outside, and look around you. How many different species of birds can you see? Crows and gulls command the rooftops. Rock Pigeons abound. A European Starling--like this one--picks up the errant raisin or crumb and carries it to its nest nearby. Peer into a starling's nest. (1565KB)

04/10/2009

The American Bittern, a member of the heron tribe, spends much of its time in the dense cover of the marsh. Although they are found across the country, you'll seldom see one. Bitterns are masters of camouflage. Their striped plumage perfectly imitates surrounding vegetation, and they conceal themselves by freezing--holding their heads and necks upward at an angle that mimics the reeds. Have you seen an unusual bird or observed a bird doing something usual? Tell us your story! Write to us at info@birdnote.org. (1528KB)

04/09/2009

Many sandpipers have sensitive nerve receptors in their bill tips, so they can find unseen prey through touch, odor, and pressure changes -- and so, feed even at night. This Long-billed Curlew (in back) sports a slender, down-curved bill that may reach nine inches long. The Bar-tailed Godwit (in front) probes deeply, sometimes even putting its head under water. (1572KB)

04/08/2009

The Wood Duck was once the most abundant duck east of the Mississippi River. But the draining of wetlands, forest fragmentation, and market hunting caused serious declines in their numbers. In 1918, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act banned hunting of Wood Ducks for 23 years. Federal regulation and the concern of dedicated individuals, including Frank Bellrose, brought the duck back. By the 1960s, populations had recovered to three million birds. Learn more about Wood Duck conservation at Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center. Also at Audubon.org. If you have suitable nesting habitat, build your own Wood Duck nestbox. (1532KB)

04/07/2009

Emily Dickinson: The Birds begun at Four o'clock... As the first rays of sunlight fill the trees on a spring morning, a symphony of birdsong erupts. As early morning light extinguishes the stars, male birds begin to belt out their songs. One of the magical gifts of spring is the dawn song. Early in the morning, sparrows, chickadees, thrushes, finches, wrens, blackbirds, and warblers - like this Yellow Warbler - all sing at once. (1527KB)

04/06/2009

Bubbling, cascading, penetrating - the song of the Winter Wren bursts from deep within huckleberry bushes and floats beneath tall, cool evergreens. Pound for pound, the Winter Wren has ten times the sound power of a crowing rooster. This tiny wren can create sounds as it exhales and inhales, allowing the bird to sustain its long, melodious song. The song may last up to eight seconds! (1536KB)

04/05/2009

If this week's bright full moon pulls you outside, pause for a moment and listen. You just might hear migrating songbirds, flying overhead. Most songbirds do migrate at night, when fewer predators are out. The migrants stop, feed, and rest during the day. However, scientists believe that the main reason songbirds migrate at night is that the stars help orient them on their northward journey. (1536KB)

04/04/2009

While spring heralds the return of many migratory birds, it also spells the end of a long winter stay by others. Even most of the Dark-eyed Juncos that winter here will soon leave for mountain forests, taking their ringing trills with them. Golden-crowned Sparrows like this one are headed north soon, to breed on the tundra of Alaska. And Fox Sparrows will soon be on their way to the Aleutian Islands. (1582KB)

04/03/2009

Sitting on a piling, wings outstretched, the Double-crested Cormorant looks like a black Celtic cross. Cormorants dive from the water's surface, pursuing prey under water, propelled by powerful webbed feet. The male performs a flashy wing-waving display to show off his colorful head-tufts and neck. When not nesting, Double-crested Cormorants are a common sight near fresh and salt water. (1603KB)

04/02/2009

The House Sparrow was first introduced into the U.S. from England in the 1850s and has spread across the country. The name "House Sparrow" fits it well, because--from Bangor, Maine to San Diego, and Alaska to the Panama Canal--it's found nearly everywhere people live. (1537KB)

04/01/2009

High above the clouds caressing the upper reaches of the mountains soars the most majestic bird you are never likely to see or hear: the Semi-Fixed-Wing Silver Delirian. With a wingspan of some four yards, a sleek metallic silver body almost as long as its wingspan, and huge winged feet, the Delirian visits once a year--April 1--during its annual migration from its home in Tierra del Loco, a remote island promontory rising out of the southern Pacific. (1581KB)

03/31/2009

Rock Pigeons are one of the most common urban birds. But why do we never see baby pigeons? They stay in the nest --under bridges and awnings, for instance --until they're nearly as big as their parents. Learn a whole lot more! (1537KB)

03/09/2009

The 22-inch Great Horned Owl has two tufts of feathers that stick up from the top of its head. This owl is often heard during dark winter evenings and pre-dawn mornings. A pair of owls may call back and forth or overlap their hoots. The male's call is slightly lower in pitch. (1570KB)

03/08/2009

Mallards are found virtually everywhere there is open water, from city parks and subalpine lakes to sheltered bays and estuaries along the coasts. In their breeding plumage, male Mallards are avian dandies. The female Mallard is the only one that can quack. (1538KB)

03/07/2009

Both Douglas squirrels and the firs they call home bear the name of David Douglas. In 1825 and 1826, the Scotsman Douglas tramped and canoed over 6000 miles of the Pacific Northwest, documenting plants and collecting seeds and cuttings. In 1827, Douglas traveled to the Royal Horticultural Society in England and delivered botanical samples that he had collected. (1515KB)

03/06/2009

The small, nondescript Pied-billed Grebe has an astonishing talent. The grebe is the master of its own buoyancy. It can squeeze out both the air trapped in its feathers and in its internal air-sacs -- and sink effortlessly. (1545KB)

03/05/2009

Springtime brings the sound of a woodpecker--maybe one like this Northern Flicker--drumming on a hollow surface. Members of the woodpecker percussion band announce their territory and attract mates, as they pound away on metal roofs or gutters. Drilling holes in tree trunks calls for some specialized tools, and the North Flicker has them: big claws, two toes pointing forward and two backward, and a stiff tail to prop itself up. (1513KB)

03/04/2009

At the display area -- or lek -- the male Sage-Grouse performs for mating rights while the females look on. Learn about Sage-Grouse conservation. There's more about the bird at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. (1544KB)

03/03/2009

Crows. Large, black, noisy. The raucous birds of the neighborhood. Some people love them; others aren't so sure. American Crows are crafty and resourceful. They've learned to pick though our trashcans. Watch for crows at your local fast food joint. They're a natural clean-up crew. (1544KB)

03/02/2009

Winter's weak light is finally beginning to strengthen, and some birds, long absent, have begun their journeys north. Wood Ducks, Mourning Doves, and Tree Swallows, such as this one, return with the light. So be of good cheer, the birds and Spring are coming back. (1580KB)

03/01/2009

Gray-breasted Wood-Wrens sing a duet. Each sings a different phrase, yet the phrases are so closely linked, it sounds like one song. Such singing is called antiphonal song. The pairs use song to stake out and hold breeding territories. Dueting is most typical of birds that live in dense habitats; it no doubt helps them locate each other in deep cover. Learn more about Wood-Wrens at BirdLife.org. (1530KB)

02/28/2009

A chill wind ruffles the feathers of a male Sage Sparrow, as he sings atop a tall sagebrush. It is late February, a few miles from the Columbia River in Central Washington. Sage Sparrows are arriving north from wintering in the Southwest deserts. Unlike most songbirds, male and female Sage Sparrows often arrive on their nesting grounds already paired. (1518KB)

02/27/2009

On the Skagit Flats, an hour north of Seattle, dramatic scenes of wildlife unfold every winter. "The flats" are broad, level deltas where the river drains into Skagit Bay. They offer a wildlife panorama with few equals in North America. Immense Bald Eagles stand ready to give chase for a winter meal. Nearby, a flock of nearly 10,000 Snow Geese blankets the ground... Consider a visit! (1579KB)

02/26/2009

Have you ever heard of a marsh hawk or a sparrow hawk? These long-familiar bird names have passed into history. The study of birds, like any science, remains a work in progress. New findings about birds' DNA or other attributes bring changes in classification of species, often resulting in new names. Check a field guide, and you'll now find them as the Northern Harrier and the American Kestrel. Join your local Audubon and take a field trip to see what you can see! (1510KB)

02/25/2009

House Finches are familiar birds all across North America. Researchers have shown that the red coloration of males is produced from carotenoid pigments in the birds' diet. Male House Finches develop brighter plumage when they are growing in new feathers, if they eat more fruits containing carotenoids. Females prefer more brightly colored males. Redder males also attract females in better condition, and such a pair raises, on the average, more young. (1512KB)

02/24/2009

We have many examples of music inspired by birdsong, but there are also composers who have used actual bird sounds in their works, including Ottorino Respighi in his 1923 work, The Pines of Rome. When Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara composed "Cantus Arcticus" (also known as "Concerto for Birds and Orchestra"), he may have had in mind this Whooper Swan, the national bird of Finland. In 2007, German producer Dominik Eulberg released a composition made entirely with sampled bird sounds. (1517KB)

02/23/2009

American Crows and other birds groom each other while sitting side by side on a wire or branch. One stretches out its neck, and the groomer, or preener, twirls individual feathers in its beak, often starting at the back of the head and working around to the front. This grooming, known as "allopreening," strengthens the bond of the pair -- and keeps their feathers in good shape, too. Have an idea for BirdNote? Drop us a line at info@birdnote.org! (1573KB)

02/22/2009

Because many birds are largely silent in winter, it may seem that they have left us. But many remain, and even the shy and secretive sometimes reveal themselves. A Winter Wren may dart from hiding to grab a meal. The Winter Wren is a tiny woodland bird whose song is as elaborate as its plumage is drab. And this wren is one of the few birds to be heard singing in winter. Learn more at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. (1521KB)

02/21/2009

Storks and babies have been linked together for centuries. But how did that old legend get started, that storks bring babies? Researchers suggest that the legend goes back into pagan times, when civilizations were keen to have high birthrates. The myth of storks and babies was forged by the birds' return in spring, when many babies were born. Many people in Europe still associate storks with good luck and look forward to the birds' return each spring. (1548KB)

02/20/2009

Imagine carrying heavy battery-operated equipment -- along with all your camping gear -- across the tundra. That's what recordist Gerrit Vyn did on assignment for Cornell's Lab of Ornithology. His mission? To record the calls of this Yellow-billed Loon. Learn more about the lab and about The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds.

BirdNote wants to thank all the radio stations that carry the show. And thanks, too, to recordists, photographers, donors, and especially the listeners! (1508KB)

02/19/2009

There is a legend of a huge bird called the Thunderbird, whose origin remains a mystery, even to Native Americans. According to myth, Thunderbird was so large and flew so high, it carried the rain on its back and created lightning and thunder. Perhaps Teratornis merriami was the creature that inspired the myth. Probably the largest bird ever to fly, it died out following the last ice age. For a short time, thousands of years ago, that bird shared territory with early Native Americans. (1547KB)

02/18/2009

As the days grow longer in late winter, the lengthening light helps trigger a bird's urge to really sing. A male House Finch breaks into his rich, jumbled phrases, followed by the Spotted Towhee's heavy, metallic trill. In early spring, the breeding cycle begins anew, with song, courtship, and pair-bonding, all leading to nesting. Most resident birds begin singing before northbound migrants arrive. (1524KB)

02/01/2009

The plight of the gravely endangered Spotted Owl illustrates the imperiled status of old-growth forest in the Pacific Northwest. More than 90% of that forest is gone, a percentage that dwarfs even the worldwide loss of tropical forests and wetlands. Spotted Owls rely on those ancient trees -- snags for nesting and roosting, and layers of canopy for shelter from predators. (1516KB)

01/31/2009

The call of the Common Loon brings to mind a summer visit to northern lakes with sunny blue skies. A "yodel" call is given by males on their breeding territories. The call of the Common Loon that we hear during winter is quite different from the breeding call in summer. Common Loons have another, more cheerful tremolo call, which they make while flying. Learn more about the Common Loon at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. Learn more about the boreal forest, where many Common Loons breed, at BorealBirds.org. (1579KB)

01/30/2009

There is an element of luck in birdwatching. A birder may have a target bird so elusive that the bird becomes a kind of "jinx bird." But there was a real bird by that name! The bird once called the "jynx" is known today as the Eurasian Wryneck. When a wryneck is threatened at its nest-hole, it twists its head like a snake and hisses. This behavior led to the wryneck being invoked in witchcraft to put a spell or a jinx on someone. (1499KB)

01/29/2009

When English settlers in the New World encountered this bird, they saw in it a reflection of the bird they knew as the Robin of the old country. So they called this one a robin, too. The robin of the British Isles is a distant relative of the much larger American Robin. Today the American and British Ornithological Unions together determine how a bird is named. For a checklist of American birds, visit the AOU.org. [Of note, a BirdNote listener writes that the American Robin is seen occasionally in Germany and has been given the informal name, Wanderdrossel, or migrating thrush.] (1495KB)

01/28/2009

Why are blackbirds black? One possible answer is that black is conspicuous against just about all of Nature's backgrounds. So if a bird wants to be seen, black isn't a bad color to be. But why would a blackbird want to be seen? Blackbirds, like this mixed flock of Red-wings and Yellow-heads, wander around the countryside after the breeding season. They feed on the ground, and whenever a predator approaches, they take flight. Coming together quickly in a dense mass may confuse the predator and thwart its attempts to catch one of the birds. (1547KB)

01/27/2009

Can you guess how many feathers cover a Canada Goose? A single Canada Goose has between 20 and 25 thousand feathers. Some are designed to help the bird fly or shed water. Many are the short, fluffy kind, the down that insulates the bird from the cold. Birds survive in sub-zero weather by fluffing their feathers, creating layers of air and feathers. Just a fraction of an inch of this insulation can keep a bird's body temperature at 104 degrees, even in freezing weather. Find your local Audubon chapter and volunteer. Begin at Audubon.org. (1565KB)

01/26/2009

High in a leafless cottonwood sits a female Great Horned Owl, incubating two eggs. A light snow falls on her back, as her mate roosts nearby. Since December, this pair has been hooting back and forth regularly at night. Great Horned Owls nest in winter, because the owlets, which hatch after a month of incubation, must remain near their parents a long time compared to many other birds -- right through summer and into early fall. (1567KB)

01/25/2009

It's winter, and apples litter the ground. A few still hang, frozen and thawed again and again. Suddenly a flock of hundreds of birds rises from the ground beneath the trees, swarming in tight formation, wing-tip to wing-tip. Bohemian Waxwings are erratic winter visitors from their nesting grounds in the boreal forests of the north. They come in search of fruit to sustain their winter wanderings. Learn more about this sleek visitor at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. Let us know what you think of BirdNote. Send your comments to info@BirdNote.org. (1537KB)

01/24/2009

Bald Eagles have it pretty good in Washington in fall and winter. Nature sets out a sumptuous buffet for many hundreds of eagles during the colder months. But some commuting is required, because this is a moveable feast. Bald Eagles congregate along the upper portions of the Skagit and other Northwest rivers. Some arrive as early as November, and some stay into March. To view the gathering of eagles, plan to attend the Upper Skagit Bald Eagle Festival, January 24 and 25, 2009. For more information, visit SkagitEagle.org. (1513KB)

01/23/2009

With the strong, direct flight of a falcon, a tropicbird can catch a flying fish on the wing, or plunge like an arrow into the sea and - with its serrated bill - capture a squid. Three species of tropicbirds range through most of the tropical latitudes of the world's oceans, and have done so for 60 million years. These are the Red-tailed Tropicbird, (like this one), the White-tailed Tropicbird, and the Red-billed Tropicbird. (1502KB)

01/22/2009

In 1917, cars had only recently become common and stepping out into traffic was dangerous. Back then, the term "jay" was slang for a hick, a country bumpkin. Sophisticated Bostonians with little tolerance for rural folk coined the term "jaywalker" to describe someone green to the ways of the city and modern traffic signals, someone impudent--or imprudent--enough to step in front of traffic. Learn more about this impudent Blue Jay. Write to us at info@birdnote.org, and let us know what you think of BirdNote. (1535KB)

01/21/2009

The bill and legs of Arctic Terns are shorter than those of Common Terns. They feed in exactly the same way, so why would the Arctic Tern's bill and legs be shorter? Because Arctic Terns breed in the Arctic and winter in the Antarctic, they are subject to much colder weather than are Common Terns. Birds' bills and legs lose heat, because they're not covered by feathers. Birds in cold climates have short bills and legs, lessening their exposure. Note the difference between the bill and legs of the Arctic Tern on the bottom here and those of the Common Tern on the top. (1525KB)

01/20/2009

In the Amazon, a cacophony of birdcalls surrounds you. One piercing, cheerful yelp catches your ear. Could this be the same sound you remember from a Saturday morning in your childhood? The Cuvier's Toucan could have been the inspiration for Toucan Sam, the "spokesbird" for Froot Loops™ cereal. Its huge bill is surprisingly light, and enables the bird to pluck fruit hanging from small, outer branches. It may also scare off potential predators. Travel with Audubon, and you may spot a Cuvier's Toucan! (1480KB)

01/19/2009

Named for its rhythmic calls, the Black-legged Kittiwake as it is known in North America - it's also known as the Common Kittiwake - is a dapper, oceanic gull. As described by Roger Tory Peterson, the tips of its pale gray wings "are cut straight across, as if they had been dipped in ink." Unlike many gulls, kittiwakes spend most of the year at sea and are seldom seen inland. Watch a video of kittiwakes nesting at Shoup Glacier in Alaska. (1511KB)

01/18/2009

A few years ago, Paul Bannick went to photograph the Great Gray Owl in Northern Minnesota. He writes: "I went out one morning before the sun had risen and found one owl that was in a particularly photogenic place. I watched that owl: where it flew to, where it perched, how did it come looking for prey, when was the sun on its face." Paul learned what the bird's habits were, and that give him the best chance to capture the image he wanted. (1561KB)

01/17/2009

A Spotted Owl hoots from deep within a Northwest forest. We know the Spotted Owl best as an unwitting symbol of an ongoing political and economic struggle. We've seen its dark eyes peering from the pages of a newspaper. A Spotted Owl stands about a foot-and-a-half tall. It is adapted to life in old-growth conifer forests, forests centuries old that have never been logged. But less than ten percent of such forest remains. Learn about the owl at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. Find out about owl conservation at Audubon.org. To locate your local Audubon, begin here. (1530KB)

01/16/2009

Does the image of a frozen birdbath bring to mind a small yellow bird with ice skates? Birds need water in all seasons, for drinking and for bathing. When the water is frozen, you can thaw it with hot water. Or go the slightly more expensive route and add a heater. Learn more about providing for your backyard birds at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. To find your local Audubon chapter, visit Audubon.org. (1560KB)

01/16/2009

Birds are part of the complex web of Nature, and each fits into this web in its own way. Some even pollinate flowers! While feeding at a flower, this Rainbow Lorikeet gets pollen on its forehead and throat. When it visits another flower of the same species, it transfers the pollen to that flower. The pollen fertilizes the plant's eggs to produce its seeds, and the plant's reproduction is assured. (1574KB)

01/15/2009

We've all heard that the early bird gets the worm. But research shows that birds dining early and heavily may lower their life expectancy. Socially dominant birds stay lean (and agile at avoiding predators) during the day, and then stoke up later, before a cold night. Subordinate birds have to look for food whenever and wherever they can find it, and carry fat on their bodies to hedge against unpredictable rations. Dominant birds, which can push subordinates off food, can choose when they eat and so lessen their odds of being eaten themselves. (1598KB)

12/18/2008

Have you ever watched ducks walking around in freezing temperatures and wondered why their feet don't freeze? And how do songbirds (including this Northern Flicker) sit on metal perches with no problem? Birds' feet have a miraculous adaptation that keeps them from freezing. Rete mirabile -- Latin for "wonderful net" -- is a fine, netlike pattern of arteries that interweaves warm blood from a bird's heart with the veins carrying cold blood from its feet and legs. (1573KB)

12/18/2008

In The Golden Bough, Sir James Frazer describes early Europeans building solstice fires at year's end to strengthen the sun. Seeing the sun steadily weakening, steadily falling in its arc across the sky, they did what they could to restore it to health. Birds and other creatures of the natural world respond to the length of winter days. Much of the rhythm and timing of birds' behavior, including migration and breeding, is determined by the length and intensity of the sun's light. (1543KB)

12/17/2008

A stiff December breeze blowing down the Columbia River delivers an exhilarating chill. A stretch of river near Bridgeport, in north-central Washington, is held tightly by a series of dams, creating massive lakes -- lakes which, in winter, harbor thousands of water-birds. High on an overlook, a Bald Eagle watches a flock of birds -- coots, ducks, and more -- on the water below. (1515KB)

12/16/2008

During late December, birders go out counting every bird that hops, swims, flies, or soars into view, as they have for more than 100 years. Audubon chapters across the United States and elsewhere sponsor the Christmas Bird Count. Learn about the history of the Christmas Bird Count. (1550KB)

12/15/2008

Birds in flocks almost invariably develop a pecking order. An alpha chicken can peck any other in the flock, and a beta chicken can peck all others but the alpha, etc. Juncos and other small birds have a pecking order, too. The pecking order--or dominance hierarchy--of a flock of birds is usually this: males are dominant to females and adults are dominant to young birds. As a flock changes and birds come and go, the pecking order changes. (1599KB)

12/15/2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas began as a French love song. The song's age is uncertain, but likely dates to at least the Sixteenth Century. A woman's generous "true love" delivers gifts over the twelve days. The first seven days' gifts are all birds. The "five gold rings" were gold Ring-necked Pheasants. And the partridge in a pear tree was probably the Red-legged Partridge, a cousin to this Gray Partridge. BirdNote wishes you Happy Holidays! (1558KB)

12/13/2008

The Townsend's Solitaire and Townsend's Warbler carry the name of John Kirk Townsend, an early American naturalist. At age twenty-four, the Philadelphia-born Townsend joined up with the 1834 Wyeth Expedition, crossing the Rockies to the Pacific Ocean. While traveling throughout the Northwest from Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River, Townsend observed many animal species new to science. To learn more about this Townsend's Warbler, visit BirdWeb. (1540KB)

12/12/2008

According to the Suquamish story, many years ago, South Wind blew hot and long. The animals banded together and found the source of the wind--a fortress atop a rocky mountain. At night, the animals crept into the fortress and vanquished the men who protected the South Wind. Afterward, the animals all danced around the fire. All except Robin, who refused to join the dance. He sat quietly, staring into the fire, and stayed there for so long that his breast turned red. And the robin has had a red breast to this day. (1535KB)

12/11/2008

BirdNote works with The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds to enrich your appreciation of the birds around us. Housed at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York, The Macaulay Library maintains the largest collection of bird sounds in the world: 160,000! The digital recordings in the library cover 2/3 of the world's bird species. Some are extremely rare and perhaps extinct - like this Bachman's Warbler, a former resident of the southeastern United States that hasn't been seen since 1988. (1504KB)

12/10/2008

As December days shorten, birds spend the long, cold nights in a protected place, sheltered from rain and safe from nighttime predators. Small forest birds, such as nuthatches and creepers, may spend the night huddled together in tree cavities. On cold winter nights, birds fluff up their feathers for insulation, hunker down over their legs and feet, and turn their heads around to poke their beaks under their shoulder feathers. (1504KB)

12/09/2008

Stroll along the shoreline, and notice the bills of a few birds--like the Long-billed Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit seen here. Call it a "bill" or a "beak", the variety of shapes and sizes of the birds' signature instrument is extraordinary. And crucial! A bird does things with its bill that other animals do with their forelimbs--including preening, nest-building, self-defense, and displaying. Learn more about the Long-billed Curlew. There's more about the Bar-tailed Godwit at BirdWeb. (1510KB)

12/08/2008

Passion and strength of character often define those who go to great lengths to photograph birds. Photographer and naturalist Paul Bannick braved the threat of polar bears, when he went to the Arctic in July, 2008 to photograph this Snowy Owl and other birds.See more of Paul's photos at PaulBannick.com. And listeners in the Pacific Northwest can catch a presentation of his photos. (1597KB)

12/06/2008

Buffleheads have returned for the winter, down from the boreal forests of the north where they breed. These birds are monogamous and often return to the same wintering area. Buffleheads breed on small lakes and ponds in the boreal forest. In winter, the Bufflehead is most often found in coastal areas, in shallow bays and inlets. Learn more about the Bufflehead at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. Watch a video of Buffleheads -- two males and one female. (1505KB)

12/05/2008

In a tropical woodland in eastern Australia, you glimpse a Southern Cassowary, a huge flightless bird that must rate as the most prehistoric looking of all birds. It's nearly six feet tall with a crest like one of the bony plates on the back of a stegosaurus. Cassowaries are capable of making remarkable sounds, including the lowest known bird call in the world, barely audible to the human ear! Learn more about the Southern Cassowary. For more about the sound, visit NatlGeo.com. (1545KB)

12/04/2008

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 direct hammering impact. The skull's frontal bones -- together with a set of muscles at the bill's base -- act as a shock absorber. (1520KB)

12/03/2008

The chicken is perhaps the most widespread avian species in the world -- and the exotic Red Jungle Fowl is the ancestor of the hybrid Araucanas and Rhode Island Red. Scientists postulate that chickens were first domesticated from jungle fowl in India, about 5,000 years ago. Traders and travelers then carried them far and wide. (1557KB)

12/02/2008

Coast to coast, border to border, forest to feeder, the Downy Woodpecker goes about its business in 49 states. The smallest woodpecker in the United States, it turns up everywhere there are a few trees, except in the dry deserts of the Southwest and in Hawaii. Learn more about this acrobatic forager at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. (1550KB)

12/01/2008

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. By standing on one leg, a bird reduces by half the amount of heat lost through unfeathered limbs. (1498KB)

12/01/2008

In World War I, it was almost impossible to lay phone wires. Carrier pigeons were crucial in relaying messages from the front to positions behind the lines. The most renowned was Cher Ami - or Dear Friend - flown by the U.S. Army Signal Corps during the Battle of Verdun in France. The message Cher Ami carried on October 4, 1918 was vital in saving hundreds of American soldiers of the now famed "Lost Battalion" of the 77th Infantry. (1535KB)

11/30/2008

The Northern Bobwhite has an unmistakable call, which is also the source of its name. The species is native to the US, east of the Rockies, but Bobwhites have been released into the wild as game birds in many locales in the West. Northern Bobwhites are known to have been introduced in Washington as early as the 1870s, but today, there are only a few small, self-sustaining populations, primarily in the prairie-like areas just south of Puget Sound. Is there a bird or topic you would like to hear about on BirdNote? Email info@BirdNote.org. (1516KB)

11/29/2008

Birds at a suet feeder...What a burst of vitality on a chilly morning! What's the attraction? A cake of suet, suspended from a branch in a small wire feeder. Suet is beef fat, a high-energy food critical for birds' survival in the colder months. Suet is an especially strong magnet for birds (including this Red-breasted Nuthatch ) that eat lots of bugs in the warmer months. Learn about suet feeders and more at Birds.Cornell.Edu. (1539KB)

11/28/2008

The Steller's Jay is a jay ... and it's blue. But it's not a true Blue Jay with a capital "B." The bona fide Blue Jay is primarily a bird of the East. Both are smaller cousins to the American Crow and the Common Raven. But the Blue Jay and the Steller's Jay have similar personalities. Like their larger cousins, the crows and ravens, they are intelligent opportunists. Visit Cornell's AllAboutBirds, to learn more about the Blue Jay -- and about the Steller's Jay. (1513KB)

11/27/2008

Turkeys were domesticated in Mexico long before Europeans set foot there. After early European explorers colonized Mexico, they took some of the tamed turkeys home with them. But when the bird we today call the "turkey" arrived in England in the 1500s, people got them mixed up with another big bird, the guineafowl. Since guineafowl were thought to have come from Turkey, both it and the New World bird came to bear the name "turkey." Learn more about the Wild Turkey at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. (1544KB)

11/26/2008

The eye of an eagle is one of the most sensitive of any animal, and may weigh more than the eagle's brain. The secret to the exceptional vision lies in its retina. The density of rods and cones within a raptor's eye may be five times that of a human's. As the Golden Eagle rides hot-air thermals high into the air, it can spot even the slightest movement of its favorite prey, a rabbit, over a mile away. For more about this far-seeing raptor, visit Cornell's AllAboutBirds. (1484KB)

11/25/2008

It's morning on the island of New Guinea, and the lowland forests erupt with the crowing calls of Birds of Paradise. Male Raggiana Birds of Paradise perform elaborate displays to attract females, sometimes even hanging upside-down with their wings pointing upward. Forty-three species of Birds of Paradise are found on or near New Guinea. There's a world of birds out there. (1520KB)

11/24/2008

This month, the Bufflehead returns from the boreal forests of Canada and Alaska to winter in our waters. Its nicknames include little black-and-white duck, bumblebee duck, buffalo-headed duck, butterball, and spirit duck. Buffleheads have elaborate courtship displays that they perform throughout the year, except during the post-breeding molt and in the early fall. Learn more at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. Let us know what you think of BirdNote: info@birdnote.org. (1511KB)

11/24/2008

Black Scoters are sea ducks that spend the winter on saltwater bays. They are large, strong ducks and buoyant swimmers with a habit of cocking their tails upward. Black Scoters nest each summer on freshwater tundra ponds. Each fall, they can be found on bays all across the Northern Hemisphere. An unmistakable clue to their presence -- their mysterious, musical wail. Learn more about Black Scoters at BirdWeb.org. (1523KB)

11/22/2008

As the winter sun sinks over the Coulee Lakes, hundreds of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches suddenly appear, an undulating cloud that swarms into the upper levels of the basalt cliffs. The finches nest high in the mountains in summer, and roam the countryside in large flocks in winter. Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches roost for the night in a colony of abandoned swallow nests on basalt cliffs, high above Washington's Coulee Lakes. (1540KB)

11/21/2008

Just for a LARK, MARTIN and JAY decided to have a SWALLOW. MARTIN's car, a FALCON, was low on PETREL, so he said, "Let's DUCK into a local tavern--TERN here." They had to show IDs at the door, to prove they weren't TANAGERS. MARTIN and JAY met some cute GULLS - PHOEBE, a RAVEN-haired CHICK, and another named ROBIN... (1570KB)

11/20/2008

According to Japanese folklore, long ago, a poor man found an injured crane and nursed it back to health. Not long after the crane took wing again, a beautiful young woman appeared at the man's door, and she became his wife. Throughout history, the Japanese have viewed the crane as a symbol of good fortune. Because cranes mate for life, they also represent fidelity and honor. Learn more about the Japanese crane and crane conservation at SavingCranes.org. Music in this episode courtesy of Duoen. (1520KB)

11/19/2008

The Northern Shrike breeds in the tundra and taiga of the north, but migrates south into the lower 48 for the winter. It has a pleasing and rhythmical song, which it sings even in winter. But its song belies a rather bloodthirsty feeding habit. The shrike impales its prey on sharp thorns or barbed wire, where it can pull it apart and consume it. To learn more about this songbird-raptor, visit Cornell's AllAboutBirds. (1504KB)

11/18/2008

When you first glimpse a male Gadwall, you might think you're looking at a female Mallard. But take a closer look, and you'll see plumage as richly and subtly colored as an English gentleman's tweed jacket. For a closer look, click Enlarge at left. Long a duck of the western prairies, the Gadwall now nests all across the northern US and into Canada. You can probably see one of these handsome birds on a pond or in a marsh near you. Some may even breed in your neighborhood. Find out at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. (1520KB)

11/17/2008

DNA tells us the Hawaiian honeycreepers' closest relatives are birds like our backyard House Finches and goldfinches. Millions of years ago, such finches reached Hawaii, where they evolved into one of the most diversified sets of birds on earth, particularly when it comes to the shape of their bills. The Hawaiian honeycreepers include this scarlet I'iwi, whose long, slender, curved bill probes deep into blossoms. Learn more from the Smithsonian. (1558KB)

11/16/2008

Put your winter garden to work as a haven for birds. Leaves and brush left to compost provide foraging and roosting places, smother weeds, and feed next spring's plant growth. Watch for Spotted Towhees and Song Sparrows in the leaf litter, and Bewick's Wrens in the brush. With a little planning, your garden can be a haven for birds like this Song Sparrow year round. To learn more about what to plant to attract birds, visit Audubon.org. (1506KB)

11/15/2008

Trumpeter Swans land in a plowed field to forage for remnant potatoes, grain, and other waste crops. This swan is among the largest of all waterfowl; the Tundra Swan is somewhat smaller. These swans migrate in family groups each fall from nesting sites in Canada and Alaska. View a map to the Skagit Flats of Washington where you can see these swans. When you go, please be courteous, and if you stop, pull completely off the roadway. Always respect private property. More info at The Trumpeter Swan Society! (1563KB)

11/14/2008

Traveling "as the crow flies," "eating like a bird," and being "free as a bird" are just a few of the sayings we use to describe everyday human actions and feelings. But these often don't take into account the birds' real activities, relative to their size. "Birds of a feather flock together." When you visit your local Audubon chapter, you'll find classes about birds and nature--and people who care about them. Meanwhile, can you think of a phrase to replace "kill two birds with one stone"? Mail us at info@birdnote.org. (1534KB)

11/13/2008

Black Oystercatchers prey on shellfish in the wave zone, especially mussels and limpets. The waves cause mussels to open often, making them easier to eat. The Black Oystercatcher nests on ledges just off shore, and its eggs and young suffer far less predation by mammals. Contrary to their name, oystercatchers rarely eat oysters. For more about the Black Oystercatcher, visit Cornell's AllAboutBirds. (1526KB)

11/12/2008

Hunters have nicknames for waterfowl, names that capture the distinctive sound and sight of these birds, such as "Whistler" for the sibilance of the goldeneye's wings in flight. "Spoonbill" is the nickname for this Northern Shoveler --easy to see why! If you know why the Northern Pintail is called a "Sprig," e-mail info@BirdNote.org. Many birdsounds for BirdNote come from the Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds. (1528KB)

11/11/2008

The eyes of this Great Gray Owl are set in a broad, dish-shaped face. Ridges of tiny hair-like feathers rim the owl's face, creating "facial disks." Just below the margins of the facial disks, concealed by feathers, are the openings to the owl's ears. The facial disk acts as a sound collector - like an old-fashioned ear trumpet - and guides sound to asymmetrically placed ears. Learn more about owls' ears. (1578KB)

11/10/2008

Paul Bannick, naturalist and wildlife photographer, gives this advice: Most of the work of taking a photograph is done in advance, and it involves both research and field work. Learn as much as you can about the habitat. Pay attention to the landscape, where the light comes from. And strive to have as little impact as possible on the bird's environment. (This White-headed Woodpecker prefers open, Ponderosa pine forests.) (1565KB)

11/09/2008

In late fall, the farmlands of Washington's Skagit River delta are a broad checkerboard of browns and greens. Yet one immense field appears snow-covered, blanketed in white. A closer look reveals more than 10,000 Snow Geese. Snow Geese nest on Wrangel Island, in the Chukchi Sea off northern Siberia. But as many as 40,000 winter about an hour north of Seattle. (1541KB)

11/08/2008

So many little brown birds look the same. They might be sparrows, or wrens, or finches, or something altogether different. And you often find them together in winter. Learning to tell these "LBBs" apart can be really frustrating for novice birdwatchers. Birds such as wrens, finches, and sparrows -- including this Fox Sparrow -- are camouflaged to blend in with their habitats. Take a Seattle Audubon class and learn more. (1517KB)

11/07/2008

Crows didn't get where they are today by being shy or slow. They take advantage of whatever food they find, where and when they find it. Listener Jerry Campbell told his story of one crow making off with three chips. Do you have a story? Mail it to info@birdnote.org. Thanks! (1551KB)

11/06/2008

The Tower of London has a long and notorious history of murderous political intrigue, dungeons, and famous beheadings. And for more than 300 years, the tower has also been home to a set of royally maintained ravens. Since the time of Charles II, at least six ravens have -- by royal decree -- made their home in the tower. They are given ample food, comfy quarters, and private burials in the moat near Traitor's Gate. (1585KB)

11/05/2008

BirdNote guest narrator, Father Tom Pincelli (also known as Father Bird) comes to us from the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas, one of the premier birding spots in this country. He was born and raised in Connecticut, but now calls Texas home. This Great Kiskadee is a typical bird of that area. (1521KB)

11/04/2008

Peer into an owl's face--there is something almost human about its large, forward-facing eyes. The Great Gray Owl, which stands two feet tall and weighs 2-1/2 pounds, has eyes larger than those of most humans! Enormous eyes enable owls to see in near darkness. An owl's retinal anatomy is similar to that of cats, which rival owls in seeing in dim light. Learn more about owls' eyesight from the World Owl Trust. If you'd like to become a BirdNote benefactor, begin here. (1565KB)

11/03/2008

Project FeederWatch, sponsored by Cornell and National Audubon, is a window on the birds of winter. Through Project FeederWatch, scientists are able to track the movements of birds -- including this Pine Siskin -- and understand trends in population and distribution. Participate by counting birds at your own feeder. The count starts in November and lasts through the winter. (1547KB)

11/02/2008

If you're planning a trip to an exotic destination, consider hiring a local nature guide. Local guides are often listed in travel books or are available through hotels or nature preserves. Hiring a local guide can be a win-win-win situation. You receive the services of a local expert -- and might get to see this Green Violet-ear Hummingbird. The guide has employment. And the birds thrive, because those communities have an economic incentive to protect the birds and their habitats. (1577KB)

11/01/2008

Although you may see Dark-eyed Juncos in the summer, come fall, many, many more--those that have been nesting in the mountains or farther north--arrive to spend the winter. These juncos often find seed feeders for winter feasting. Dark-eyed Juncos forage on the ground. The flash of white tail-feathers when one is alarmed alerts other members of the flock, and is also part of the courtship display. (1608KB)

10/31/2008

Researcher Bernd Heinrich writes: "Ravens associate with any animals that kill large game -- polar bears, grizzlies, wolves, coyotes, killer whales, and humans." These birds travel with caribou on their migration, and scavenge remains after wolves have made their kills. The bill of the Common Raven can't cut into a carcass, so a large carnivore must tear through the tough hide first. (1485KB)

10/31/2008

Some early sailors, visiting remote Pacific islands, surely feared that the ungodly wailing on shore meant they had been tricked to the gates of Hell itself. In truth, they stood among courting pairs of seabirds called Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. These birds nest on islands in the tropical Pacific and Indian Oceans. During courtship, pairs perform long duets of eerie wailing. For more about the Wedge-tailed Shearwater, visit TernIsland.com. (1535KB)

10/30/2008

An owl's seeming ability to rotate its head in a complete circle is downright eerie. An owl's apparent head rotation is part illusion, part structural design. Because its eyes are fixed in their sockets, it must rotate its neck to look around. It can actually rotate its head about 270 degrees--a marvelous anatomical feat. Learn more about this Eastern Screech-Owl at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. (1517KB)

10/29/2008

A clean feeder is a life-and-death matter to some birds. Pine Siskins, in particular, are prone to salmonellosis, a bacterial disease. To protect the birds at your feeder, clean it at least once a week, more often if many birds congregate there. Rake the ground underneath, too. Learn more about feeding your backyard birds at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. (1594KB)

10/28/2008

Have you noticed groups of crows flying overhead in the late afternoon, wheeling and diving? These are American Crows with a purpose. They're headed to their night roost, a giant slumber party. Up to 40,000 crows in one space is not uncommon for a winter-time roost. Gathering at dusk, crows land in a tree, then scuffle and squawk, filtering down through the branches. For more about the crow, visit Cornell's AllAboutBirds. Learn about the population explosion of crows in urban areas across the country. (1514KB)

10/27/2008

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 much information in a short sound. Winter Wrens are found most often in closed-canopy conifer forests, nesting in cavities, usually within six feet of the ground. Learn more about this versatile songster at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. (1534KB)

10/26/2008

If there's a hummingbird still visiting your yard these days, it's the Anna's Hummingbird, the only hummer seen here during winter. How did this lovely jewel get its name? Anna's Hummingbird was named for Princess Anna de Belle Massena, who charmed Audubon when he visited her family in Paris. Learn more about this dazzling jewel at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. (1550KB)

10/25/2008

Some ducks don't sound like ducks at all. Some, like the Harlequin, squeak. Harlequins are unique in other ways, too. Quick and agile in rushing white water, they dive to the bottom of mountain streams for food, and use fast-flowing rivers for breeding. If you're lucky enough to spot a Harlequin Duck, you may guess how it got its name. Dressed in vivid multi-colored patches, Harlequin is the jester of traditional Italian comedy. Let us know what you think of BirdNote at info@birdnote.org. (1544KB)

10/24/2008

A flock of small shorebirds (like these Western Sandpipers) twists and turns, glittering in the sky. When threatened by a falcon, these birds take to the air, flying so close together that it's hard for a predator to capture one. A bird at one edge turns toward the middle, and a wave sweeps across the entire flock in less than a second. Have you seen something amazing or amusing in the bird world? Tell us your story, and we might share it with listeners. Write to us at info@BirdNote.org. (1500KB)

10/23/2008

October is the perfect time to plant for the benefit of next year's birds--including this Cedar Waxwing. You'll minimize the stress on plants as they move from pots to the landscape. Your new plants will put their resources into their roots rather than leaves or flowers. And the season's reliable rain will reduce the need to water. To attract the greatest variety of birds to your landscape year 'round, plant native shrubs that produce fruits and berries and provide a safe refuge for winged visitors. Learn what to plant in your yard at Audubon.org. (1488KB)

10/22/2008

The Northern Shoveler's oversized, spoon-shaped bill helps it stand out in even the most crowded pond. And while it doesn't actually use its bill to shovel, the Northern Shoveler skims tiny plants and animals off the water's surface and filters out the edibles with the help of tiny comb-like structures on its tongue. Dozens of shovelers feed side-by-side, a feathered phalanx paddling and sweeping the surface, all the while rotating in a circular pattern across the pond. (1545KB)

08/26/2008

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? The young birds possess an inherited magnetic compass and also some ability to reckon using the sun and stars. But this year's experience will make next year's trip easier. (1607KB)

08/25/2008

Woodpeckers--such as this Williamson's Sapsucker--eat far more ants than do most birds. Although many other vertebrates avoid ants because of their stings or noxious chemical deterrents, the Northern Flicker is known to have ingested over five thousand ants in one sitting! A woodpecker's sticky tongue can reach several inches beyond the tip of its bill, so it can lap up hundreds of ants from their nest. Learn more about this bird at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. (1509KB)

08/24/2008

The Flammulated Owl is a study in camouflaged grays and browns, with cinnamon-brown shoulder straps and large brown eyes. This astute aerial predator stands a little more than six and a half inches tall, from its sharp-clawed feet to its stubby, ear-like tufts. It winters in southern Mexico or Guatemala and nests in old woodpecker tree cavities, occasionally evicting the original occupant. Learn more at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. (1514KB)

08/22/2008

On August 22, 1805, near present-day Kamiah, Idaho, Captain William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition first found the bird that today bears his name: the Clark's Nutcracker. The Clark's Nutcracker lives in symbiosis with whitebark pines. These nutcrackers need pine seeds to live, and whitebark pines rely on nutcrackers to plant their seeds to propagate new pines. Learn more about this corvid's caches at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. (1568KB)

08/21/2008

Vultures are an avian clean-up crew, removing carrion from the landscape. When Turkey Vultures circle low, you can see their naked red heads and deeply slotted black primary feathers. With their wings canted in a dihedral "V," they tilt upwind from side to side. The Turkey Vulture's keen sense of smell enables it, even high aloft, to locate dead animals on the ground. What do you think about BirdNote? Drop us a line at info@birdnote.org. (1539KB)

08/20/2008

A fine woodworker has a chest full of tools, each designed for a specific task. Birds also have highly refined tools--their bills. The size and shape of a bird's bill match perfectly the food they seek and the way in which they obtain their meals. Different species of shorebirds that forage shoulder to shoulder in tidal estuaries have bills of different lengths. As a result they don't compete for the same food. Learn more about the Bar-tailed Godwit, front, and the Long-billed Curlew, back. (1558KB)

08/18/2008

Helen Trefry, a wildlife biologist in Edmonton, Alberta, wanted to know where the Burrowing Owls in her part of Canada migrated to. How long did it take them to get to their destinations, and where--and how--did they spend their stopovers? An amateur radio operator from Texas, along with a network of ham radio enthusiasts known as "biotrackers," helped her track Burrowing Owl migrations. These citizen-scientists tuned in their scanners and VHF monitors, hoping to catch the faint beep of the owls' transmitters. (1579KB)

08/17/2008

You've bought a ticket, waited in line, and boarded the ferry. Before the boat leaves, climb the stairs and step out on the observation deck to enjoy a mini-birdwatching cruise. What birds you see depends upon the time of year and the route of your ferry. Near the ferry dock, look for cormorants on the tops of pilings. Glaucous-winged Gulls are common. Dark seabirds skitter this way and that. Learn more about these cormorants and other birds at Cornell's All Birds. Check out Seattle Audubon's Nature Shop for field guides! (1564KB)

08/16/2008

Only the Glaucous-winged Gull nests in the Pacific Northwest, so for months, gull-watching has been pretty tame. But during August, several other gull species--including the Bonaparte's, Ring-billed, and Mew Gulls--begin returning to the area. Ah! The gulls of summer! Other gull species also turn up in late summer, including Thayer's, California, Heermann's, and Herring Gulls. To find your local Audubon and go gull-gazing, click here. To receive Advance Notice email, start here. (1541KB)

08/15/2008

Because cell towers stretch high above surrounding trees and buildings, they sometimes offer perfect nesting sites for Ospreys, large brown and white birds of prey. Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Osprey nests are protected, even on cell towers. They winter in Mexico and Central America. Learn more about this fish-eating raptor at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. To ask a question or make a suggestion, drop us a line at info@birdnote.org. (1538KB)

08/14/2008

Loping overhead at dusk, the Common Nighthawk chases down aerial insects with sudden, choppy shifts of direction. Not really a hawk at all, the nighthawk is closely related to the more fully nocturnal nightjars, such as the Whip-poor-will of eastern North America. Originally nesting on open ground, the Common Nighthawk has adapted to city life in many areas and will nest on gravel rooftops. Learn more at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. (1495KB)

08/13/2008

Small, tern-like Bonaparte's Gulls often form a chorus-line at the water's edge. Side by side, in half an inch of water, they stomp their feet as fast as they can. Under this pummeling, a smorgasbord of shrimp is stirred up for the gulls to harvest. Is this a learned behavior, or were these gulls born knowing how to forage cooperatively? Who knows? But it's hard to imagine a more nutritional dance routine! Learn more at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. (1524KB)

08/12/2008

Chickadees swirl in small chattering flocks in the first light, to drink dew from the cups of leaves. Birds are gifted, as Henry Beston wrote, "with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth." For more about this Black-capped Chickadee, visit Cornell's AllAboutBirds. (1536KB)

08/11/2008

Within two weeks of hatching, a young Bewick's Wren male is already out of the nest, skulking in the shrubbery. Over the next couple of weeks, the fledgling will learn at least 15 different song variations his father sings. After he wanders off to find his own territory, about a mile from his birthplace, he must learn all the songs of the male Bewick's Wrens within earshot. Only by singing these local songs -- which are all subtly different from his natal songs -- will he be able to contend for a mate next spring. (1577KB)

08/10/2008

Imagine watering your garden on a hot August day, when a small yellow-and-gray warbler flutters into the spray and begins taking a shower. The Yellow-rumped Warbler, probably mid-way through its fall migration, is unafraid. Yellow-rumped Warblers use many types of habitat. They breed high up in conifers, often in small openings within dense, wet, coniferous forests. Learn more at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. (1509KB)

08/09/2008

If you go beach-birding, you're likely to see Glaucous-winged Gulls, crows, this Killdeer, maybe even a Bald Eagle. Listen for the rattling call of a Belted Kingfisher as it flies out over the water, looking for a fish. Look farther out, and you might see Pigeon Guillemots. The eagles, gulls, and crows all scavenge tidbits washed in by the last high tide. You can learn more about conservation and your local birds at your local Audubon. (1543KB)

08/08/2008

You're one lucky duck to have landed at our little diner. This is no fly-by-night joint. May we start you with a drink -- a swallow of Old Crow or Wild Turkey, perhaps? You're just in time for the early-bird specials, when toucan eat for the price of one. The Four and Twenty Blackbirds Baked in a Pie were Eurasian Blackbirds, like this one. "Eating crow" also has its roots in history. Learn more. What's the problem with bird's nest soup? (1523KB)

08/07/2008

How do birds drink? A robin takes a mouthful of water and then tips its head way back to send the water down its gullet. Pigeons are among the few birds that can suck in water with their heads down. Swallows and swifts skim a beakful of water on the wing. Gulls like this Western Gull can even drink salt water! (1560KB)

08/06/2008

By August, many young birds are full sized, have left the nest, and can fly short distances, but they still follow their parents and beg for food. Not only do they squawk, but they also assume a begging posture, wings drooping and head hunched down, and they frequently quiver. Baby ducklings, goslings, and quail feed themselves immediately after hatching. But most young birds--like this European Starling-- depend on their parents for days, weeks, or even months after leaving the nest. (1541KB)

08/05/2008

Ospreys nest near water in a tall tree or on a tower, where they are exposed to all the elements, including direct sunlight which can sometimes produce scorching temperatures. At other times, they're pounded by rain, as they protect their young. When the storm's over, it's back to feeding those hungry young birds. How do wild creatures withstand such rigors in order to protect and nurture their offspring? While we strive to understand, they have our profound appreciation. (1510KB)

08/04/2008

By late summer, the male Mallard's need for fancy feathers to attract the females has passed. These birds have molted, and their bright feathers are replaced with mottled brown ones. Subdued colors help camouflage the male ducks, protecting them from predators. Come fall, the male Mallards will molt again and become the colorful dandies we remember. Learn more about the Mallard at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. (1567KB)

08/04/2008

The New Caledonian Crow is known for using twig-like implements to feed itself. 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 up a tiny bucket of meat from the bottom of a long tube. The country even made a postage stamp in her honor. Watch the video. Learn more! Have you seen a crow or any other bird do something clever? Send us a photo or tell us what you saw at info@birdnote.org. (1559KB)

08/03/2008

Some birds, such as the Black-capped Chickadee, take their names from their songs or vocalizations:"Chick-a-dee, dee, dee." The Killdeer is another bird named for its song: "Kill-dee, kill-dee, kill-dee." There are others. "Poorwill, poorwill, poorwill" calls this Common Poorwill. This bird is the cousin of the Whip-poor-will, another bird that calls its own name. Search for your favorite bird on BirdNote. Or visit Cornell's Macaulay Library and see what you can find. (1585KB)

08/02/2008

The Sky Lark inspired English poets, and gave its name to the phrase "an exaltation of larks." To glimpse a singing Sky Lark, look high up, where the male flutters and circles perhaps 100 feet off the ground, broadcasting its complex song. Around 1902, Sky Larks were brought to Vancouver Island from England, to satisfy the desire of English immigrants there to hear the lark's lovely song. And Vancouver Island remains the only place in North America where the Sky Lark can still be heard. (1549KB)

08/01/2008

The Brown Creeper lives in a mature forest where evergreen and deciduous trees reach for sun. Its habit of moving up the trunk, looking for insects, inspired Hazel Wolf, who--when she was 64--got involved with the Audubon movement. The Brown Creeper's industry impressed Hazel, and she became a birder and a social and environmental activist. (1541KB)

07/31/2008

We're born with a sense of wonder. As infants, we delight in many things. We're naturally curious. But inevitably the trials of life intervene. To bring some balance into your life, go outside early some morning. Be still ... and listen to the birds. What do you hear? (1553KB)

07/30/2008

Writer Ivan Doig writes about bird songs, including that of this Western Meadowlark, in his book, Ride with Me, Mariah Montana: "Warbles and trills and solo after solo...the air was magically busy. None of us spoke while the songs of the birds poured undiluted. I suppose we were afraid the spate of loveliest sound would vanish if we broke it with so much as a whisper. But after a bit came the realization that the music of birds formed a natural part of this place, constant as the glorious grass that made feathered life thrive." (1559KB)

07/29/2008

Snowy Plovers are specifically adapted to lay their eggs in a shallow scrape in the sand, which is lined with bits of shell, pebbles, and grass. This unfortunate nesting niche means the plovers run a forbidding gauntlet of disruption by people, dogs, cars, and impinging development. Snowy Plovers are critically endangered. If you see a sign near a nesting area asking you to keep out, please do so. Even a slight intrusion can lead them to abandon their nests. Learn more about Snowy Plover conservation at Point Reyes Bird Observatory. (1541KB)

07/29/2008

The Common Potoo is a nocturnal bird of tropical Central and South America, known for its camouflage plumage and upright perching posture. What does Grammy-award-winning musician Nancy Rumbel, who composed the theme music for BirdNote, hear in the call of the Common Potoo? Using the pentatonic scale of the potoo, Nancy responds with her ocarina. Listen to the longer version. And catch a video of a potoo. You can learn more about Nancy Rumbel at www.tingstadrumbel.com/. (1520KB)

07/29/2008

Raven, in Northwestern Coastal mythology, is the Trickster, the agent of mischief and games. Raven was covetous of the sun but couldn't figure out how to steal it. He finally found a way and when you hear him call, he's still laughing about how clever he was. Become a BirdNote benefactor! Donate to BirdNote. (1532KB)

07/28/2008

In summer, the thick tangles of streamside vegetation in many Eastern Washington canyons echo with an uncanny sound--the Yellow-breasted Chat. You may find it in willow thickets, brushy tangles, and other dense, understory habitats, usually at low to medium elevations around streams. The male Yellow-breasted Chat may sing all night during breeding season. The chat winters in Mexico and Central America. To learn more about this bespectacled singer, visit Cornell's AllAboutBirds. (1523KB)

07/28/2008

The boreal forest is a vast band of spruce and poplar, which extends from coast to coast across Alaska and Canada. Called North America's "songbird bread basket," for a brief time, it teems with song. Birdsongs heard on this show include a Common Loon (like this one), Swainson's Thrush, White-throated Sparrow, Least Flycatcher, Black-and-white Warbler, Nashville Warbler, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Learn more about "the Boreal" at BorealBirds.org. (1508KB)

07/27/2008

How would you go birding if you were blind? It can be difficult to identify a bird by its appearance, and just as challenging to do so by its song. But birding by ear is a great way to approach the world of birds. A blind birder in Kitsap County, Washington, was puzzled by a haunting bird song. She thought it might be a special song of the American Robin . It turned out instead to be the song of a Swainson's Thrush. To hear the songs of these and other thrushes, visit the Macaulay Library. (1551KB)

07/26/2008

At the crack of the bat, a Blue Jay flies toward first and glides around the base. Deep in left field, an Oriole pounces on the ball. He wings the ball toward second, where a fellow Oriole snares it on a hop--just as the swift Blue Jay slides toward the base in a cloud of red dust. (1561KB)

07/25/2008

Although not a first-rate vocalist, the Tufted Puffin is instantly recognizable to the eye. Puffins are icons of the seabird world, standing upright on sea cliffs along the northern oceans. Tufted Puffins nest each summer on islands and mainland cliffs across the North Pacific. All past shows are in the BirdNote archives. (1500KB)

07/24/2008

This Whip-poor-will is a true night bird--feeding, and mating, and nesting in the dark. But a few songbirds that are active during the day also sing at night. Most renowned is the Nightingale of Europe and Asia. In North America, for about a week each spring, the Yellow-breasted Chat also sings in the darkness. You can hear BirdNote day or night. Subscribe to the podcast! (1640KB)

07/23/2008

Back in the days when the buffalo roamed, Brown-headed Cowbirds followed the herds. As the buffalo wandered the prairies, they stirred up insects that the cowbirds ate. Since the buffalo didn't stay long in one place, the cowbirds didn't have time to build a nest. So Brown-headed Cowbirds lay eggs in other birds' nests and let those parents raise their young. Notice here the larger egg of a cowbird in the nest of a Wilson's Warbler. Cowbird eggs often hatch first, and the young cowbirds out-compete their nest-mates for food. Learn more about cowbird parasitism at Audubon.org. (1570KB)

03/19/2008

Back in 1890, Eugene Scheiffelin had a dream: to hear all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare's plays. So he brought about 100 starlings from Europe and released them in Central Park. Today, those starlings have multiplied into more than 200 million birds. Dream or nightmare, that's a lot of non-native birds. It's no wonder this bird has been successful--a pair generally has two to three broods a season. Even more unfortunate, the starling competes with native birds for nesting sites. (1581KB)

03/18/2008

Walking on eggshells usually means dealing with something delicate, fragile. But eggs are far from fragile. An egg has to be strong enough to withstand the weight of an adult bird during incubation. But the tiny, weak baby bird within has to be able to peck its way out. Is it true that if you touch a bird's eggs, the bird will abandon the nest? Nope. But don't do it! You don't want to alert those wily raiders, crows and jays, to that well-kept secret. What would you like to hear about on BirdNote? Mail info@birdnote.org. (1565KB)

03/17/2008

St. Patrick's Day 2008! On St. Patrick's Day, we may well wonder: Why are so few of our birds in the United States green, while so many tropical birds wear green proudly? Ornithologist Steve Hilty believes it be a form of protective coloration. Simply put, green birds virtually disappear when they land in a green tree. The Green Jay is about as green a bird as we'll find in the US, and it's seen only in far southern Texas. (In today's show, you heard the Yellow-lored Parrot. The music was provided courtesy of the Toucan Pirates.) (1544KB)

03/16/2008

Gray-breasted Wood-Wrens sing a duet. Each sings a different phrase, yet the phrases are so closely linked, it sounds like one song. Such singing is called antiphonal song. The pairs use song to stake out and hold breeding territories. Dueting is most typical of birds that live in dense habitats; it no doubt helps them locate each other in deep cover. (1435KB)

03/15/2008

At the display area--or lek--the male Sage-Grouse perform for mating rights while the females look on. (1470KB)

03/14/2008

Darvin Gebhart is a champion goose-caller. But there are also birds that use human language. Sparkie Williams was a famous parakeet, or budgerigar, who lived in England in the 1950s. He recorded commercials for bird seed and released his own hit single "Pretty Talk." Alex, the African Grey Parrot, was another notable talking bird, with a limited vocabulary but amazing cognitive abilities. (1624KB)

03/13/2008

A male Montezuma Oropendola holds forth in a tree bedecked with twenty or more hanging nests. The nests are intricately woven sacks hanging three feet or more from the branches. Oropendolas favor trees that are separate from other trees and often build near large nests of wasps, whose stinging attacks deter both potential nest predators and parasitic insects. (1501KB)

03/12/2008

In a clearing where an ancient Mayan city once stood, the Montezuma Oropendola perches and sings. His courtship display is astonishing: he swings by his feet and sings, his tail describing a golden pendulum--the very source of his name in Spanish--oropendola. (1508KB)

03/11/2008

Dr. Jeff Wells, senior scientist with the Boreal Songbird Initiative, has published The Birder's Conservation Handbook. With profiles of 100 North American birds at risk, Dr. Wells also offers suggestions that can help stem the decline of birds--including this White-throated Sparrow--which nest in the boreal forest of northern Canada and Alaska. #1: buy recycled paper! Learn more about the Birder's Conservation Handbook at BorealBirds.org. And you can sign a petition to save the boreal at SaveOurBorealBirds.org. (1542KB)

03/10/2008

If you hear the eerie song of the Varied Thrush, you may be in a moist Pacific Northwest forest, in a quiet and private place. We hear few Varied Thrushes in urban and suburban habitats, because the lowland conifer forests of our Puget Sound region today cover less than 1% of their original area. Except in winter, when they gather in loose flocks to move to lower elevations, these shy birds prefer solitude. The intricate pattern of color on its wings resembles dappled sunlight on the forest floor. (1533KB)

03/09/2008

Hummingbirds' names evoke their exquisite qualities and variety, from sabrewings to woodstars to sunangels--to this Green Violet-ear. Central and South America are home to well over 300 species of hummingbirds! (1487KB)

03/08/2008

The Master Gardener program began in Washington State in 1972, and is now active in 50 states and several other countries. Got bugs? They'll show you how to live with them--and without pesticides. They're water-wise, plant-savvy, and eager to help. Want to create a wildlife sanctuary in your yard? The Master Gardeners are ready to help. Or you can become a Master Gardener yourself! (1458KB)

02/14/2008

Cupid, a Roman god of love--who often turns up on Valentine cards--is not the only winged being linked to February 14. Medieval Europeans believed that many birds mated on this day, underscoring Valentine's Day's natural link to affection and courtship. The nine species of lovebirds (genus Agapornis) are native to Africa. These colorful birds snuggle close to one another and gently preen each other?s head and neck, whether it's Valentine's Day or not. (1549KB)

02/13/2008

Crows and other birds groom each other while sitting side by side on a wire or branch. One stretches out its neck, and the groomer, or preener, twirls individual feathers in its beak, often starting at the back of the head and working around to the front. The bird being groomed turns its head upward, so the preener can reach the feathers under its chin. Allopreening strengthens the bond of the pair--and keeps their feathers in good shape, too. (1571KB)

02/12/2008

The Belted Kingfisher is the one species of kingfisher found throughout most of North America north of Mexico. You'll have to go to Texas to see two other kingfishers. The quiet call of the Green Kingfisher can be heard at wooded streams and ponds. A Ringed Kingfisher perches up high and makes spectacular dives into the water, coming up with fish larger than those the Belted can handle. Learn more about Texas birds at WorldBirdingCenter.org. (1561KB)

02/11/2008

There is a legend--that of a huge bird called the Thunderbird--whose origin remains a mystery, even to Native Americans. According to myth, Thunderbird was so large and flew so high, it carried the rain on its back and created lightning and thunder. Could Teratornis merriami be the creature that inspired the myth of Thunderbird? Probably the largest bird ever to fly and known only by its Latin name, it died out following the last ice age. Yet for a short time, thousands of years ago, that bird shared territory with early Native Americans. (1547KB)

02/09/2008

The flightless Ostrich is a bird of superlatives...the largest and tallest bird on the planet...some growing to fully eight feet tall, and weighing 250 pounds! It's also the fastest creature on two legs, capable of running at 40 miles an hour. Ostriches have never been observed to stick their heads in the sand. They're more likely to run away when threatened. But if an Ostrich senses danger and can't run away, it lies down and remains still, with head and neck outstretched. (1535KB)

02/08/2008

In most birds--if the sexes vary at all in size--the male is larger. But with many hawks and falcons, the pattern is reversed. And female birds of prey are most notably bigger than males among hawk species that hunt agile prey, such as other birds. Perhaps the female Cooper's Hawk's larger size ensures that she may dominate the male through courtship and nesting. And together they can tap a wider range of resources. (1478KB)

02/07/2008

We have many examples of music inspired by birdsong, but there are also composers who have used actual bird sounds in their works, including Ottorino Respighi in his 1923 work, The Pines of Rome. When Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara composed "Cantus Arcticus" (also known as ?Concerto for Birds and Orchestra?), he may have had this Whooper Swan, the national bird of Finland, in mind. In 2007, German producer Dominik Eulberg released a composition made entirely with sampled bird sounds. (1529KB)

02/06/2008

Scientists recently attached tiny electronic tags to Sooty Shearwaters, then tracked the birds' annual oceanic movements. The shearwaters flew enormous, migratory figure-eights from Antarctic waters to the coastal currents off California, Alaska, and Japan--and then returned south. The yearly migration of Sooty Shearwaters covers 39,000 miles, the longest documented migration of any bird. Learn more about these birds at BirdWeb.org. (1512KB)

02/05/2008

The American Dipper makes its living in the boulder-strewn rapids of mountain streams. The dipper starts to belt out its sprightly song while icicles still hang thickly from frozen waterfalls. John Muir wrote of this bird: "His music is that of the streams refined and spiritualized. The deep booming notes of the falls are in it, the trills of rapids, the gurgling of margin eddies, the low whispering of level reaches, and the sweet tinkle of separate drops oozing from the end of mosses and falling into tranquil pools." Learn more about the dipper at BirdWeb.org. (1517KB)

02/04/2008

It's hard to imagine that the boisterous Steller's Jay could possibly have a softer aspect to its blustery behavior. But it does. It's called the "whisper song." Male jays use this whisper song during courtship, and it also emanates from solitary birds for no apparent reason. Quietly, the bird extends its head slightly forward, slowly turns it from side to side, and begins . . . very softly . . . to . . . sing. Learn more about the Steller's Jay at BirdWeb.org. (1477KB)

02/03/2008

From Japanese folklore comes the tale of "The Crane Wife." Long ago, a poor man found an injured crane and nursed it back to health. Not long after the crane took wing again, a beautiful young woman appeared at the man's door, and she became his wife. Throughout history, the Japanese have viewed the crane as a symbol of good fortune. Because cranes mate for life, they also represent fidelity and honor. (1456KB)

02/02/2008

Movie-makers love to add bird sounds to a film, to evoke a mood or set a scene. For all the attention to some details though, nature's details often get a little mixed up--like an Australian Laughing Kookaburra guffawing in the depths of the Florida Everglades? For a jungle sound, it's hard to beat the territorial call of a Pied-billed Grebe, a bird that is widespread and common across the US. Learn more about this vocalizer and others at BirdWeb.org. (1509KB)

02/01/2008

The term "swan song" has an intriguing lineage. The ancient Greeks believed that swans remained silent most of their lives, singing an exquisite, heartrending lament only at the moment of their death. The idea of a swan singing in death, a "swan song," recurs from Ovid to Aesop to Tennyson. Even the great classical philosopher Plato believed the tale. It is a based on a fallacy, but one so charming that it has survived for centuries. Learn more about this Mute Swan at BirdWeb.org. (1503KB)

01/31/2008

The Violaceous Trogon, which nests in Mexico, Central America, and northern South America, often excavates its dwelling within a large, active wasps' nest. It begins by devouring some of the wasps, then digs a cavity large enough to accommodate the birds and their eggs. While they may continue to snack on resident wasps throughout nesting, the trogons never eliminate all the wasps, creating a nest that few predators would dare disturb. (1443KB)

01/28/2008

Why are blackbirds black? One possible answer is that black is conspicuous against just about all of Nature's backgrounds. So if a bird wants to be seen, black isn't a bad color to be. But why would a blackbird want to be seen? Blackbirds, like this mixed flock of Red-wings and Yellow-heads, wander around the countryside after the breeding season. They feed on the ground, and whenever a predator approaches, they take flight. Coming together quickly in a dense mass may confuse the predator and thwart its attempts to catch one of the birds. Learn more at BirdWeb.org. (1442KB)

01/27/2008

Along the Columbia River, apples litter the ground, and a few still hang, frozen and thawed again and again. Suddenly a flock of hundreds of birds rises from the ground beneath the apple trees, swarming in tight formation, wing-tip to wing-tip. Bohemian Waxwings are erratic winter visitors to the region from their nesting grounds in the boreal forests of the north. They come in search of fruit to sustain their winter wanderings. To learn more about this sleek visitor, visit BirdWeb.org. (1455KB)

01/26/2008

During winter, Bald Eagles retreat from the territories where they breed, to seek out rivers rich with spawning and spent salmon. The Upper Skagit River in northwest Washington is a favorite sashimi restaurant for hundreds of eagles. To celebrate the congregation of eagles, Rockport, Concrete, Marblemount, and Newhalem will hold the Upper Skagit Bald Eagle Festival on January 26-27, 2008. For more about the festival, visit www.SkagitEagle.org. Learn more about the Bald Eagle at BirdWeb. (1444KB)

01/25/2008

How did the familiar American Robin get its name? When English settlers in the New World encountered this new bird, they saw in it a reflection of the bird they knew as the Robin--or Robin Redbreast--of the old country. So they called this one a robin, too. The robin of the British Isles is a tiny bird with an orange face and upper breast, and only a distant relative of our much larger American Robin. Today the American and British Ornithological Unions work together to determine, among other things, how a given bird is named. (1441KB)

01/24/2008

John Burroughs, one of the masters of American nature writing, wrote "The birds do indeed begin with the day. The farmer who is in the field at work while he can yet see stars catches their first matin hymns. In the longest June days the robin strikes up about half past three o'clock." Encouraged by his friend, Walt Whitman, John Burroughs wrote essays, poetry, and travel sketches--some in this cabin known as "Slabsides". Titles include Wake Robin, Birds and Poets, Birds and Bees and Other Studies in Nature, Songs of Nature, Bird and Bough, and others. (1452KB)

01/23/2008

John Burroughs was probably the most popular nature writer of the late 19th Century. Many consider Burroughs the founder of the modern nature essay. Yet Burroughs wrote not about nature on a grand scale, but about glimpses of nature close to home. He preferred to walk his own backyard woods--on Old Clump Mountain in the Catskills region of New York--than the alpine realms that now bear his name. (1442KB)

01/21/2008

We've all heard about the "early bird" getting the "worm" -- sound advice about initiative and timely action. Recent research shows, however, that birds dining early and heavily may lower their life expectancy. Socially dominant birds stay lean (and agile at avoiding predators!) during the day, and then stoke up later, before a cold night. Subordinate birds have to look for food whenever and wherever they can find it, and carry fat on their bodies to hedge against unpredictable rations. Dominant birds, which can push subordinates off food, can choose when they eat and so lessen their odds of being eaten themselves. (1514KB)

01/20/2008

In the Amazon, heat and humidity weigh upon you, and a cacophony of birdcalls surrounds you. One piercing, cheerful yelp catches your ear. Could this be the same sound you remember from a Saturday morning in your childhood? The Cuvier's Toucan could have been the inspiration for Toucan Sam, the "spokesbird" for Froot Loops® cereal. Its huge bill is surprisingly light, and enables the bird to pluck fruit hanging from small, outer branches. It may also scare off potential predators. (1423KB)

01/19/2008

Picture a streamlined, sparkling white seabird, with a red spear of a bill and luxuriantly long tail-streamers. With the strong, direct flight of a falcon, a tropicbird can catch a flying fish on the wing, or plunge like an arrow into the sea and--with its serrated bill--capture a squid. Three species of tropicbirds range through most of the tropical latitudes of the world's oceans, and have done so for 60 million years. These are the Red-tailed Tropicbird, the White-tailed Tropicbird, and the Red-billed Tropicbird. (1461KB)

01/17/2008

Named for its rhythmic calls, the Black-legged Kittiwake as it is known in North America--it's also known as the Common Kittiwake--is a dapper, oceanic gull. As famously described by Roger Tory Peterson, the tips of its pale gray wings "are cut straight across, as if they had been dipped in ink." Unlike many gulls, kittiwakes spend most of the year at sea and are seldom seen inland. (1448KB)

01/15/2008

Arctic Terns look much like Common Terns, but both their bill and their legs are shorter. They feed in exactly the same way, so why would the Arctic Tern's bill and legs be shorter? Because Arctic Terns breed in the Arctic and winter in the Antarctic, they are subject to much colder weather than are Common Terns. Birds' bills and legs lose heat, because they're not covered by feathers. It just makes sense for birds in cold climates to have short bills and legs. Note the difference between the bill and legs of the Arctic Tern on the bottom here to those of the Common Tern on the top. Learn more at BirdWeb.org. (1460KB)

01/12/2008

Both the Willow Ptarmigan and these White-tailed Ptarmigan, feathered mostly brown in summer, are utterly transfigured by an autumn molt. As snow begins to mantle their world, both species of ptarmigan--now dressed all in white--blend in superbly. In addition to turning white in winter, the ptarmigan pulls another trick. It adds dense white feathering on both the tops and bottoms of its feet. And its claws grow longer! The winter ptarmigan actually quadruples the bearing surface of its feet. The bird grows snowshoes. Learn more about the White-tailed Ptarmigan at BirdWeb.org. (1471KB)

01/11/2008

Ever wonder why jaywalking is called JAY -walking? Crossing a street against traffic signals seems unlikely activity for a jay bird. The term originated in 1917. Cars had recently become common and, for the first time, stepping out into traffic posed a problem. Back then, the term "jay" was slang for a hick, a rube, or a country bumpkin. Sophisticated city dwellers with little tolerance for rural folk coined the term "jaywalker" to describe someone green to the ways of the city and modern traffic signals, someone impudent--or imprudent--enough to step in front of traffic. Learn more about this impudent Blue Jay at Cornell's AllBirds. (1455KB)

01/10/2008

Can you guess how many feathers cover a Canada Goose? A single Canada Goose has between 20 and 25 thousand feathers. Some are designed to help the bird fly or shed water. Many are the short, fluffy kind, the down, whose purpose is to insulate the bird from the cold. Birds survive in sub-zero weather by fluffing their feathers, creating layers of air and feathers. Just a fraction of an inch of this insulation can keep a bird?s body temperature at 104 degrees, even in freezing weather. (1492KB)

01/10/2008

Snow Geese migrate long distances, stopping at traditional stopover and wintering areas. Washington's population nests on Wrangel Island in Russia, northwest of the Bering Strait, and winters on the deltas of the Samish, Stillaguamish, and Skagit Rivers. Snow Geese are typically seen in large flocks, and up to 55,000 spend the winter in Western Washington. For a map to their wintering area on the Skagit Flats, click here. For more about the Snow Goose, visit BirdWeb. (1472KB)

01/09/2008

Watch the chickadees at your feeder. You'll see one come in, quickly grab a seed, and fly away. Now, keep watching that chickadee. It may return immediately, but it's more likely to wait its turn. When a whole flock of chickadees moves into your yard, it looks as if they form a living conveyer belt. One chickadee after another flies to the feeder and leaves with a seed. When they find a concentrated supply of food such as a tray of sunflower seeds, the birds take turns rather than coming in at once and squabbling over the seeds. (1453KB)

01/07/2008

Unlike many other birds that have an inherent sense of direction and destination, young Whooping Cranes have to learn their migration route from the adults. Enter Operation Migration and ultralight aircraft to lead them on their journey! Fortunately, the Whooping Cranes need to be shown the way only once. Learn more about this year's journey from Wisconsin to Florida at Operation Migration.org. (1449KB)

01/06/2008

Listen to the earth awaken, as dawn circles the globe.

Learn more about acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton, who recorded these sounds around the globe, at SoundTracker. (1422KB)

01/05/2008

Creatures of the natural world, including honeybees, respond with exquisite sensitivity to the intensity and duration of the sun's light. Their lives and ours depend on the daily transformation of sunlight, through photosynthesis, into energy available to sustain us. In the dead of winter, as the year turns, the queen bee in the hive (like this one with a green mark) responds to the slowly strengthening light and begins to lay eggs. (1485KB)

01/02/2008

When a Black-capped Chickadee visits a feeder, its cousin, the Chestnut-backed Chickadee, might tag along. The Chestnut-back has a black head with a large white cheek patch, but its back and sides are a rich chestnut brown. And the birds sound different, too. The call of the Black-capped Chickadee follows the familiar "Chick-a-dee, dee, dee" pattern. The call of the Chestnut-back is higher pitched, faster, and has a buzzy quality. Learn more on BirdWeb. (1440KB)

01/02/2008

When a Black-capped Chickadee visits a feeder, its cousin, the Chestnut-backed Chickadee, might tag along. The Chestnut-back has a black head with a large white cheek patch, but its back and sides are a rich chestnut brown. And the birds sound different, too. The call of the Black-capped Chickadee follows the familiar "Chick-a-dee, dee, dee" pattern. The call of the Chestnut-back is higher pitched, faster, and has a buzzy quality. Learn more on BirdWeb. (1450KB)

01/01/2008

Listen to the earth awaken, as dawn circles the globe. Learn more about acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton, who recorded these sounds around the globe, at SoundTracker. (1421KB)

12/31/2007

January 1st marks the first day of a new year. A fresh chance to have what birders call a Big Year, the ultra marathon of competitive birding. During a Big Year, a few obsessive birders race to see as many species as they can in a specified area. If you are serious about a Big Year of birding in the US, you'll travel from Attu, Alaska to the Dry Tortugas off Southern Florida. Or . . . you might decide to have a Not-So-Big Year and just count the bird species seen in your yard. (1494KB)

12/30/2007

A bird known as Titanus walleri [pronounced tye-TAN-iss WALL-er-eye] made its home in Florida just a few million years ago. Titanus, as its name suggests, was titanic indeed--a flightless predator, ten feet tall, with a massive hooked bill. Titanus and other birds related to it belong to a group some paleontologists call the "terror birds." They were dominant land predators in South America for tens of millions of years. (1436KB)

12/29/2007

According to the Suquamish story, many years ago, South Wind blew hot and long. The animals banded together and found the source of the wind--a fortress atop a rocky mountain. At night, the animals crept into the fortress and vanquished the men who protected the South Wind. Afterward, the animals all danced around the fire. All except for Robin, who refused to join the dance. He sat quietly, staring into the fire, and stayed there for so long that his breast turned red. And the robin has had a red breast to this day. Learn more about the American Robin at BirdWeb. (1476KB)

12/28/2007

A winter morning in Oaxaca, Mexico--a great time to visit old friends from the Pacific Northwest. Yellow-rumped Warblers and Western Tanagers--Northwest summer-nesters that winter in western Mexico--mingle with resident Berylline Hummingbirds. From Western Tanagers to Bullock's Orioles to Hermit Warblers, Northwest birds of summer become neotropical birds in winter. For more about this Western Tanager, please visit BirdWeb.org. (1462KB)

12/27/2007

The Greater Honeyguide's demanding call is not aimed at a member of its own species. The honeyguide, true to its name, uses its calls to guide people in search of honey directly to bee hives. A man follows the honeyguide's calls through the forest. The bird flies to a colony of bees living in a hollow tree. The man exposes the hive with an ax and takes much of the honeycomb. Then the honeyguide moves in to feast on bee larvae and beeswax. The honeyguide is one of few birds that can digest beeswax. (1424KB)

12/26/2007

December 26th is known in the British Isles and elsewhere as St. Stephen's Day, in honor of the first Christian martyr. Beginning in the Sixteenth Century, local lads would go forth for a yearly wren hunt. The wren was protected the rest of the year, but the day after Christmas, the "Wren Boys" would catch a wren and parade it around town. The "star" of that celebration was the bird we know as the Winter Wren. To learn more, visit BirdWeb.org. (1494KB)

12/25/2007

The Twelve Days of Christmas began as a French secular love song. A woman's generous "true love" delivers gifts over the twelve days. The first seven days' gifts are all birds. The song's age is uncertain, but likely dates to at least the Sixteenth Century. The "five gold rings" from The Twelve Days of Christmas were gold Ring-necked Pheasants. And the partridge in a pear tree was probably the Red-legged Partridge, a cousin to this Gray Partridge. Learn more at BirdWeb.org. (1494KB)

12/23/2007

An Anna's Hummingbird is a year-round resident as far north as southern British Columbia. How is it possible that a bird that weighs just four grams, lacks insulating down feathers, and needs to eat roughly twice its weight a day could possibly make it through a freezing Northwest night? This busy bird survives a freezing winter night thanks to a wondrous metabolic feat known as noctivation, a brief descent into hibernation. (1453KB)

12/22/2007

The Pileated Woodpecker makes loud, hard whacks, as it leans back and then slams its chisel of a 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 direct hammering impact. The skull's frontal bones--together with a set of muscles at the bill's base--act as a shock absorber. More at BirdWeb. (1463KB)

12/21/2007

In The Golden Bough, Sir James Frazer describes early Europeans building solstice fires at year?s end to strengthen the sun. Seeing the sun steadily weakening, steadily falling in its arc across the sky, they did what they could to restore it to health. Birds and other creatures of the natural world respond to the length of winter days. Much of the rhythm and timing of birds' behavior, including migration and breeding, is determined by the length and intensity of the sun's light. (1486KB)

12/20/2007

The chicken is perhaps the most widespread avian species in the world -- and the exotic Red Jungle Fowl is the ancestor of the hybrid Araucanas and Rhode Island Red. Scientists postulate that chickens were first domesticated from jungle fowl in India, about 5,000 years ago. Traders and travelers then carried them far and wide. (1471KB)

12/16/2007

As heard on: KOHO - December 16, 2007. Common even in winter, Black-capped Chickadees were tallied at more than a thousand on a recent Christmas Bird Count in Fairbanks, Alaska. These chickadees weigh less than half an ounce. How can such fragile creatures survive the rigors of winter at high latitudes? For winter survival, chickadees have three things going for them: they're insulated, they're active, and they have a good memory. Thanks to a half-inch coat of feathers, the chickadee maintains its body temperature at 100 degrees Fahrenheit, even when the air is at 0 degrees. (1472KB)

12/15/2007

As heard on: KOHO - December 15, 2007. Have you ever watched ducks walking around in freezing temperatures and wondered why their feet don't freeze? The ducks seem oblivious to the cold, even as they stand on ice-covered lakes and streams. And how do songbirds sit on metal perches with no problem? Birds' feet have a miraculous adaptation that keeps them from freezing. Rete mirabile--Latin for "wonderful net"--is a fine, netlike pattern of arteries that interweaves warm blood from a bird's heart with the veins carrying cold blood from its feet and legs. (1484KB)

12/14/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - December 14, 2007. In a tropical woodland in eastern Australia, you might glimpse a Southern Cassowary, a huge flightless bird that must rate as the most prehistoric looking of all birds. It's nearly six feet tall with a crest like one of the bony plates on the back of a stegosaurus. Cassowaries are capable of making remarkable sounds, including the lowest known bird call in the world--it's barely audible to the human ear! For more about that sound, click here. For more about the Southern Cassowary, click here. To see a cassowary and chick, click here. (1447KB)

12/13/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - December 13, 2007. Birds in flocks almost invariably develop a pecking order. An alpha chicken can peck any other in the flock, and a beta chicken can peck all others but the alpha, etc. Juncos and other small birds have a pecking order, too. The pecking order--or dominance hierarchy--of a flock of birds is usually this: males are dominant to females and adults are dominant to young birds. As a flock changes and birds come and go, the pecking order changes. (1500KB)

12/12/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - December 12, 2007. In World War I, messages could be sent over field phones. But conditions of war--particularly at the front where battles raged--often made it impossible to lay phone wires. Pigeons were crucial in relaying messages from the front to positions behind the lines. The most renowned carrier pigeon was Cher Ami--or Dear Friend--flown by the U.S. Army Signal Corps during the Battle of Verdun in France. The messageCher Ami carried on October 4, 1918 was vital in saving hundreds of American soldiers of the now famed "Lost Battalion" of the 77th Infantry. (1485KB)

12/11/2007

As heard on: KOHO - December 11, 2007. During late December, birdwatchers will be out counting birds, as they have for over one hundred years. The first Christmas Bird Counts were organized to discourage the tradition of going out and shooting birds on Christmas Day. (1473KB)

12/09/2007

As heard on: KOHO - December 09, 2007. Stroll along the shoreline, and notice the bills of a few birds--like the Long-billed Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit. Call it a "bill" or a "beak", the variety of shapes and sizes of the birds? signature instrument is extraordinary. And crucial! A bird does things with its bill that other animals do with their forelimbs--including preening, nest-building, self-defense, and displaying. To learn more about the Long-billed Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit, please visit BirdWeb.org. (1449KB)

12/08/2007

As heard on: KOHO - December 08, 2007. Long-tailed Ducks are back for the winter from the north, where they nested on tundra ponds and marshes. These diving ducks spend the winter in deep salt water, often in sheltered bays. Long-tailed Ducks are far more vocal than most ducks, a feature that has earned them a host of charming nicknames, including "John Connally," "My Aunt Huldy," and, from the Cree language, "Ha-hah-way." There's more about the Long-tailed Duck at BirdWeb. (1447KB)

12/07/2007

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - December 07, 2007. Traveling "as the crow flies," "eating like a bird," and being "free as a bird" are just a few of the sayings we use to describe everyday human actions and feelings. But these often don't take into account the birds' real activities, relative to their size. "Birds of a feather flock together." When you visit your local Audubon chapter, you'll find classes about birds and nature--and people who care about them. Meanwhile, can you think of a phrase to replace "kill two birds with one stone" Mail us at info@birdnote.org. (1503KB)

12/06/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - December 06, 2007. If you're planning a trip to Latin America, consider hiring a local nature guide. Local guides, including those that specialize in birds, are often listed in travel books or are available through hotels or nature preserves. Hiring a local guide when you travel can be a win-win-win situation. You win, having the services of a local expert...and perhaps seeing this Green Violet-ear Hummingbird. The guide wins, with employment. And the birds win, because local communities better understand the economic incentive to protect the birds and their habitats. (1489KB)

12/05/2007

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - December 05, 2007. It's morning on the island of New Guinea, and the lowland forests erupt with the crowing calls of Birds of Paradise. Male Raggiana Birds of Paradise perform elaborate displays to attract females, sometimes even hanging upside-down with their wings pointing upward. Forty-three species of Birds of Paradise are found on or near New Guinea. There's a world of birds out there. (1429KB)

11/05/2007

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - November 05, 2007. Heard on KPLU and KOHO, November 5, 2007: Black Oystercatchers prey on shellfish in the wave zone, especially mussels and limpets. The waves cause mussels to open often, making them easier to eat. (1500KB)

11/04/2007

As heard on: KOHO - November 04, 2007. The Tower of London has a long and notorious history of murderous political intrigue, dungeons, and famous beheadings. And for more than 300 years, the Tower of London has also been home to a set of royally maintained ravens. Since the time of Charles II, at least six ravens have--by royal decree--made their home in the Tower of London. The ravens are given ample food, comfy quarters, and private burials in the moat near Traitor's Gate. (1499KB)

11/03/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - November 03, 2007. The Northern Bobwhite has an unmistakable call, which is also the source of its name. The species is native to the US, east of the Rockies, but Bobwhites have been released into the wild as game birds in many locales in the West. Northern Bobwhites are known to have been introduced in Washington as early as the 1870s, but today, there are only a few small, self-sustaining populations, primarily in the prairie-like areas just south of Puget Sound. Is there a bird or topic you would like to hear about on BirdNote? Email info@BirdNote.org. (1448KB)

11/02/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - November 02, 2007. Heard on KPLU and KOHO, November 2, 2007: John James Audubon, French naturalist and painter, described hummingbirds as a "glittering fragment of the rainbow." The only hummingbird species that Audubon observed in nature was this Ruby-throated Hummingbird, a summer visitor to eastern North America. Many of Audubon's journals and remarkable paintings are on display now at Seattle's Museum of History and Industry through January 6th. (1457KB)

11/01/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - November 01, 2007. Heard on KPLU and KOHO, November 1, 2007: The Makahs tell a story about how the bird we know as the Steller's Jay--the bird the Makahs call Kwish-kwishee--got its crest. The mink, Kwahtie, tried to shoot his mother, the jay, with an arrow but missed. Her crest is ruffled to this day. (1443KB)

10/31/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - October 31, 2007. Some early sailors, visiting remote Pacific islands, surely feared that the ungodly wailing on shore meant they had been tricked to the gates of Hell itself. In truth, they stood among courting pairs of seabirds called Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. These birds nest on islands in the tropical Pacific and Indian Oceans. During courtship, pairs perform long duets of eerie wailing. (1472KB)

10/30/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - October 30, 2007. As darkness grows, bats--like the western long-eared bat--replace swallows in the business of catching flying insects. The night shift has come on duty. Both swallows and bats consume vast quantities of insects. Both are critical components of healthy environments. But the way they fly is strikingly different. (1464KB)

10/29/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - October 29, 2007. Is BirdNote a show just for birdwatchers? Not at all! BirdNote stories present birds as a window on a much wider world. BirdNote brings you scenes of nature throughout the seasons, across the region, and around the world. We bring you birds of the backyard, as well as birds of paradise--like this one--in far-off New Guinea; familiar chickadees and faraway penguins. Who is BirdNote for? Anyone with an ear to the world and two minutes a day. (1460KB)

10/28/2007

As heard on: KOHO - October 28, 2007. An owl's seeming ability to rotate its head in a complete circle is downright eerie. Are spectral forces at work here, enabling an owl to spin its head 360 degrees? Or do its neck feathers hide some anatomical secret? An owl's apparent head rotation is part illusion, part structural design. Because its eyes are fixed in their sockets, it must rotate its neck to look around. It can actually rotate its head about 270 degrees--a marvelous anatomical feat. (1447KB)

10/27/2007

As heard on: KOHO - October 27, 2007. Researcher Bernd Heinrich writes: "Ravens associate with any animals that kill large game--polar bears, grizzlies, wolves, coyotes, killer whales, and humans." These birds travel with caribou on their migration, and scavenge remains after wolves have made their kills. The bill of the Common Raven can't cut into a carcass, so a large carnivore must tear through the tough hide first. (1455KB)

10/26/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - October 26, 2007. Tony Scruton, steward of one of the Nature Conservancy's preserves in the San Juan Islands, crosses President Channel six times a week. Tony has been closely observing seabirds on the waters of Washington's San Juans for more than 30 years. As he tells it, numbers of murres and scoters have dwindled. There are barely one-tenth of the grebes that he once saw. And some species of birds have disappeared entirely. (1453KB)

10/25/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - October 25, 2007. Shorebirds such as these Pacific Golden-Plovers are famous for their ability to navigate over great distances. Migrating birds 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 most amazing thing is birds' ability to use variations in the Earth's magnetic field to mark their approximate position. Learn more. (1467KB)

10/12/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - October 12, 2007. As Christopher Columbus neared land in 1492, clues in the form of birds gave him hope that landfall was not far off. From his journal: Sept. 14: The crew of the Niña stated that they had seen [a type of tern] which never goes farther than twenty-five leagues from the land. ... Sept. 30: Four tropic birds came to the ship, a clear sign of land, for so many birds of one sort together show that they are not straying about, having lost themselves. It was probably an ancestor of this Sandwich Tern that Columbus saw before he made landfall in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492. (1439KB)

10/11/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - October 11, 2007. The Cackling Goose resembles a toy version of the Canada Goose. Its small voice fits nicely its small size. Although it was once considered a diminutive form of Canada Goose, recent genetic research shows the Cackler to be a separate species. They breed along the coast of Alaska and winter from Washington south to Mexico. Look, and listen, for pint-sized Cackling Geese this fall at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in southeast Washington and other locations where migratory geese gather. (1453KB)

10/10/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - October 10, 2007. Some birds, like this Red-tailed Hawk, possess amazingly highly developed eyesight. Just what makes birds' eyes so special, their eyesight so remarkable? It has to do with the muscles that give them an astonishing ability to focus and to change focus. Birds have muscles that carry out both jobs, plus other muscles that change the shape of the cornea, too. And birds have exceptionally large eyes located on the sides of their heads, so they have a bird's eye view of almost all of their surroundings, almost all the time. (1491KB)

10/09/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - October 09, 2007. Cackling Geese migrate south from Alaska in October, and flock together for the winter at sites like Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, in southern Washington. But there's still more excitement to be had at Ridgefield. On October 13 and 14, the Friends of Ridgefield sponsor a BirdFest and Bluegrass Festival at the refuge. In addition to music, the festival offers artwork and guided kayak and walking tours. Keep an eye out for hawks and herons, otter and beaver--oh! and fiddles and mandolins, too! Learn more about the festival at www.ridgefieldfriends.org. (1491KB)

10/08/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - October 08, 2007. October 8th is the birthday of William John Swainson, ornithologist, author, illustrator. He settled in New Zealand, and it's quite likely that he never saw any of the birds named for him. But because of Swainson's reputation and knowledge about birds, the Swainson's Warbler, Swainson's Thrush, and Swainson's Hawk were all named in his honor. In fact, John James Audubon himself named the Swainson's Swamp-Warbler. (1443KB)

10/07/2007

As heard on: KOHO - October 07, 2007. Henry David Thoreau wrote, "Our little mountain-ash is all alive with [birds.] A dozen robins on it at once ... plucking the berries... A robin will swallow half a dozen berries, at least, in rapid succession..." If you, too, enjoy watching birds eat berries, then consider planting trees and shrubs that produce berries, to attract birds (like this Cedar Waxwing) to your garden. (1452KB)

10/06/2007

As heard on: KOHO - October 06, 2007. The full moon in October is the Harvest Moon--or as the Cree Indians called it, "The Moon of Falling Leaves." It's almost time to stow the tools and put the garden to bed for the winter. When the trees lose their leaves, you can see the nests of summer. It's a good time to prune trees, because you won't disturb nesting birds. If you have a dead tree, you could leave it as a snag and provide spring and summer homes for cavity-nesters. Learn more about making your yard attractive to wildlife. (1438KB)

10/05/2007

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - October 05, 2007. October is the perfect time to plant for the benefit of next year's birds--including this Cedar Waxwing. You'll minimize the stress on plants as they move from pots to the landscape. Your new plants will put their resources into their roots rather than leaves or flowers. And the season's reliable rain will reduce the need to water. To attract the greatest variety of birds to your landscape year 'round, plant native shrubs that produce fruits and berries and provide a safe refuge for winged visitors. Learn more about gardening for life at Seattle Audubon. (1425KB)

10/04/2007

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - October 04, 2007. In the mid-20th Century, Dutch scientist Niko Tinbergen studied nesting Herring Gulls. He noticed that newly hatched chicks were fed by their parents only after they pecked at the adults' bills. Tinbergen devised experiments that varied the shape and coloration of the adult's bill. It became clear that the red spot on the adult gull's bill was a crucial visual cue in a chick's demands to be fed, and thus its survival. Learn more about Tinbergen's research. (1455KB)

10/03/2007

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - October 03, 2007. South Polar Skuas glide just off the Pacific Coast each fall. Skuas are prone to piracy, stealing fish from gulls and terns by chasing them down. These birds are also fierce predators on their Antarctic nesting grounds, raiding penguin colonies, eating eggs and young chicks alike. The word "skua" dates back to Old Norse. The skua's annual appearance in the fall is part of an immense, annual clockwise migration, north from Antarctica to Japan, and then back south along the edge of North America. (1442KB)

10/02/2007

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - October 02, 2007. In Veracruz, Mexico, the flow of migrating raptors includes birds from all over eastern North America. The town of Cardel lies on the flat coastal lowlands of the Gulf of Mexico. Each fall, biologists and volunteers gather there on the roof of the five-story Bienvenido Hotel, where they count five and a half million migrating raptors. When the birds are teeming overhead, the mechanical counters tick constantly. Learn more about the river of raptors in Veracruz. (1505KB)

09/07/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - September 07, 2007. This dusky forager among the mussels and barnacles goes by the curious name of Wandering Tattler. It was likely named for the notion that its rapid whistles alert other birds to the presence of a hunter, or other predator. And while it's not certain that the sandpiper actually "tattles," it truly is an epic wanderer. After breeding along gravelly streams in Alaska, tattlers spread out all across the Pacific islands, spending the winter from Hawaii to Australia. (1435KB)

09/06/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - September 06, 2007. In September, a streamlined Peregrine Falcon calls as it wings its way south from its Arctic nesting grounds. The pale gray falcon will spend the winter in Chile. On its back, it wears a miniature satellite transmitter, attached there by members of the Falcon Research Group. In 2006, Bud Anderson of Washington State and others of the FRG initiated the Southern Cross Peregrine Project. Their goal: track the migration of the tundra race of Peregrine Falcon, the most highly migratory of all Peregrines. (1493KB)

09/05/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - September 05, 2007. It's time for more limericks! Here's one by Brian Cairns.
   The call of the bittern's unique,
   For it booms 'twixt the reeds in a creek.
   All the other birds titter,
   Preferring to twitter
   Or warble, or chirrup, or shriek.
Can you compose a limerick about birds? Mail it to us at info@birdnote.org, and we just might read it on the air! (1481KB)

09/04/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - September 04, 2007. A tern or gull plunges headfirst into the water, then bounces aloft grasping a small fish in its bill. But before the bird can swallow its catch, a Parasitic Jaeger swoops in. The jaeger nips the bird's wing and it drops its hard-won fish. The pursuer catches the fish in mid-air and gulps it down. The jaeger (German for hunter) is built for sprinting speed and predatory feats. (1425KB)

09/03/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - September 03, 2007. Like most juvenile shorebirds, this young Black-bellied Plover was abandoned by parents that began their southbound flights from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge a few weeks earlier. It will join other young Black-bellied Plovers as they make their way south. This little flock of birds will arrive on the coast of Washington within a few days if they make a direct flight, or within a week or more if they stop at a wetland along the way. Some will stay, but others continue their continent-spanning journey, arriving in coastal Venezuela at the end of December. (1483KB)

09/02/2007

As heard on: KOHO - September 02, 2007. A White-throated Swift twists and turns, sailing through the air on black, scimitar-shaped wings that span 15 inches. Dashing headlong toward an unyielding wall, the bird disappears at the last second into a slender crevice. The White-throated Swift is aptly named. Flying at tremendous speed, this swift is among the fastest of all birds. They leave the air only to nest or roost in a cavity. They do everything else while airborne. (1451KB)

09/01/2007

As heard on: KOHO - September 01, 2007. The finches of the Galapagos Islands are famous in the history of evolutionary theory. But Charles Darwin spent four years studying other birds as well, as the Beagle circumnavigated southern South America before reaching the Galapagos in 1835. It was not just the finches or the Andean Condors, but a lifetime of attending to all the wild things in his path that brought Darwin to his great idea. (1455KB)

08/31/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - August 31, 2007. Martyn Stewart's calling is recording the sounds of birds and nature. He describes some of the rewards of working in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: "It is a great place to go record birds and animals. You know generally that once you point your microphone at a nesting bird or a bird that's hopping through the tundra, it's going to be pristine. You haven't got a leaf-blower or an ATV or a plane flying over the top of you ... It's just a beautiful place." (1475KB)

08/30/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - August 30, 2007. We owe a lot to the nature recordists who travel the world to document the calls and songs of birds. Recordist Martyn Stewart describes how he obtained the call of a Rough-legged Hawk (like this one), a winter visitor to Washington State that nests on the tree-less Arctic tundra: "I had seen this on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and I noticed it was nesting or maybe roosting on a ledge. It took probably a couple of days to get to the foothills ... of the Brooks Range. You look down and say 'Whoa, this is dangerous stuff'." (1487KB)

08/29/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - August 29, 2007. In late August, migrating Vaux's Swifts seek nighttime shelter in chimneys. A gathering of swifts waits until dusk to descend into a chimney. The swifts enter in a continuous swirl. Each swift drops into the opening with wings raised, feet first, to hang upright for the night by its claws. (1491KB)

08/28/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - August 28, 2007. August 28 is the birthday of Roger Tory Peterson, born in 1908. He was author of A Field Guide to the Birds and creator of the Peterson Identification System. And his favorite bird? The King Penguin. He said: "Others see little clowns, ridiculous dwarfs, little people dressed in feathers. But they are far from that. They are highly specialized birds dedicated to penguinism, a life molded by the cold, impersonal sea, harsh climate and the crowded colonies in which they reproduce." Learn more at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute. (1457KB)

08/08/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - August 08, 2007. Barred Owls are very territorial, and they don't migrate. Solitary calls from a male in February and March probably mean that he has not attracted a mate. On a spring day, he is dive-bombed by crows as he tries to sleep in a deciduous tree. 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 scientists call a "non-breeding floater". Perhaps his patch of woods is just too small to host a pair of owls year round. Learn more about Barred Owls at BirdWeb.org. (1428KB)

08/07/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - August 07, 2007. The Groove-billed Ani's large, laterally flattened bill spits out its sharp, high whistles, slurred whinings, and various squeaks, pips, squeals, and growls. These retiring birds gather in loose groups, nesting communally. As many as four pairs of birds may use one nest, a bulky cup of twigs lined with fresh leaves. Up to 20 chalky white eggs have been found in one nest! Learn more at Cornell's All Birds. Drop us a line and tell us what BirdNote means to you. Mail info@birdnote.org. (1440KB)

08/06/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - August 06, 2007. By early August, the rich yellow of the feathers of the Wilson's Warbler seems to flash in every forest thicket. Despite predators and rain, many pairs of adults have raised four young, which now flit about on their own. The young males hatched this spring learned their father?s songs this summer. Next spring, they, too, will sing those songs.

Did you know that by buying shade-grown coffee, you can help preserve the wintering grounds of this bird and many others? Learn how at ShadeCoffee.org. (1434KB)

08/05/2007

As heard on: KOHO - August 05, 2007. The Sky Lark is a bird whose songful brilliance inspired English poets, and gave its name to the phrase "an exaltation of larks." To glimpse a singing Sky Lark, look high up, where the male flutters and circles perhaps 100 feet off the ground, broadcasting its complex song. Around 1902, Sky Larks were brought to Vancouver Island from England to satisfy the desire of English immigrants there to hear the lark's lovely song. And Vancouver Island remains the only place in North America where the Sky Lark can still be heard. Learn more about the Sky Lark on BirdWeb.org. (1510KB)

08/04/2007

As heard on: KOHO - August 04, 2007. Western Tanagers are distinctive summer visitors to our area and the only tanagers seen regularly in Washington. They are typically found in open coniferous or mixed coniferous and broadleaved forests, and seem most at home in the dry Douglas-fir forests of Eastern Washington. Each fall, the Western Tanager makes its 2000-mile journey back to South or Central America. Learn more about how you can protect the tanager's winter habitat when you purchase shade-grown coffee. Visit ShadeCoffee.org. (1453KB)

08/03/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - August 03, 2007. Helen Trefry, a wildlife biologist in Edmonton, Alberta, wanted to know where the Burrowing Owls in her part of Canada migrated to. How long did it take them to get to their destinations, and where--and how--did they spend their stopovers. An amateur radio operator from Texas, along with a network of ham radio enthusiasts known as "biotrackers," helped Helen Trefry track Burrowing Owl migrations. These citizen-scientists tuned in their scanners and VHF monitors, hoping to catch the faint beep of the owls' transmitters. (1476KB)

08/02/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - August 02, 2007. Woodpeckers, master carpenters of the bird world, are called "keystone species" for their crucial role in creating habitat suited to other woodland wildlife. Abandoned woodpecker nest-holes become nests or roosts for small owls, cavity-nesting ducks, swifts, bluebirds, swallows, wrens, and other birds, as well as mammals including bats, squirrels, martens, and voles. The diseased trees in which woodpeckers excavate become, over time, multi-level condominiums for a whole host of wildlife. Learn more about this Northern Flicker at BirdWeb.org. (1464KB)

08/01/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - August 01, 2007. 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 a mate and establish and defend a domain. In October, when breeding and raising offspring are all but finished, he sings to remind his neighbors of the boundaries of his territory. The more neighbors, the more frequently he?s apt to sing. (1437KB)

07/31/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - July 31, 2007. Birding by ear is a great way to identify birds. Listen for qualities of the sound as well as the pattern. Western Meadowlarks have a song that is "liquid" and "clear." Quite a contrast to the "dry" notes of this Chipping Sparrow often found in the same habitat. The Spotted Towhee has a "metallic" quality to its trill, while the Purple Finch uses a "sweet" and "slurred" cadence. The American Dipper belts out a "ringing" song. Volunteers at your local Audubon can help you tune your ears. (1475KB)

07/30/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - July 30, 2007. What words do experienced birders use to describe the sounds of birds? There's "whistle" to describe the Quick, three beers call of the Olive-sided Flycatcher. And the "rattle" of the Belted Kingfisher. The Dark-eyed Junco delivers an almost perfect "trill," while the House Wren--like this one--lets go a "cascade." Experts at birding-by-ear call the Downy Woodpecker's song a "whinny." (1475KB)

07/29/2007

As heard on: KOHO - July 29, 2007. The Bullock's Oriole is the only member of the oriole family that nests in the Northwest. With a slender, sharply pointed bill, the oriole weaves a marvelous pouch-like nest that hangs suspended from its upper rim. The nest hangs downward four to eight inches. The female (like this one) weaves together long, flexible strands of grass -- but also adds in man-made materials she finds. (1457KB)

07/28/2007

As heard on: KOHO - July 28, 2007. A dazzling bolt of avian lightning -- a blaze of neon-orange, shooting across a gray, sage-covered hillside on quick wing-beats. It's a Bullock's Oriole, sailing out from its nest among the upper branches of a cottonwood, hunting for insects in the shrubby sage. Bullock's Orioles return north from Mexico in May to nest along many lowland streams east of the Cascades, and all over the West. They eat small invertebrates, ripe fruit, and nectar. (1447KB)

07/23/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - July 23, 2007. Writer Ivan Doig writes about bird songs, including that of this Western Meadowlark, in his book, Ride with Me, Mariah Montana: ?Warbles and trills and solo after solo ...: the air was magically busy. None of us spoke while the songs of the birds poured undiluted. I suppose we were afraid the spate of loveliest sound would vanish if we broke it with so much as a whisper. But after a bit came the realization that the music of birds formed a natural part of this place, constant as the glorious grass that made feathered life thrive." (1458KB)

07/20/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - July 20, 2007. A waterfall roars down a steep cliff. Just after sunset on a July evening, a Black Swift arcs into view, and swoops behind the waterfall. The swift builds its nest in crevices behind waterfalls in the western mountains, from British Columbia to Mexico. It's among our most elusive birds, foraging on insects over long distances and returning to its secluded nest site only at dusk. One such nest site is behind Grouse Falls in Tahoe National Forest. Where do Black Swifts nest in Western Washington? Find out at SoundToSage.org! (1450KB)

07/19/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - July 19, 2007. The persistent buzzy song of the Savannah Sparrow has been described as "trying to start a tiny motor." The name "savannah" gives us a clue as to where to find this sparrow. In spring, they wing their way north to open agricultural fields, meadows, coastal grasslands, and even tundra to breed and raise young. Also listen for the Savannah Sparrow in open, unmowed sections of city parks. It's that little brown bird that just can't seem to get its motor started. (1459KB)

07/18/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - July 18, 2007. Close kin to the Whip-poor-will, the nocturnal Poorwill can be heard in summer in canyons east of the Cascades at the deep end of dusk. And the Common Poorwill's greatest claim to fame? It was the first bird confirmed to hibernate, based on evidence verified in 1946. Since then, we have learned that Lewis and Clark, in 1804, found a hibernating poorwill. And that for centuries, the Hopi Indians have called the poorwill "holchko" or "the sleeping one". (1435KB)

07/17/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - July 17, 2007. Birds will take advantage of a lucky find of food or a new way of obtaining food. Imagine this scenario from bygone years when automobile radiators were unprotected, exposed to the rush of air. As a result, they would strike and collect flying insects. Now imagine the car stopping for a few minutes. Immediately, expectant House Sparrows (like this one here) spring into action. They fly to the radiator and snatch as many insects as possible before the auto moves on. For a wild bird, "fast foods" can mean survival.

Please drop us a line and tell us what BirdNote means to you. Email us at info@birdnote.org. (1473KB)

07/16/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - July 16, 2007. For more than 40 years, Western Bluebirds have been missing from the San Juan Islands. The last breeding pair was seen on Lopez Island in 1964. The steady loss of nesting cavities likely led to the bluebirds' disappearance from the islands. But in the spring of 2007, a partnership that includes San Juan Islands Audubon released eight breeding pairs on San Juan Island and plan to release more. They've set up 120 nesting boxes for the birds, which originate from a growing population at the Fort Lewis Prairie near Tacoma. (1468KB)

07/13/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - July 13, 2007. Longtime baseball announcer Red Barber often described a player in a winning situation as "sitting in the catbird seat." So what is "sitting in the catbird seat?" And what is a catbird? The Gray Catbird is a cousin of the mockingbird, and it does sound a little like a cat. During breeding season, when it's protecting its territory, the catbird competes with others of its species, the two combatants singing their way to higher and higher perches. The one who finally takes the highest perch is...well...sitting in the catbird seat! (1480KB)

07/12/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - July 12, 2007. BirdNote listener Catherine Alexander recently told of watching a Bushtit, in search of the perfect bit of stuff for its nest. It found a tattered, old sock, hanging from a tree. The Bushtit grabbed a frayed bit of elastic and pulled and pulled. The elastic held strong. Bushtit pulled. Elastic held. The Bushtit's wing-power began to fail, and the elastic slowly, inexorably, returned to its original length, Bushtit in tow.

Have you seen something amusing or inspiring in the world of birds? Mail us your tale at info@BirdNote.org. (1494KB)

07/11/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - July 11, 2007. Why do birds start their songs so early in the morning? Some 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. Some migratory males signal their location and availability to females that may have arrived during the night. The American Robin is usually among the first--and the last--singers of the day. Learn more at BirdWeb. (1482KB)

07/10/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - July 10, 2007. In early July, the female Rufous Hummingbird has fledged her first two nestlings and is just about to fledge a second brood. As big as their mother, the two youngsters of that brood bulge the sides of their walnut-sized nest. By July, the fiery-red adult males have vanished, southward. Nearly all our Rufous Hummingbirds will depart by late August. (1487KB)

07/09/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - July 09, 2007. It's just a few weeks past the solstice, and the real heat of summer is yet to come. Some shorebirds are already on their way south, but most songbirds will be here for a while longer. What's the best time of day to look for them? Many birds are most active in the early morning, taking advantage of the abundance of insects at that hour. Midday heat sends people inside, and birds take a siesta, too. And then, both birds and bugs rev up again in the late afternoon. But gulls forage all day long! (1478KB)

07/06/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - July 06, 2007. It?s July at Protection Island National Wildlife Reserve, perhaps Washington's most important seabird nesting site. Join members of the BirdNote team on a special tour of the reserve, on Saturday, July 28th.. BirdNote lead writer and naturalist, Bob Sundstrom, will accompany us. Expect Pigeon Guillemots, Black Oystercatchers, and Tufted Puffins, like this one! (1467KB)

07/05/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - July 05, 2007. When the eagle was being selected for national emblem in 1782, the wise Benjamin Franklin championed the turkey. We paraphrase him: "The Bald Eagle is too lazy to fish for himself; when the Osprey has taken a fish, ... the eagle pursues him and takes it away from him. ... Besides he is a rank coward ..." fleeing when mobbed by a robin-sized kingbird. But the Wild Turkey, Franklin wrote, is "though a little vain and silly, a bird of courage [that] would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British guards, who should presume to invade his farmyard with a red coat on." (1449KB)

07/02/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - July 02, 2007. The song of this Field Sparrow was the first bird song Aldo Leopold awoke to on his Wisconsin farm in the 1940s. Sadly, Field Sparrow populations are declining rapidly. BirdNote is preparing to expand beyond Washington, and you can help shape our future. Let us know what BirdNote means to you at info@birdnote.org. (1486KB)

06/29/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - June 29, 2007. On June 23, 2000, an enormous iron ore tanker sank off the coast of South Africa, near a critical nesting site for African Penguins, covering 19,000 adult penguins in oil. Fortunately, thousands of volunteers arrived to help. The oily birds were moved to Cape Town to be cleaned. Another 19,500 penguins that had so far escaped the oil were released at sea, 600 miles to the east. It took those birds nearly three weeks to swim back home, allowing workers time to clean up the oil-fouled waters and beaches. Learn more. (1491KB)

06/27/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - June 27, 2007. 2005 could be called the year that Purple Martins returned to the San Juan Islands. That year, martins bred at Roche Harbor as well as Jackson and Fourth of July Beaches on San Juan Island, at Fisherman Bay on Lopez, and at West Sound Marina on Orcas. In 2006, martins nested on Stuart Island. How did this come about? Starting in the '70s, people who cared about the birds began placing nest boxes along marine shorelines. Thanks to the knowledgeable efforts of these volunteers, Purple Martins have returned to the islands. (1480KB)

06/26/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - June 26, 2007. A Hoatzin is a relative of the cuckoos and one of the strangest birds in the world. With a scraggly crest and long, buff-tipped tail, it looks like it was put together by a committee. But it isn't only in the way it looks that this bird is odd. The Hoatzin is a vegetarian, filling its stomach with leaves, and then resting and digesting for long periods. Chicks have vestigial claws on their wings, which they lose when they grow older. (1546KB)

06/25/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - June 25, 2007. Black-headed Grosbeaks are one of very few birds that regularly eat Monarch butterflies, which most birds and other animals find unpalatable, if not downright toxic. The caterpillars of Monarch butterflies consume milkweeds that contain toxic substances known as cardenolides. The poison is stored in the adult butterfly's abdomen, giving it a powerful form of defense. The Black-backed Oriole also preys on the butterflies, but studiously avoids the tainted abdomen. Learn more about the Black-headed Grosbeak at BirdWeb. (1479KB)

06/22/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - June 22, 2007. The Virginia Rail is a secretive bird, a relative of coots and cranes, and a bird you'll more often hear than spy. It takes its name from its narrow body -- "as skinny as a rail" -- an adaptation to its favorite marshy habitats. The rail walks hidden, squeezing through the dense reeds and grasses. It looks like a tiny heron, not much bigger than a robin. You can count yourself lucky if you have actually seen a Virginia Rail. Learn more at BirdWeb. (1515KB)

06/20/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - June 20, 2007. The White-headed Woodpecker is a striking bird! The species is widely scattered and nowhere common in the Pacific Northwest. Like other woodpeckers, the White-headed digs out juicy insect larvae from the trees by pounding with its sharp bill. But by holding its bill at an angle, it also flakes off big pieces of bark. In fact, one way to find these woodpeckers is by looking for lighter areas on pine trunks where they have pried free the bark. These woodpeckers also eat the big seeds hidden in Ponderosa pine cones. Learn more at BirdWeb. (1478KB)

06/19/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - June 19, 2007. In June, many young Peregrine Falcons are ready to leave the safety of the aerie and go off on their own. Well, sort of... A young bird lifts off and heads ... where? With a little luck, the young falcon will make it safely to a nearby ledge--whether cliff or skyscraper. Juveniles stay close to their nesting site for several weeks, still dependent on their parents for food. Like young children, they play, grappling talons. They stoop on each other in flight, learning the skills they'll need to catch prey in mid-air. Learn more at BirdWeb. (1534KB)

06/18/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - June 18, 2007. With its bubbly, jangling song, the Bobolink has long been admired across North America. Washington Irving called the Bobolink "the happiest bird of our spring--he rises and sinks with the breeze, pours forth a succession of rich tinkling notes, crowding one upon another" Bobolinks nest in hayfields and grasslands, returning north each spring, all the way from southern South America. (1538KB)

06/15/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - June 15, 2007. Although the male hummingbird leaves the female to build the nest, incubate the eggs, and raise the young alone, other father birds are a lot more involved. A Peregrine Falcon father shares family duties almost evenly with the mother. (Shown here is Stewart, who nested on a downtown Seattle skyscraper for many years.) But the Emu of Australia? Now there's a father! The male Emu remains on the nest for nearly two months, eating and drinking almost nothing, never leaving the nest for any reason. (1527KB)

06/14/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - June 14, 2007. On June 14, 1853, Thoreau wrote in his journal of an enchanting encounter with the Wood Thrush: "The wood thrush launches forth his evening strains from the midst of the pines. I admire the moderation of this master. There is nothing tumultuous in his song. He launches forth one strain with all his heart and life and soul, of pure and unmatchable melody, and then he pauses and gives the hearer and himself time to digest this, and then another and another at suitable intervals." (1530KB)

06/13/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - June 13, 2007. All of his long life, Pete Nelsen has fished the waters of the San Juan Islands. Pete says, "p until the '70s, we'd see big flocks of Western Grebes. There would be rafts covering 40 to 50 acres on Bellingham Bay and Eastsound on Orcas. And murres, hundreds of thousands of murres. The grebes and murres started declining in the '70s. Now when you?re on the water, you see only a few." Learn more about these Western Grebes at BirdWeb. (1479KB)

06/12/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - June 12, 2007. Frank M. Chapman, the father of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, was born on June 12, 1864. He became Curator of Birds at New York City's American Museum of Natural History. The author of many books on ornithology, Chapman carried on an active program of field research in Central and South America. Not surprisingly, then, Chapman's choice for the most beautiful bird song of all comes from the Mexican cloud forest: from the Slate-colored Solitaire. (1511KB)

06/11/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - June 11, 2007. At less than five inches long, the Red-breasted Nuthatch is the mid-sized nuthatch of the three species in the Northwest, and the most familiar. The White-breasted Nuthatch is the largest of the three, and boasts a louder, honking voice. The smallest of the trio is the Pygmy Nuthatch, its high-pitched peeping in keeping with its petite size. To learn which nuthatch you might expect at your feeder, visit SoundToSage.org. (1476KB)

06/07/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - June 07, 2007. The Red-winged Blackbird is a familiar denizen of cattail marshes throughout Washington State. In marshes east of the Cascades, Red-wings must share space with a larger cousin, the Yellow-headed Blackbird. The two blackbird species don't share evenly. Zoologist and blackbird expert Gordon Orians writes: "When Yellowheads arrive on their breeding marshes, they usually evict already established male Red-wings from their territories." The Red-wings are relegated to the less productive, shoreward edge of the marsh. (1547KB)

06/06/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - June 06, 2007. Have you noticed that Black-capped Chickadees sometimes add extra "dees" to the end of their calls? Christopher Templeton of the University of Washington recently cracked the chickadee code. He found that a relatively lesser threat, such as a slow-to-maneuver Great Horned Owl, warranted only two "dee" notes. But a far greater threat, a small, agile Northern Pygmy-Owl, elicited an emphatic five "dees." This is one of the most sophisticated warning systems in the avian world. (1512KB)

06/04/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - June 04, 2007. Tree Swallows glisten in the June sunlight, as they swoop and glide, their arcs interlacing in the air. When a white feather flutters down among them, one swallow snatches the feather in its bill and flies upward, as another swallow gives chase. After a moment, the lead bird lets loose the feather, which drifts lazily, until the second bird swoops to catch it in midair. Loose feathers are an important resource for Tree Swallows. They line their nests thickly with them, a featherbed for their nestlings. Learn more at BirdWeb. (1567KB)

06/01/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - June 01, 2007. Willow Flycatchers arrive in the Northwest later than most other migrants, usually at the end of May. They're coming from South America, a long way to fly for a bird that weighs 1/35th of an ounce. A male Willow Flycatcher aggressively defends its territory against other males and soon attracts a mate. Their compact nest is usually low in a willow or rose or bracken fern. To find a Willow Flycatcher, listen for its sneeze. Learn more at BirdWeb. (1493KB)

05/31/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 31, 2007. African Penguins stand just over two feet tall and weigh up to nine pounds. They nest in burrows six feet deep. The African Penguin now faces severe challenges. But even today, at Boulders Beach near Cape Town, it's possible to walk the beach among these charming birds and hearken to their obstreperous voices. (1440KB)

05/29/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 29, 2007. Charles Darwin's insights during his travels on the HMS Beagle in the 1830s revolutionized the natural sciences. And his personal accounts of the journey, such as his encounters with Magellanic Penguins, tell captivating stories. While on the Falkland Islands, Darwin--as an experiment--placed himself between a penguin and the sea. The undaunted bird, rolling its head from side to side, waddled directly into the young naturalist, pushing him aside. (1469KB)

05/28/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 28, 2007. With its beautiful colors, the Lazuli Bunting might just have inspired Navajo artists. In summer, these beautiful singers inhabit the brushy canyons east of the Cascades. And where the Lazuli Bunting sings, you'll also often hear the music of Vesper Sparrows and Western Meadowlarks. (1478KB)

05/25/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 25, 2007. The name "Hanford" evokes nuclear waste--plutonium--scary stuff, right? Ironically, the sweeping views, stark beauty, and towering bluffs of the Hanford Reach mark one of the most pristine waterways in Washington. For nearly 50 years, the reservation was closed to entry, and so today, it is the only remaining free-flowing section of the river. In spring, the reach is alive with birds. Paddle down the river and watch for warblers, ducks, swallows, ravens, and maybe even a Prairie Falcon, like this one! Learn more about this falcon at BirdWeb.org. (1535KB)

05/24/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 24, 2007. The nest-building skills of the female Rufous Hummingbird are a marvel. She first weaves a cup of soft, fluffy plant material, then envelops it with moss, and binds it with strands of spider web. The final touch: layering the outer surface with lichen flakes to provide perfect camouflage. Smaller than a walnut half, the nest soon harbors two eggs the size of shelled peanuts. A favorite nest site is the fork of a downward-drooping twig, perhaps low in a shrub or up higher in an old conifer. Learn more on BirdWeb. (1499KB)

05/22/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 22, 2007. No song epitomizes the open spaces of the American West like that of the Western Meadowlark. No other song even comes close. Indeed, the Western Meadowlark's song can be rightly acclaimed the essential musical theme of much of the West. It?s a bird of grass- and sage-lands, fields and pastures, meadows and prairies--a bird of open habitats. Look, but especially listen, for meadowlarks in the open country of Eastern Washington, and on the natural prairies south of Puget Sound. (1499KB)

05/21/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 21, 2007. Rhinoceros Auklets excavate nest-burrows in the grassy slopes of Protection Island. A chunky seabird about the size of a crow and a close relative of puffins, Rhinoceros Auklets use the long, sharp nails on their webbed feet - and their hefty bills - to dig safe havens below ground for raising their young. Some are truly inspired excavators, digging burrows more than 15 feet deep! For the sake of comparison, if a six-foot tall man were to dig a burrow in proportion to his height, he would have to shovel down 72 feet! (1478KB)

05/18/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 18, 2007. Despite its name, the Northern Waterthrush is really not a thrush: it's a warbler. But unlike most warblers, waterthrushes feed on the ground, walking along with rear ends bouncing, hunting for insects at the water's edge. They winter in the tropics, where they frequent the edges of ponds and mangrove swamps. Where might you find a Northern Waterthrush? Check out soundtosage.org and see. (1499KB)

05/17/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 17, 2007. This lovely creature is a Barn Swallow--notice the rich colors! A genuine master of the air, the swallow swoops low along the ground at high speed, changing direction in the blink of an eye. This prodigy has flown all the way from South America, to offer--without fee--its services as a prolific collector of flying insects, which it vacuums from the air. The Barn Swallow is a common summer visitor here. (1470KB)

05/16/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 16, 2007. It's spring, and the hills and valleys around Leavenworth are alive with birdsong, including that of this Red-winged Blackbird. What a perfect time for the Leavenworth Spring Bird Fest, with over seventy events and guided tours. There's an audio workshop with nature-recordist Martyn Stewart, a frequent contributor to BirdNote, a presentation by Dr. Gordon Orians, and much more. The Leavenworth Spring Bird Fest runs May 18th through the 20th. (1490KB)

05/15/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 15, 2007. Storks and babies have been linked together for centuries. But how did that old legend get started, that storks bring babies? Researchers suggest that the legend goes back into pagan times, when civilizations were keen to have high birthrates. The myth of storks and babies was forged by the birds' return in spring, when many babies were born. Many people in Europe still associate storks with good luck and look forward to the birds' return each spring. (1563KB)

05/14/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 14, 2007. In the avian world, 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 young. And then, there's the female Western Sandpiper. She finishes a nest the male has started, and they share incubation duties. But Mother Sandpiper usually leaves the family just a few days after the eggs have hatched. She laid a clutch of eggs that almost equals her body weight. She needs a break! (1521KB)

05/13/2007

As heard on: KOHO - May 13, 2007. At this time of year, you may see young birds making their first forays outside the nest. Despite its lack of experience, each bird must learn to fend for itself. The plight of the young bird is illustrated by this encounter between predator and prey, as a young hawk sets out on its first hunting expedition. First, the young hawk spies its prey... With determination, persistence?and a small bomb--it eventually subdues the much larger chicken. BirdNote wishes to thank Henery Hawk® and Foghorn Leghorn® for their appearance in today's show. (1453KB)

05/12/2007

As heard on: KOHO - May 12, 2007. We've all seen sandpipers foraging busily on mudflats and at the ocean's edge. But this Lesser Yellowlegs often carols from the top of a tall conifer in its nesting territory in Alaska. The name "sandpiper" actually comes from the voices of these birds, rather than from their long-billed probing in the sand. While the name refers in particular to the birds' short "piped"--or whistled--calls, a number of sandpipers are also superior, and surprising, singers. (1474KB)

05/11/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 11, 2007. May 12th is Limerick Day, the birthday of Edward Lear, an author of nonsense verse, including limericks. In honor of Lear's birthday, here is the famous limerick written by Dixon Lanier Merritt in 1910:
   A wonderful bird is the pelican.
   His bill will hold more than his belican.
   He can take in his beak,
   Food enough for a week,
   I'm damned if I know how the hell he can!"
Try your hand at a limerick about birds, and we just might read it on the air! Send it to info@birdnote.org. (1494KB)

05/10/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 10, 2007. At this time of year, we celebrate migratory birds, including this Common Yellowthroat. In 1918, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act expanded on earlier legislation and gave much needed protection to birds, especially migratory songbirds. In 1940, the US and 17 other countries throughout the Americas signed a pact to "protect and preserve - in their natural habitat - representatives of all species...of their native flora and fauna." Celebrate migratory birds in Edmonds, Washington at the Puget Sound Bird Fest, May 18-19, 2007. (1477KB)

05/09/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 09, 2007. American Robins, House Finches, and Song Sparrows may all nest within one small garden. By selecting different nesting strata, the species avoid competing for the same nesting sites. If you plant your garden in multiple layers?trees both short and tall, shrubs, and ground-hugging thickets--you may be rewarded with a multi-layered medley of bird song. (1461KB)

05/08/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 08, 2007. Peacocks have been domesticated for thousands of years and now occur everywhere in the world. But to see wild peacocks, you'll need to go to India and Sri Lanka. Where hunted, peacocks are shy and rarely seen, and give loud alarm calls when startled. Where protected, however, they become as tame as domestic birds, and you can admire the fabulous plumage of the males at close range. (1481KB)

05/07/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 07, 2007. When the male and female Ruddy Ducks meet on their breeding grounds, the male gets right to strutting his stuff. When a female appears, the male raises his long tail and his head, until the feathers on it look like horns. He inflates his neck and, faster and faster, strikes his chest with his bill. These blows force air through the feathers, causing the water to bubble. The male ends his display by jerking his head and tail forward and emitting a low belching sound. (1479KB)

05/06/2007

As heard on: KOHO - May 06, 2007. One bird's voice embodies the basalt canyons and deep coulees of the Northwest like no other--the song of the Canyon Wren. The wren's evocative, cascading notes, bouncing off the tall, sheer rock faces and jumbled talus slopes, may be the most memorable bird song of the West. The Canyon Wren lives year-round in such spots as Dry Falls, Vantage, or along the Yakima River Canyon in Washington, surviving winter's numbing cold. (1474KB)

05/05/2007

As heard on: KOHO - May 05, 2007. Each spring, seven species of swallows return to nest in Washington. The fleet and graceful flight of swallows livens up the sky. Tree Swallows and Violet-green Swallows nest widely east and west of the Cascades, and man-made nest boxes contribute greatly to the birds' continuing success in the region. Other than the Purple Martin, only two swallow species nest in man-made boxes--this Tree Swallow and Violet-green Swallows. (1510KB)

05/04/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 04, 2007. In early May, the Wilson's Warbler sings from deep within a shrubby Northwest thicket. A week of non-stop singing attracts a female to the male's territory at the edge of the forest. The female alone builds a nest of dead leaves, bark strips, and stems, concealing it in mossy ground at the base of a shrub, or perhaps in a tussock of grass. She lays four eggs, which she incubates for 12 days. When the eggs hatch, both parents busily attend the fast-growing nestlings. (1523KB)

05/03/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 03, 2007. The Swainson's Thrush, the Hermit Thrush, and the Veery are small, brown birds, but their songs clearly distinguish them. The Swainson's Thrush announces its presence in early spring with subtle, limpid "whit" or "wink" sounds. A Veery's phrases tend downward in pitch. The Hermit Thrush sings ethereal, paired phrases, long flute-like notes backed by complex, reedy phrases. (1467KB)

05/02/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 02, 2007. Who's in the neighborhood today? It's amazing how many birds you can see--and hear--when you go for a walk. There's a towhee--and a Steller's Jay--now, a junco--There's the "tin trumpet" sound of the Red-breasted Nuthatch. And the Ruby-crowned Kinglet is warming up, all because it's spring. Oh, and the Song Sparrow! What a song! Consider taking a walk in your neighborhood, to see what you can see--and hear! (1470KB)

05/01/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 01, 2007. For birds, a brain that can function while literally half-asleep is important to survival. In flocks of birds at roost, those at the outer edge of the flock often have one eye open. Such birds are truly half-asleep: one brain hemisphere snoozes as the other remains awake and alert. The eye connected to the sleeping half of the brain closes; the eye of the wakeful hemisphere remains open and vigilant. Birds in the middle of the flock are resting the entire brain, sleeping with both eyes closed. (1504KB)

04/30/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 30, 2007. Early March finds the Swainson's Thrush just departing its wintering grounds in Mexico or South America--and 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 seconds at a time. The thrushes are also apparently able to rest half their brain by sleeping with one eye closed. The other eye remains open, with half the brain alert for threats from predators. (1483KB)

04/29/2007

As heard on: KOHO - April 29, 2007. The Western Tanager winters in Mexico and Central America and nests in western North America. Sadly, much of its southern habitat has been lost, because tall, shade-giving trees have been cut down to grow coffee in direct sunlight. But when coffee is grown under a tall canopy of trees, the Western Tanager can enjoy a secure, food-filled winter home, and the coffee tastes better, too. You can help by requesting shade-grown coffee. (1443KB)

04/29/2007

As heard on: KOHO - April 29, 2007. The Western Tanager winters in Mexico and Central America and nests in western North America. Sadly, much of its southern habitat has been lost, because tall, shade-giving trees have been cut down to grow coffee in direct sunlight. But when coffee is grown under a tall canopy of trees, the Western Tanager can enjoy a secure, food-filled winter home, and the coffee tastes better, too. You can help by requesting shade-grown coffee. (1493KB)

04/28/2007

As heard on: KOHO - April 28, 2007. The American Bittern, a member of the heron tribe, spends much of its time in the dense cover of the marsh. Although they are found across the country, you'll seldom see one. Bitterns are masters of camouflage. Their striped plumage perfectly imitates surrounding vegetation, and they conceal themselves by freezing--holding their heads and necks upward at an angle that mimics the reeds. Have you seen an unusual bird or observed a bird doing something usual? Tell us your story! Write to us at info@birdnote.org. (1444KB)

04/27/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 27, 2007. Birds are justly renowned for their highly sensitive eyesight and hearing. But what about birds' sense of smell? Among the many birds of the world, some are, without doubt, prodigious smellers. Turkey Vultures have a supremely keen sense of smell to lead them upwind from great distances to their malodorous feasts. Diminutive seabirds called storm-petrels are olfactory savants--they can detect the scent of prey from a distance of 25 kilometers! (1519KB)

04/26/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 26, 2007. April 26th is the birthday of John James Audubon, woodsman, naturalist, and painter. 435 birds were included in his monumental Birds of America--including this Barn Swallow. In A Book of Americans, Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet wrote this about Audubon:    Some men live for warlike deeds,
   Some for women?s words.
   John James Audubon
   Lived to look at birds. (1446KB)

04/25/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 25, 2007. To celebrate the spring stopover of hundreds of thousands of shorebirds (like this Greater Yellowlegs), Grays Harbor in Southwest Washington opens its doors for its 12th Annual Shorebird Festival, April 27-29 at Hoquiam High School in Hoquiam, Washington. The keynote speaker on Friday evening will be Paul Bannick, and his topic will be Intimate Images of Western Birds. (1488KB)

04/24/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 24, 2007. Birding is often best in the least likely places. At sewage treatment plants, watch for ducks and gulls - and raptors keeping watch over them all. Another place might be your local landfill or dump. The Brownsville, Texas dump was, for years, the only place in the US you could find this Tamaulipas Crow. For a more sedate birding adventure, visit a cemetery. Especially in rural areas and in the Midwest, cemeteries are often repositories of native plants, and thus magnets for migratory birds, which find food--and cover--in those green oases. (1477KB)

04/23/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 23, 2007. April 23, 2007 is the four hundred and forty-third birthday of William Shakespeare. Mr. Shakespeare was pretty well acquainted with--among one or two other things--birds. More than forty strut, twitter, shriek, sing, and soar through his works. But the bird he knew as a Robin Redbreast is not the bird we call a "robin" in the United States. (1524KB)

04/22/2007

As heard on: KOHO - April 22, 2007. The American Kestrel is the smallest, most numerous, and most widespread North American falcon. True to the name "falcon," this bird is built for speed, its long pointed wings often bent back at the tip. While hunting, kestrels hover above an open field. These days, the lack of suitable nesting cavities, which limits American Kestrel populations in some areas, has lead to public interest in installing wooden nest boxes. (1432KB)

04/21/2007

As heard on: KOHO - April 21, 2007. The male American Robin--fiercely territorial--belts out its distinctive cheery song to defend its breeding territory from invasion by other robins. Sometimes, the robin sees its own reflection as an interloper and challenges the "invader" over and over, even to the point of exhaustion or injury. It's called the "battering robin syndrome." (1416KB)

04/20/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 20, 2007. The Ivory-billed Woodpecker. We thought this bird had become extinct about 50 years ago, as the low-lying, hardwood forests of the Southeastern US were cut down. The bird has been found again, but its future remains uncertain. April 22 is Earth Day. This Earth Day, join with others to conserve the natural resources that sustain the full community of life, for people and for birds. (1556KB)

04/19/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 19, 2007. A Pigeon Guillemot (pronounced GIL-uh-maht), a sprightly seabird, is considered an "indicator species," meaning a species that "indicates" the health of an environment. A large group of Whidbey Island Audubon volunteers has been studying the 1,000 or so guillemots that breed on the island. In April, watch for Pigeon Guillemots bobbing in the water near Puget Sound ferry docks, diving for food off rocky beaches, or perching outside their bluff burrows. (1486KB)

04/18/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 18, 2007. A Mourning Dove lies belly down on the soil of a garden bed. It fluffs its feathers, then relaxes its wings, draping them outward to expose fully its back and rump to the morning sun. The dove appears to drowse, trance-like, its eyes nearly closed. A great many birds sun themselves, often in postures that give maximum sun exposure to the head, neck, and upper surfaces of the body and wings. Sunning may drive out parasites from hard-to-reach places or release vitamin D and boost energy reserves with solar radiation. And it may just feel good, too. (1529KB)

04/17/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 17, 2007. In spring, millions of songbirds--like this Orchard Oriole--migrate north across the Gulf of Mexico, from the Yucatan to the southeastern US. When the weather is good, the trip is easy. But when birds encounter storms or headwinds, many may die. Why risk such an end, when they could migrate north along the length of Mexico? It's likely that many birds evolved to take the potentially perilous trans-Gulf route because it is direct and considerably faster, putting the birds on the best breeding territories more quickly, thus increasing their chances of raising more young. (1494KB)

04/16/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 16, 2007. You're lucky when you get a glance at this bird. Marsh Wrens usually forage out of view, hopping up only for brief moments. Although their color varies regionally, the Marsh Wren is in found in wetlands and marshes across the country. Learn more about this chatty bird at BirdWeb.org. (1506KB)

04/15/2007

As heard on: KOHO - April 15, 2007. Bubbling, cascading, penetrating - the song of the Winter Wren bursts from deep within huckleberry bushes and floats beneath tall, cool evergreen trees. Pound for pound, the Winter Wren has ten times the sound power of a crowing rooster. This tiny wren, using its syrinx (somewhat different from our larynx), can create sounds as it exhales and inhales, allowing the bird to sustain its long, melodious song. It can sustain its song up to eight seconds! To learn more about the Winter Wren, visit BirdWeb.org. (1417KB)

04/14/2007

As heard on: KOHO - April 14, 2007. Like other songbirds at this time of year, the American Goldfinch has recently molted. Its old, worn-down feathers have fallen out, and new ones have grown in. This same bird could have been visiting your feeder during the winter, but you might not have recognized it in its drab winter camouflage. For more information, visit BirdWeb.org. (1443KB)

04/13/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 13, 2007. One of the best studies of a North American bird ever written was published by a citizen-scientist named Margaret Morse Nice. In researching Studies in the Life History of the Song Sparrow, Margaret Nice banded more than 800 Song Sparrows in a 40-acre tract in Ohio. Most of us have neither the time nor 40 acres in which to spend it. But there is still much we can do. Start by keeping a careful record of what birds show up in your yard and when. You can keep your own records, and you can also report them to Cornell University's eBird. (1434KB)

04/12/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 12, 2007. Seabirds have no problem drinking sea water. The salt they take in is absorbed and moves through their blood stream into a pair of salt glands above their eyes. The densely salty fluid is excreted from the nostrils and runs down grooves in the bill. As the drop gets larger, the bird shakes its head to send the salt back to the ocean. A seabird's skull has a pair of grooves for the salt glands right over the eyes. (1457KB)

04/11/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 11, 2007. The Greater Flamingo, an American icon, is as comfortable next to a patio as it is in a tropical lagoon. It is found throughout the Caribbean, in the Galapagos, and from southern Europe across Africa to India. Despite its pencil-thin neck and legs, the flamingo miraculously maintains grace and beauty. But don't let its dainty looks fool you. Flamingoes nesting in the Rift Valley of Africa construct concave columns of mud that rise from lake water so alkaline that it would burn our skin. (1506KB)

04/10/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 10, 2007. The Northern Mockingbird has a broad repertoire. It can mimic everything from other birds to inanimate objects. And it does so at all hours of the day and night. As poet Randall Jarrell put it:
   ... On the willow's highest branch, monopolizing
 Day and night, cheeping, squeaking, soaring,
 The mockingbird is imitating life. ... (1529KB)

04/09/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 09, 2007. In kids' stories, the cat says "Mee-oww." The pig says "Oink, oink." And the owl says, "Who, who?" But this Band-tailed Pigeon may sound like an owl, too--a case of mistaken identity. The song of the American Robin could be confused with that of the Black-headed Grosbeak. And then, there's the Black-capped Chickadee. At certain times of year, the male sings Fee-bee, fee-bee, even though it's not a "phoebe." For more bird songs and calls, check out the Macaulay Library at Cornell University. (1493KB)

04/08/2007

As heard on: KOHO - April 08, 2007. Among the most welcome features of spring is the renewal of bird song. Can you imagine a spring without the voices of birds? The silence would be deafening, the absence of their songs like the loss of one of our primary senses. Rachel Carson's 1962 book, "Silent Spring," helped found the modern environmental movement. When you hear the birds (like the Spotted Towhee) sing this spring, remember Rachel Carson, and be grateful. (1474KB)

04/07/2007

As heard on: KOHO - April 07, 2007. The House Sparrow was first introduced into the U.S. from England in the 1850s, and is now one of the most common birds in the country. The name "House Sparrow" fits it well, because--from Bangor, Maine to San Diego, and Alaska to the Panama Canal--it's found nearly everywhere people live. Read about this feisty, Old World bird at BirdWeb. (1464KB)

04/06/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 06, 2007. The male Bufflehead performs his extravagant courtship display often. He swims toward the female, bobbing his head up and down at a speed that makes you fear for his neck. He takes off and flies over her with head held low. Then he lifts his head, raises his bushy crest, and skis back on to the water. After landing, he thrusts his head forward and raises his wings sharply behind his head. With raised back-feathers, he challenges the other males that have come too close. Learn more about the Bufflehead at BirdWeb. (1428KB)

04/05/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 05, 2007. It's April, but Great Horned Owls have been busy at their nests for two months. Golden Eagles are on their nests as early as the beginning of March. And Red-tailed Hawks begin to lay eggs then, too. Why do these birds of prey begin this annual event so early? It takes a long time to raise a baby hawk or owl to the size at which it can fend for itself. Even though both parents are hunting for and feeding them, such large birds grow slowly. By nesting so early, these raptors fledge their young by the time spring arrives. Learn more about this juvenile Red-tail at BirdWeb. (1512KB)

04/04/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 04, 2007. Back in September, BirdNote began following a tiny Wilson's Warbler as it migrated south from the Pacific Northwest to the tropics. We visited the warbler again in December, on its wintering grounds on a shade-grown coffee farm in Belize. As April arrives, the sprightly bird is migrating northward, with males typically preceding females. Learn more about this Wilson's Warbler on BirdWeb. (1452KB)

04/03/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 03, 2007. The evocative, booming voices of male Greater Prairie-Chickens displaying at dawn were once heard throughout the American Midwest. On its courtship lek, the male bird puffs out the great orange air-sacs at the side of its neck. He erects and flares his tale. His wings droop, but the neck tufts are erect, looking almost like horns. He jumps and whirls! It's an amazing sight. (1486KB)

04/02/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 02, 2007. In its amazing courtship display, a male Rufous Hummingbird rockets upward nearly 75 feet, then rushes down in a J-shaped dive, wings whistling. The Rufous has two intentions for his acrobatic display: to defend his rights to the flowers in his territory and to attract females. After attracting a female, he may drive her low into a shrub and then perform a series of rapid shuttle flights, rocking and twisting in aerial arcs a few inches above her, his wings humming rhythmically. Learn more on BirdWeb. (1512KB)

04/01/2007

As heard on: KOHO - April 01, 2007. High above the clouds caressing the upper reaches of the Cascade Mountains soars the most majestic bird you are never likely to see or hear: the Semi-Fixed-Wing Silver Delirian. With a wingspan of some four yards, a sleek metallic silver body almost as long as its wingspan, and huge winged feet, the Delirian visits our region once a year--April 1--during its annual migration from its home in Tierra del Loco, a remote island promontory rising out of the southern Pacific. (1425KB)

03/31/2007

As heard on: KOHO - March 31, 2007. The small, nondescript Pied-billed Grebe has an astonishing talent. The grebe is the master of its own buoyancy. It can squeeze out both the air trapped in its feathers and in its internal air-sacs--and sink effortlessly. Learn more about the amazing, sinking Pied-billed Grebe at BirdWeb. Watch this grebe sink... GOING... going... (1489KB)

03/30/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 30, 2007. From Hans Christian Anderson. Long ago, in an emperor's garden, lived a Nightingale. The emperor ordered the Nightingale to be brought to him, and she was locked in a golden cage. When the emperor received a mechanical Nightingale, encrusted with jewels, the real Nightingale was banished. Years later, the emperor lay dying, when at the window appeared the Nightingale. She sang until Death slipped out the window. The emperor asked her to stay with him, but she knew her song sounded best in the green wood. Still, she visited him often--and sang and sang. (1478KB)

03/29/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 29, 2007. Why are bluebirds blue? Unlike many other bird colors, blue is not a pigment but a color produced by the structure of the feathers. Tiny air pockets and melanin pigment crystals in each feather scatter blue light and absorb the other wavelengths. The even finer structure of the feather gathers the bouncing blue wavelengths together and directs them outward. That beautiful blue light leaves the feather of this Mountain Bluebird to dazzle the eye of the beholder--a trick of the light. (1428KB)

03/28/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 28, 2007. Bald Eagles build large stick nests in tall trees and reuse them year after year. These nests endure rough treatment. Rambunctious chicks pull sticks out and flap madly, holding on with their feet, before they fledge. Wind buffets the nest year round. (1469KB)

03/27/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 27, 2007. This Great Tit is common in European forests and in city gardens, and the sounds of the city can make their soft whistles hard to hear. So urban Great Tits have modified their behavior, and now sing at a higher pitch and faster than normal. They merely drop the lower-pitched notes from their song, so it carries better over the traffic noise of the city. A bird that has shifted to a higher range is better able to declare its territory and attract a mate. Urban songs are also faster, probably so they can be repeated more often. (1487KB)

03/26/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 26, 2007. Can you name your official state bird? All states have designated an official bird--usually a "pretty" one, or one associated with its particular region. Some state birds are quite common, although some are not at all common. Hawaii's state bird, the Nene, a type of goose, is endangered. The bird chosen by the most states--seven--is the Northern Cardinal, followed by the Western Meadowlark, picked by six. The American Goldfinch is claimed by Washington, Iowa, and New Jersey. (1495KB)

03/25/2007

As heard on: KOHO - March 25, 2007. Hummingbirds' names evoke their exquisite qualities and variety, from sabrewings to woodstars to sunangels--to this Green Violet-ear. Central and South America are home to well over 300 species of hummingbirds! Learn more about Washington's hummingbirds at BirdWeb. (1487KB)

03/24/2007

As heard on: KOHO - March 24, 2007. The Steller's Jay may mimic the call of a Bald Eagle or Red-tailed hawk, to frighten off competitors. These daring blue dandies sound the alarm in evergreen and mixed conifer forests, parks and yards. For more about the Steller's Jay, visit BirdWeb. (1497KB)

03/23/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 23, 2007. Up to 25,000 Lesser Sandhill Cranes pass through Eastern Washington's Columbia Basin each spring on their way between California's Central Valley and their nesting grounds in Alaska. Long-necked and long-legged, this grayish crane stands three feet tall. Elongated feathers create a fluffy bustle, which accentuates its gangly walk. To find out more about the Sandhill Crane and its mating dance, visit BirdWeb.org. (1469KB)

03/22/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 22, 2007. Earth and ocean, wind and light--sustained change in their grand interplay ripples through the natural world. The Northeast Pacific is now almost 2 degrees F warmer than its average temperature for the last 120 years. Breeding success for seabirds depends on the availability of essential prey in ocean waters, and the abundance of this food is, in turn, determined by ocean conditions such as temperature. A steady increase in ocean temperatures may contribute to the lack of food on which the seabirds depend. Many seabirds--including these Common Murres--are finding it harder and harder to fledge chicks. (1456KB)

03/21/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 21, 2007. A young Pacific salmon is carried by a spring freshet to the sea, its arrival in salt water at the mouth of coastal rivers coinciding with the bloom of plankton. Its arrival coincides as well with the advent of spring winds blowing down from the Gulf of Alaska. These winds create upwelling of cold waters from deep in the ocean, waters rich in nutrients and food. It is into these historically welcoming waters that the young salmon swim. But what happens to Pacific salmon when these waters continue to warm as they have for the last 120 years? (1453KB)

03/20/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 20, 2007. Earth and ocean, wind and light, all life depends on their interplay. And when one element of this grand interweaving undergoes sustained change, the effects ripple through the natural world. One such great change occurring now is the warming of the Pacific Ocean. The Northeast Pacific is now almost two degrees Fahrenheit warmer than its average temperature for the last 120 years. Sea temperatures in 2005 were the 7th warmest since 1880. (1448KB)

03/19/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 19, 2007. Spring arrives with the vernal equinox: the point in the year when the sun is positioned directly above the equator, and day and night are nearly equal all over the world. This year, spring arrives in the Pacific Northwest at 4:07PM on March 20, 2007. Learn more about this Ruby-crowned Kinglet, one of spring's most amazing singers, at BirdWeb.org. (1495KB)

03/18/2007

As heard on: KOHO - March 18, 2007. Pacific chorus frogs, less than two inches long, swell their throat sacs to three times the size of their heads to send their calls into the night. When you hear their chorus, be assured that our summer birds will soon arrive. During the breeding season, from early February into June, the male frogs sing loudly, while floating or sitting partially submerged in shallow wetlands, reminding us that rich natural habitats are close by. Find a park or wetland near you at BirdWeb. (1493KB)

03/17/2007

As heard on: KOHO - March 17, 2007. Of the many signs announcing the arrival of spring in the Pacific Northwest, one of the most welcome is the return of Violet-green Swallows. Invite Violet-green Swallows to nest in your yard this spring. They'll add aerobatic flashes of color, while naturally controlling flying insects. (1489KB)

03/16/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 16, 2007. On St. Patrick's Day, we may well wonder: Why are so few of our birds in the United States green, while so many tropical birds wear green proudly? Ornithologist Steve Hilty believes it be a form of protective coloration. Simply put, green birds virtually disappear when they land in a green tree. This Green Jay is about as green a bird as we'll find in the US, and it's seen only in far southern Texas. (In today's show, you heard the Yellow-lored Parrot. The music was provided courtesy of the Toucan Pirates.) (1471KB)

03/15/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 15, 2007. At the display area--or lek--the male Sage Grouse perform for mating rights while the females look on. (1470KB)

03/14/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 14, 2007. The Northern Flicker is a woodpecker, but one that hardly looks the part. Where most woodpeckers are a reliable mix of black, white, and bits of red, the Northern Flicker is buffy tan overall. The undersides of its wings and tail-feathers flash with coppery-red, giving the bird the nickname "Red-shafted Flicker." And if all this weren't enough, it's often found on the ground. Learn more at BirdWeb. (1468KB)

03/13/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 13, 2007. A male Montezuma Oropendola holds forth in a tree bedecked with twenty or more hanging nests. The nests are intricately woven sacks hanging three feet or more from the branches. Oropendolas favor trees that are separate from other trees and often build near large nests of wasps, whose stinging attacks deter both potential nest predators and parasitic insects. Learn more. (1440KB)

03/12/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 12, 2007. In a clearing where an ancient Mayan city once stood, the Montezuma Oropendola perches and sings. His courtship display is astonishing: he swings by his feet and sings, his tail describing a golden pendulum--the very source of his name in Spanish--oropendola. (1434KB)

03/11/2007

As heard on: KOHO - March 11, 2007. Have you heard a mewing and scuffling in the underbrush in winter? It may be a Spotted Towhee. The Spotted Towhee forages mostly on the ground, and even builds its nest on the ground, or close to it. Look for the ruby-red eye that sparkles from its black head. For more information, visit BirdWeb. (1482KB)

03/10/2007

As heard on: KOHO - March 10, 2007. Winter's weak light is finally beginning to strengthen, and some birds, long absent, have begun their journeys north. Wood Ducks, Mourning Doves, and Tree Swallows, such as this one, return with the light. So be of good cheer, the birds and Spring are coming back. Learn more about this swallow at BirdWeb. (1504KB)

03/09/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 09, 2007. "Why the Kiwi Lost its Wings" is a myth from the Maori people of New Zealand. Kiwi loved the forest so much that he forsook his wings and beautiful feathers to dwell on the ground and devour the enemies of the forest. The Kiwi is the national symbol of New Zealand, as depicted on this postage stamp. The New Zealand dollar is even nicknamed "the Kiwi." (1430KB)

03/08/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 08, 2007. Kiwis are so unlike other birds that they've been called "honorary mammals." Kiwis cannot fly, having evolved in New Zealand's island environment without mammalian predators. The only bird to have nostrils at the end of its beak, the kiwi snuffles and snorts as it probes the forest floor for worms and insects. All five species of Kiwi are listed as "threatened." (1437KB)

03/07/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 07, 2007. A hummingbird's brilliant throat feathers are called a "gorget," a term applied in past centuries to the metallic swatch protecting the throat of a knight-in-armor. The intense glint is the result of iridescence, rather than colored pigments. Light waves reflect and refract off the throat feathers, creating color in the manner of sun glinting off a film of oil on water. There's more about hummingbirds at BirdWeb. (1476KB)

03/06/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 06, 2007. It's March, and--following a winter sojourn in Mexico--thousands of fiery-orange male Rufous Hummingbirds are migrating northward, ahead of the females. Many pass through California on their way to breeding sites in the Northwest. (1444KB)

03/05/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 05, 2007. Gray-breasted Wood-Wrens sing a duet. Each sings a different phrase, yet the phrases are so closely linked, it sounds like one song. Such singing is called antiphonal song. The pairs use song to stake out and hold breeding territories. Dueting is most typical of birds that live in dense habitats; it no doubt helps them locate each other in deep cover. (1435KB)

03/04/2007

As heard on: KOHO - March 04, 2007. If you hear the eerie song of the Varied Thrush, you may be in a moist Pacific Northwest forest, in a quiet and private place. We hear few Varied Thrushes in urban and suburban habitats, because the lowland conifer forests of our Puget Sound region today cover less than 1% of their original area. Except in winter, when they gather in loose flocks to move to lower elevations, these shy birds prefer solitude. The intricate pattern of color on its wings resembles dappled sunlight on the forest floor. To learn more about the shy Spotted Towhee, visit BirdWeb. (1530KB)

03/03/2007

As heard on: KOHO - March 03, 2007. As spring begins, the male Red-winged Blackbird brandishes his red epaulets to warn other males away from his patch of cattails. At the same time, he sings to lure females into his marshy territory--many females, in fact. One male may attract up to a dozen females, to form a harem. The male is dressed for defending his territory and attracting a harem; she, for blending into the cattails. (1493KB)

03/02/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 02, 2007. Early spring resounds with the percussive hammering of woodpeckers--including this Pileated Woodpecker. Their rhythmic drumming functions like song, to broadcast over a long distance a clear statement of territory and mating rights. (1445KB)

03/01/2007

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 01, 2007. The Golden-crowned Kinglet weighs six grams, the weight of two pennies, yet it survives under conditions that would make a grizzly bear shiver. Wintering as far north as Alaska and Nova Scotia, with short days, intense cold, and heavy snow, how can kinglets possibly stay alive? Find out more about the Golden-crowned Kinglet at BirdWeb.org. (1463KB)

02/28/2007

As heard on: KPLU - February 28, 2007. Here and there along Washington's winter shorelines, little flocks of pale, silvery shorebirds probe at the water's edge, keeping pace with each wave's ebb and flow. These are Sanderlings, small sandpipers that stay through the winter. Learn more. (1438KB)

02/28/2007

As heard on: KOHO - February 28, 2007. A chill wind ruffles a male Sage Sparrow's feathers as he sings atop a tall sagebrush. It is late February, a few miles from the Columbia River in Central Washington. Sage Sparrows are arriving north from wintering in the Southwest deserts. Learn more. (1460KB)

02/27/2007

As heard on: KOHO - February 27, 2007. On a calm winter morning, you're apt to hear cackling, grunting, and croaking calls across a still lake. These sounds are made by American Coots, which settle in winter in huge numbers on the lakes and estuaries of Puget Sound lowlands. Learn more. (1507KB)

02/27/2007

As heard on: KPLU - February 27, 2007. The American Dipper, a chubby, gray songbird, makes its living in the boulder-strewn rapids of mountain streams. The dipper starts to belt out its sprightly song while icicles still hang thickly from frozen waterfalls. Learn more. (1474KB)

02/26/2007

As heard on: KPLU - February 26, 2007. The emphatic hoots of a pair of Barred Owls resonate in the still of a February night. Like many Northwest owls, Barred Owls initiate their vocal courtship in winter. One of our largest resident owls--a perching bird is 21 inches tall--Barred Owls are also the most vocal. Learn more. (1436KB)

02/24/2007

As heard on: KOHO - February 24, 2007. Formerly called the Rock Dove, the Rock Pigeon is the quintessential urban bird. Learn more. (1490KB)

02/24/2007

As heard on: KOHO - February 24, 2007. A Rock Pigeon bobs its head as it walks. It appears that its head and feet are linked. Pigeons' eyes are on the sides of their heads, permitting them to watch for predators from all directions, but limiting their ability to distinguish distances. To compensate, these birds move their heads. Learn more. (1538KB)

02/23/2007

As heard on: KPLU - February 23, 2007. From Japanese folklore comes the tale of "The Crane Wife." Long ago, a poor man found an injured crane and nursed it back to health. Not long after the crane took wing again, a beautiful young woman appeared at the man's door, and she became his wife. Read on. (1459KB)

02/23/2007

As heard on: KOHO - February 23, 2007. Tree Swallows and Western Bluebirds are among the earliest northbound migrants to arrive in Washington, heralding spring a month before the equinox. Both species will nest only in cavities, such as old woodpecker holes or man-made nestboxes. But the supply is limited. Learn more. (1490KB)

02/22/2007

As heard on: KOHO - February 22, 2007. Movie-makers love to add bird sounds to a film, to evoke a mood or set a scene. For all the attention to some details though, nature's details often get a little mixed up--like an Australian Laughing Kookaburra guffawing in the depths of the Florida Everglades? For a jungle sound, it's hard to beat the territorial call of a Pied-billed Grebe, a bird that is widespread and common across the US. Learn more about this vocalizer and others at BirdWeb.org. (1509KB)

02/22/2007

As heard on: KOHO - February 22, 2007. Movie-makers love to add bird sounds to a film, to evoke a mood or set a scene. For all the attention to some details though, nature's details often get a little mixed up--like an Australian Laughing Kookaburra guffawing in the depths of the Florida Everglades? For a jungle sound, it's hard to beat the territorial call of a Pied-billed Grebe, a bird that is widespread and common across the US. Learn more about this vocalizer and others at BirdWeb.org. (1481KB)

02/22/2007

As heard on: KPLU - February 22, 2007. Because many birds are largely silent in winter, it may seem that they have left us. But many remain, and even the shy and secretive sometimes reveal themselves. A Winter Wren may dart from hiding to grab a meal. Learn more. (1447KB)

02/21/2007

As heard on: KOHO - February 21, 2007. As the days grow longer in late winter, the lengthening light helps trigger a bird's urge to really sing. A male House Finch breaks into his rich, jumbled phrases, followed by the Spotted Towhee's heavy, metallic trill. Learn more. (1479KB)

02/21/2007

As heard on: KPLU - February 21, 2007. Head to sea from the Northwest coast, and you'll see birds you don't see from shore--including Northern Fulmars (pronounced ful-marz). Related to shearwaters and petrels, the fulmar will eat just about anything it find on the surface of the ocean, from fish and squids to dead whales. Learn more. (1467KB)

02/20/2007

As heard on: KOHO - February 20, 2007. Imagine going into battle with a Bald Eagle as a mascot, screaming high overhead. If this sounds a bit melodramatic, it just might be. But a cavalry regiment from Wisconsin actually had an eagle that accompanied it during the Civil War. Learn more. (1474KB)

02/20/2007

As heard on: KPLU - February 20, 2007. The plight of the gravely endangered Spotted Owl illustrates the imperiled status of old-growth forest in the Pacific Northwest. More than 90% of that forest is gone, a percentage that dwarfs even the worldwide loss of tropical forests and wetlands. Learn more. (1440KB)

02/19/2007

As heard on: KPLU - February 19, 2007. A Spotted Owl hoots from deep within a Northwest forest, calling out a four-note sequence distinctive of the species. We know the Spotted Owl best as an unwitting symbol of an ongoing political and economic struggle. We've seen its dark eyes peering from the pages of a newspaper. Learn more. (1455KB)

02/19/2007

As heard on: KOHO - February 19, 2007. An amazing variety of shorebirds, seabirds, diving ducks, and other waterfowl can be found where land and water meet--and you can see them from the train! A startled Great Blue Heron rises from a marsh, ducks scuttle away, and goldeneyes take flight... (1444KB)

02/17/2007

As heard on: KOHO - February 17, 2007. Winter is a great time to travel to Latin America for birdwatching. And if you go, consider hiring a local nature guide. Local guides, including those that specialize in birds, are often listed in travel books or are available through hotels or nature preserves. Learn more. (1536KB)

02/16/2007

As heard on: KOHO - February 16, 2007. There are two subspecies of Mountain Chickadee represented in Washington. One population inhabits the eastern Cascades and one population inhabits the Blue Mountains and northeast corner of the state. Learn more. (1549KB)

02/16/2007

As heard on: KPLU - February 16, 2007. The weekend of February 16 through 19 is the annual Great Backyard Bird Count, sponsored by the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. Birders across the country count birds in parks or fields or their own back yards, and then report the numbers on-line. Learn how! (1447KB)

02/15/2007

As heard on: KOHO - February 15, 2007. Many years ago, when rivers began flowing from the mountains to the sea, the animals couldn't agree on their course. Raven wanted the rivers to turn and wind, so that as he flew up and down them, he would have different views at every bend. Mink disagreed. Learn more. (1445KB)

02/15/2007

As heard on: KPLU - February 15, 2007. The term "swan song" has an old and intriguing lineage. The ancient Greeks believed that swans remained silent most of their lives, singing an exquisite, heartrending lament only at the moment of their death. Even the great classical philosopher Plato believed the tale. Learn more. (1470KB)

02/14/2007

As heard on: KOHO - February 14, 2007. Cupid, a Roman god of love--who often turns up on Valentine cards--is not the only winged being linked to February 14. Medieval Europeans believed that many birds mated on this day, underscoring Valentine's Day's natural link to affection and courtship. Learn more. (1495KB)

02/14/2007

As heard on: KPLU - February 14, 2007. Swans have long exalted the human heart. Among the world's most magnificent creatures, swans inspire us today, Valentine's Day. On a lake, an adult pair of swans glides serenely, side by side, a classic symbol of love. And they have earned their reputation for fidelity. Learn more. (1465KB)

02/13/2007

As heard on: KOHO - February 13, 2007. Crows and other birds groom each other while sitting side by side on a wire or branch. One stretches out its neck, and the groomer, or preener, twirls individual feathers in its beak, often starting at the back of the head and working around to the front. Learn more. (1488KB)

02/13/2007

As heard on: KPLU - February 13, 2007. Well-known birding expert David Sibley notes that the territories of all but one regularly occurring land-bird species in the "Lower 48" can be seen from a paved surface. That means plenty of birds to view from a car. But what's that one bird? Learn more. (1454KB)

02/12/2007

As heard on: KOHO - February 12, 2007. Listen to the earth awaken as dawn circles the globe. (1421KB)

02/10/2007

As heard on: KOHO - February 10, 2007. The flightless Ostrich is a bird of superlatives...the largest and tallest bird on the planet...some growing to fully eight feet tall, and weighing 250 pounds! It's also the fastest creature on two legs, capable of running at 40 miles an hour. Learn more. (1535KB)

02/09/2007

As heard on: KOHO - February 09, 2007. What is the connection between the blood-curdling roar of a Tyrannosaurus rex and the gentle song of a robin? A recent bonanza of fossils has intensified debate over how contemporary birds are linked to the extinct dinosaurs. The evidence and theories are complex. Learn more. (1486KB)

02/09/2007

As heard on: KPLU - February 09, 2007. It's hard to imagine that the boisterous Steller's Jay could possibly have a softer aspect to its blustery behavior. But it does. It's called the "whisper song." Male jays use this whisper song during courtship, and it also emanates from solitary birds for no apparent reason. Learn more. (1441KB)

02/08/2007

As heard on: KOHO - February 08, 2007. During winter, the flocks of Dark-eyed Juncos crowding our feeders have earned the nickname, "snow-birds." They show up in autumn as snow begins to fall in the mountains, and stay until spring. Learn more. (1488KB)

02/07/2007

As heard on: KOHO - February 07, 2007. In most birds--if the sexes vary at all in size--the male is larger. But with many hawks and falcons, the pattern is reversed. And female birds of prey are most notably bigger than males among hawk species that hunt agile prey, such as other birds. Learn more. (1441KB)

02/07/2007

As heard on: KPLU - February 07, 2007. House Finches are familiar birds all across North America. Researchers have shown that the red coloration of males is produced from carotenoid pigments contained in the birds' diet. Male House Finches develop brighter plumage when they are growing in new feathers, if they eat more fruits containing carotenoids. Learn more. (1453KB)

02/06/2007

As heard on: KOHO - February 06, 2007. The Northern Shrike breeds in the tundra and taiga of the north, but migrates south into the lower 48 for the winter. It has a pleasing and rhythmical song, which it sings even in winter. But its song belies a rather bloodthirsty feeding habit. What's the story? (1494KB)

02/06/2007

As heard on: KPLU - February 06, 2007. Scientists recently attached tiny electronic tags to Sooty Shearwaters, then tracked the birds' annual oceanic movements. The Sooty Shearwaters flew enormous, migratory figure-eights from Antarctic waters to the coastal currents off California, Alaska, and Japan--and then returned south. How far did they fly? To learn more, click here. (1464KB)

02/05/2007

As heard on: KPLU - February 05, 2007. A Tropical Kingbird visited Magnuson Park in Seattle in November, 2006. It thrilled local birders with its presence for nine days, then disappeared as mysteriously as it appeared. Tropical Kingbirds are seen almost every year somewhere in Washington. But why? Learn more. (1475KB)

02/05/2007

As heard on: KOHO - February 05, 2007. There is a legend--that of a huge bird called the Thunderbird--whose origins remain a mystery, even to Native Americans. According to myth, Thunderbird was so large and flew so high, it carried the rain on its back and created lightning and thunder. Learn more. (1486KB)

02/04/2007

As heard on: KOHO - February 04, 2007. Tall and prehistoric-looking, the Great Blue Heron is Seattle's official "City Bird." With a six-foot wing-span, it is the largest heron in North America, and it's found all over the state of Washington! Learn more. (1515KB)

02/03/2007

As heard on: KOHO - February 03, 2007. In winter, a foraging flock might include several species of birds: chickadees, kinglets, and even a Downy Woodpecker. Many bird species eat alone, so you might wonder why these birds have chosen to dine together. Learn more. (1435KB)

02/02/2007

As heard on: KPLU - February 02, 2007. Mt. Rainier's majestic, snow-capped crown is the pre-eminent landmark of our region. Its glaciers and snowmelt nourish some of our richest natural habitats, including the Nisqually Delta. This meeting of waters is a lush expanse of marsh, tidelands, and tree-lined streams. And you're invited to a field trip there--this Saturday! Learn more. (1440KB)

02/01/2007

As heard on: KOHO - February 01, 2007. In a mature Pacific Northwest forest, western hemlocks, Douglas firs, and western red cedars tower over you. Many were saplings, pushing their way through the forest's understory, when Captain Vancouver explored Puget Sound more than 200 years ago. Learn more. (1445KB)

02/01/2007

As heard on: KPLU - February 01, 2007. Birders and waterfowl hunters share essential values: a fascination with ducks and geese--and a commitment to conserving wetlands. Go on a field trip to see Washington's wintering ducks and geese--click here! (1444KB)

01/31/2007

As heard on: KPLU - January 31, 2007. Bald Eagles have it pretty good in Washington in fall and winter. Nature sets out a sumptuous buffet for many hundreds of eagles during the colder months. But some commuting is required, because this is a moveable feast. Learn more. (1452KB)

01/30/2007

As heard on: KPLU - January 30, 2007. Why are blackbirds black? One possible answer is that black is conspicuous against just about all of Nature's backgrounds. So if a bird wants to be seen, black isn't a bad color to be. But why would a blackbird want to be seen? Learn more. (1451KB)

01/30/2007

As heard on: KOHO - January 30, 2007. The structure and delicate softness of a Barn Owl's feathers allow it to approach its prey almost silently. Its skillful hunting is enhanced by exceptional sight and acute hearing. The owl's ability to locate prey by sound is the most precise of any animal yet tested. Learn more. (1527KB)

01/29/2007

As heard on: KOHO - January 29, 2007. Snow Geese migrate long distances, stopping at traditional stopover and wintering areas. Washington's population nests on Wrangel Island in Russia, northwest of the Bering Strait, and winters on the deltas of the Samish, Stillaguamish, and Skagit Rivers. Learn more. (1486KB)

01/29/2007

As heard on: KPLU - January 29, 2007. It's winter in the Pacific Northwest. Let's blow this chilly puddle and head to the Amazon! With names like the Screaming Piha, the Blue-crowned Motmot, and the Black-necked Red-Cotinga, these are not your average birds. Learn more. (1417KB)

01/27/2007

As heard on: KOHO - January 27, 2007. During winter, Bald Eagles retreat from the territories where they breed, to seek out rivers rich with spawning and spent salmon. The Upper Skagit River in northwest Washington is a favorite sashimi restaurant for hundreds of eagles. Learn more. (1457KB)

01/26/2007

As heard on: KOHO - January 26, 2007. How did the familiar American Robin get its name? When English settlers in the New World encountered this new bird, they saw in it a reflection of the bird they knew as the Robin--or Robin Redbreast--of the old country. So they called this one a Robin, too. Learn more. (1444KB)

01/26/2007

As heard on: KPLU - January 26, 2007. Can you guess how many feathers cover a Canada Goose? A single Canada Goose has between 20 and 25 thousand feathers. Some are designed to help the bird fly or shed water. Many are the short, fluffy kind, the down, whose purpose is to insulate the bird from the cold. Learn more. (1499KB)

01/25/2007

As heard on: KOHO - January 25, 2007. High in a leafless cottonwood sits a female Great Horned Owl, her broad head sporting two ear-like tufts. She is incubating two eggs. A light snow falls on her back, as her mate roosts nearby. Since December, this pair has been hooting back and forth regularly at night. Learn more. (1487KB)

01/25/2007

As heard on: KPLU - January 25, 2007. Arctic Terns look much like Common Terns, but both their bill and their legs are shorter. They feed in exactly the same way, so why would the Arctic Tern's bill and legs be shorter? Because Arctic Terns breed in the Arctic and winter in the Antarctic, they are subject to much colder weather than are Common Terns. Learn more. (1482KB)

01/24/2007

As heard on: KOHO - January 24, 2007. When Silent Spring came out in 1962, linking DDT to the decline of many birds, peoples' first thoughts were of songbirds. Who could have known then that the Peregrine Falcon would become first a casualty and then one of the biggest success stories of all? Learn more. (1449KB)

01/24/2007

As heard on: KPLU - January 24, 2007. A pint-sized Northern Pygmy-Owl, not much bigger than a pine cone, hoots from a tree-top on a winter morning. Before long, this rufous-brown diurnal owl--a determined predator of small birds and mammals--attracts a mob of a dozen or more small birds. What are they doing? (1467KB)

01/23/2007

As heard on: KOHO - January 23, 2007. A bird known as Titanus walleri [pronounced tye-TAN-iss WALL-er-eye] made its home in Florida just a few million years ago. Titanus, as its name suggests, was titanic indeed--a flightless predator, ten feet tall, with a massive hooked bill. Learn more. (1436KB)

01/23/2007

As heard on: KPLU - January 23, 2007. John Burroughs, one of the masters of American nature writing, wrote "The birds do indeed begin with the day. The farmer who is in the field at work while he can yet see stars catches their first matin hymns. In the longest June days the robin strikes up about half past three o'clock?" He wrote poetry, too. Learn more. (1457KB)

01/22/2007

As heard on: KPLU - January 22, 2007. John Burroughs was probably the most popular nature writer of the late 19th Century. Many consider Burroughs the founder of the modern nature essay. Yet Burroughs wrote not about nature on a grand scale, but about glimpses of nature close to home. Learn more. (1447KB)

01/21/2007

As heard on: KOHO - January 21, 2007. Crows are among the cleverest birds in the world. Some even use tools. (1483KB)

01/20/2007

As heard on: KOHO - January 20, 2007. Is that big black bird a crow or a raven? How can you tell? Ravens often travel in pairs, while crows are seen in larger groups. Also, study the tail as the bird flies overhead. A crow's tail is shaped like a fan, while the raven's tail appears wedge-shaped. Learn more. (1501KB)

01/19/2007

As heard on: KOHO - January 19, 2007. Along the Columbia River, apples litter the ground, and a few still hang, frozen and thawed again and again. Suddenly a flock of hundreds of birds rises from the ground beneath the apple trees, swarming in tight formation, wing-tip to wing-tip. What are these birds? (1463KB)

01/19/2007

As heard on: KPLU - January 19, 2007. There is an element of luck in birdwatching, and sometimes that luck is mostly bad. A birder may have a target bird so elusive that the bird becomes a kind of "jinx bird." But a real bird was once known by that name! The bird once called the "jynx" is known today as the Eurasian Wryneck. When a wryneck is threatened at its nest-hole, it twists its head like a snake and hisses. This behavior led to the wryneck being invoked in witchcraft to put a spell or a jinx on someone. (1445KB)

01/18/2007

As heard on: KOHO - January 18, 2007. The eye of an eagle is one of the most sensitive of any animal, and may weigh more than the eagle's brain. The secret to the exceptional vision lies in its retina. The density of rods and cones within a raptor's eye may be five times that of a human's. Learn more. (1462KB)

01/18/2007

As heard on: KPLU - January 18, 2007. No group of birds commands more respect than the falcons. Hurtling through the air on blade-like wings, falcons rank among the fastest of birds and the most adept at capturing prey in flight. Learn more. (1483KB)

01/17/2007

As heard on: KOHO - January 17, 2007. Thousands of sea ducks (including goldeneyes, scoters, Harlequins, and more), as well as other marine birds, descend on Puget Sound each fall. But over the last 30 years, the numbers of some, particularly scoters, have dropped dramatically. Learn more. (1453KB)

01/17/2007

As heard on: KPLU - January 17, 2007. Does the thought of a frozen birdbath bring to mind the comic image of a small, yellow bird with ice skates? We can't guarantee that Woodstock will show up, but you?ll make a lot of other feathered visitors happy if you keep a birdbath going in winter, preferably UNfrozen. Learn more. (1494KB)

01/16/2007

As heard on: KOHO - January 16, 2007. On August 22, 1805, near present-day Kamiah, Idaho, Captain William Clark of the westbound Lewis and Clark expedition first found the bird that today bears his name: Clark's Nutcracker. The Clark's Nutcracker lives in symbiosis with whitebark pines. Learn more. (1537KB)

01/16/2007

As heard on: KPLU - January 16, 2007. Kittiwakes were well known to even the earliest northern seafarers. Named for its rhythmic calls, the Black-legged Kittiwake as it is known in North America--it's also known as the Common Kittiwake--is a dapper, oceanic gull. As famously described by Roger Tory Peterson, the tips of its pale gray wings "are cut straight across, as if they had been dipped in ink." Learn more. (1453KB)

01/15/2007

As heard on: KPLU - January 15, 2007. The Violaceous Trogon, which nests in Mexico, Central America, and northern South America, often excavates its dwelling within a large, active wasps' nest. It begins by devouring some of the wasps, then digs a cavity large enough to accommodate the birds and their eggs. Learn more. (1454KB)

01/15/2007

As heard on: KOHO - January 15, 2007. The call of the Common Loon brings to mind a summer visit to northern lakes with sunny blue skies. A "yodel" call is given by males on their breeding territories. Although Common Loons rarely breed in Washington State, large numbers do visit during winter. Learn more. (1518KB)

01/14/2007

As heard on: KOHO - January 14, 2007. One crow is just a crow. Two make a pair. Three might be a crowd, but a group of crows is called "a murder." A fitting name for a bunch of rascals! Such labels are not used by ornithologists, but they add a bit of fun to the study of birds. How did such names--known as "collective nouns"--come about? Learn more. (1503KB)

01/12/2007

As heard on: KOHO - January 12, 2007. We've all heard about the "early bird" getting the "worm." We know it as sound advice about initiative and timely action. Recent research into three North American woodland bird species shows, however, that birds dining early and heavily may lower their life expectancy. Learn more. (1511KB)

01/11/2007

As heard on: KPLU - January 11, 2007. Picture a streamlined, sparkling white seabird, with a red spear of a bill and luxuriantly long tail-streamers. With the strong, direct flight of a falcon, a tropicbird can catch a flying fish on the wing, or plunge like an arrow into the sea and--with its serrated bill--capture a squid. Learn more. (1467KB)

01/10/2007

As heard on: KOHO - January 10, 2007. Long ago the tide did not ebb and flow, but stayed close to shore. The people went hungry because the clams lay hidden under water. Raven had a plan. He put on his cloak of black feathers and flew along the shore to the house of the old woman who held the tide-line firmly in her hand? (1597KB)

01/10/2007

As heard on: KPLU - January 10, 2007. Both the Willow Ptarmigan and the White-tailed Ptarmigan, feathered mostly brown in summer, are utterly transfigured by an autumn molt. As snow begins to mantle their world, both species of ptarmigan?now dressed all in white?blend in superbly. In winter, the Willow Ptarmigan's tail is black, and that of the White-tailed Ptarmigan is, well, white. Learn more. (1476KB)

01/09/2007

As heard on: KPLU - January 09, 2007. Watch the chickadees at your feeder. You'll see one come in, quickly grab a seed, and fly away. Now, keep watching that chickadee. It may return immediately, but it's more likely to wait its turn. When a whole flock of chickadees moves into your yard, it looks as if they form a living conveyer belt. Learn more. (1459KB)

01/08/2007

As heard on: KOHO - January 08, 2007. The Townsend's Solitaire and Townsend's Warbler carry the name of John Kirk Townsend, an early American naturalist. At age twenty-four, the Philadelphia-born Townsend joined up with the 1834 Wyeth Expedition, crossing the Rockies to the Pacific Ocean. Learn more. (1521KB)

01/08/2007

As heard on: KPLU - January 08, 2007. When a Black-capped Chickadee visits your feeder, you may find its cousin, the Chestnut-backed Chickadee, tagging along. The Chestnut-back has a black head with a large white cheek patch, but its back and sides are a rich chestnut brown. And the birds sound different, too! Learn more. (1450KB)

01/07/2007

As heard on: KOHO - January 07, 2007. In the Amazon, heat and humidity weigh upon you and a cacophony of birdcalls surrounds you. One piercing, cheerful yelp catches your ear. Could this be the same sound you remember from a Saturday morning in your childhood? What bird is it? (1430KB)

01/06/2007

As heard on: KOHO - January 06, 2007. The swallows that make mud nests in spring and catch flying insects all summer are now far south in Mexico, and Central and South America. It's only as recently as the end of the nineteenth century that ornithologists agreed that swallows migrate. Learn more. (1889KB)

01/05/2007

As heard on: KPLU - January 05, 2007. Did you ever wonder why jaywalking is called JAY-walking? Crossing a street in disregard of traffic signals seems unlikely activity for a jay bird. The term "jaywalking" originated in 1917. Cars had recently become common and, for the first time, the act of stepping out into traffic posed a problem. What does this have to do with jays? (1467KB)

01/03/2007

As heard on: KOHO - January 03, 2007. One bird of prey may steal another's meal, a behavior that biologists call piracy, or kleptoparasitism. The prey may change hands several times, perhaps from harrier to Peregrine to eagle. It's all in a bird's day on the Samish Flats. Learn more. (1437KB)

01/03/2007

As heard on: KPLU - January 03, 2007. Unlike many other birds that have an inherent sense of direction and destination, Whooping Cranes have to learn their migration route. Enter Operation Migration and ultralight aircraft to lead them on their journey! Fortunately, the Whooping Cranes need to be shown the way only once.
February, 2007--The BirdNote team was saddened by the news that 17 of the 18 young Whooping Cranes that made it to Florida in December, 2006, were killed in a freak storm this month. (1458KB)

01/02/2007

As heard on: KOHO - January 02, 2007. Among the marvels that Meriwether Lewis discovered was a beautiful bird that would later bear his name: Lewis's Woodpecker. Unlike most woodpeckers that spend most of their time with their bellies pressed against a tree trunk, Lewis's Woodpecker is an aerial artist. Learn more. (1888KB)

01/01/2007

As heard on: KPLU - January 01, 2007. January 1st marks the first day of a new year. A fresh chance to have what birders call a Big Year, the ultra marathon of competitive birding. During a Big Year, a few obsessive birders race to see as many species as they can in a specified area. 365 days equals a lot of birding! Learn more. (1499KB)

12/31/2006

As heard on: KOHO - December 31, 2006. Just for a LARK, MARTIN and JAY decided to have a SWALLOW. MARTIN's car, a FALCON, was low on PETREL, so he said, "Let's DUCK into a local tavern--TERN here." They had to show IDs at the door, to prove they weren't TANAGERS. Read on. (1508KB)

12/30/2006

As heard on: KOHO - December 30, 2006. Creatures of the natural world, including honeybees, respond with exquisite sensitivity to the intensity and duration of the sun's light. Their lives and ours depend on the daily transformation of sunlight, through photosynthesis, into energy available to sustain us. Learn more. (1485KB)

12/29/2006

As heard on: KOHO - December 29, 2006. Lots of people keep lists of the birds they see--yard lists, trip lists when they travel, state lists, or even a year's worth of birds. You don't have to keep a list to enjoy birds, but the variety you see in your own yard might surprise you. Learn more. (1506KB)

12/28/2006

As heard on: KPLU - December 28, 2006. Long-legged herons--as well as short-legged ducks, geese, hawks, gulls and many other birds--roost in a peg-legged stance while keeping the other leg tucked up into the body feathers for warmth. What's going on? And can you name this bird? Click here to find out! (1436KB)

12/28/2006

As heard on: KOHO - December 28, 2006. A stiff December breeze blowing down the Columbia River delivers an exhilarating chill. A stretch of river near Bridgeport, in north-central Washington, is held tightly by a series of dams, creating a series of massive lakes--lakes which, in winter, harbor thousands of water-birds. Learn more. (1508KB)

12/27/2006

As heard on: KOHO - December 27, 2006. A winter morning in Oaxaca, Mexico--a great time to visit old friends from the Pacific Northwest. Yellow-rumped Warblers and Western Tanagers--Northwest summer-nesters that winter in western Mexico--mingle with resident Berylline Hummingbirds. Learn more. (1481KB)

12/27/2006

As heard on: KPLU - December 27, 2006. Common even in winter, Black-capped Chickadees were tallied at more than a thousand on a recent Christmas Bird Count in Fairbanks, Alaska. These chickadees weigh less than half an ounce. How can such fragile creatures survive the rigors of winter at high latitudes? Learn more. (1472KB)

12/26/2006

As heard on: KOHO - December 26, 2006. December 26th is known in the British Isles and elsewhere as St. Stephen's Day, in honor of the first Christian martyr. Beginning in the Sixteenth Century, local lads would go forth for a yearly wren hunt. The wren was protected the rest of the year. Learn more. (1517KB)

12/26/2006

As heard on: KPLU - December 26, 2006. The Pileated (also pronounced PILL-e-a-ted) Woodpecker makes loud, hard whacks, as it leans back and then slams its chisel of a bill into the side of a living tree. Sounds painful, if not downright disabling! How does the woodpecker's brain withstand it? Learn more. (1490KB)

12/25/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - December 25, 2006. The Twelve Days of Christmas began as a French secular love song. A woman's generous "true love" delivers gifts over the twelve days. The first seven days' gifts are all birds. The song's age is uncertain, but likely dates to at least the Sixteenth Century. Learn more. (1467KB)

12/24/2006

As heard on: KOHO - December 24, 2006. Winter brings wondrous birds. Unrivalled among these is the majestic Gyrfalcon, a regal visitor from the Arctic where it nests. "Gyrs" are among the largest falcons in the world, with the female--the larger of the sexes--outranking even a Red-tailed Hawk in size. Learn more. (1483KB)

12/23/2006

As heard on: KOHO - December 23, 2006. Some bird songs leave us in admiration of their beauty, some with a sense of wonder at their complexity--and others are downright comical. This male Willow Ptarmigan from the shrubby willow tundra seems like he might be doing his best to make others laugh. Learn more. (1889KB)

12/22/2006

As heard on: KPLU - December 22, 2006. Hunters have invented nicknames for waterfowl, names that capture the distinctive sound and sight of these birds, such as: "Whistler" for the sibilance of the goldeneye's wings in flight; "Skunkhead coot" for the bold black-and-white markings of the drake Surf Scoter; and "Baldpate" on account of the drake wigeon's domed white head. There are others, too--click here. (1446KB)

12/21/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - December 21, 2006. In The Golden Bough, Sir James Frazer describes early Europeans building solstice fires at year's end to strengthen the sun. Seeing the sun steadily weakening, steadily falling in its arc across the sky, they did what they could to restore it to health. Learn more. (1452KB)

12/20/2006

As heard on: KOHO - December 20, 2006. You've bundled up for the cold December weather and set off for a bird walk. The expected winter birds flutter past: chickadees, juncos, robins, even the lovely Varied Thrush. Then a Barn Swallow swoops overhead. How can this be? Swallows in winter? (1518KB)

12/20/2006

As heard on: KPLU - December 20, 2006. Birds in flocks almost invariably develop a pecking order. The term comes from studies of chickens, in which it was found that there was an alpha chicken that could peck any other in the flock, and a beta chicken that could peck all others but the alpha, etc. Juncos and other small birds have a pecking order, too. Learn more. (1523KB)

12/19/2006

As heard on: KOHO - December 19, 2006. Right now a flock of Bar-headed Geese could be flying over Mt. Everest. These champions of high-altitude migration leave their nesting grounds in Tibet and scale the Himalayan range on their way to wintering grounds in the lowlands of India. How do they breathe at such high altitudes? (1511KB)

12/19/2006

As heard on: KPLU - December 19, 2006. In World War I, messages could be sent over field phones. But conditions of war--particularly at the front where battles raged--often made laying phone wires impossible. Pigeons were crucial in relaying messages from the front to positions behind the lines. Learn more. (1488KB)

12/18/2006

As heard on: KOHO - December 18, 2006. Birds usually fly relatively low. Most of the year, they stay under 500 feet. During migration, though, birds gain altitude, and many species fly at 2,000 to 5,000 feet or higher, using prevailing winds to assist them. The Ruppell's Griffon holds the record. How high did it fly? (1469KB)

12/18/2006

As heard on: KPLU - December 18, 2006. The Greater Honeyguide's demanding call is not aimed at a member of its own species. The honeyguide, true to its name, uses its calls to guide people in search of honey directly to bee hives. How does this work? Learn more. (1435KB)

12/17/2006

As heard on: KOHO - December 17, 2006. Have you ever watched ducks walking around in freezing temperatures and wondered why their feet don't freeze? The ducks seem oblivious to the cold, even as they stand on ice-covered lakes and streams. And how do songbirds sit on metal perches with no problem? Learn more. (1500KB)

12/15/2006

As heard on: KPLU - December 15, 2006. BirdNote works with The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds to enrich your appreciation of the birds around us. Housed at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York, The Macaulay Library maintains the largest collection of bird sounds in the world: 160,000! Learn more. (1466KB)

12/14/2006

As heard on: KOHO - December 14, 2006. As December days shorten, birds spend the long, cold nights in a protected place, sheltered from rain and safe from nighttime predators. Small forest birds, such as nuthatches and creepers may spend the night huddled together in tree cavities. Learn more. (1486KB)

12/14/2006

As heard on: KPLU - December 14, 2006. The sweet, bell-like tones of the Kauai O'o were heard for the last time nearly twenty years ago. The native birds of the Hawaiian Islands, like birds of many island groups, have been hard hit by changes brought about by humans. Learn more. (1443KB)

12/13/2006

As heard on: KOHO - December 13, 2006. Nearly 400 years ago, Portuguese explorers sailing the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar, came upon an archipelago now named the Mascarene Islands. On one of these islands, Mauritius, these sailors were the first Europeans to lay eyes on the odd, flightless bird known as the Dodo. Learn more. (1466KB)

12/13/2006

As heard on: KPLU - December 13, 2006. Buffleheads have returned to the Pacific Northwest for the winter, down from the boreal forests of the north where they breed. These birds are monogamous and often return to the same wintering area. Learn more. (1452KB)

12/12/2006

As heard on: KOHO - December 12, 2006. The native Douglas squirrel is a pint-sized, chestnut-red resident of forests west of the Cascade rim. They waste no time in telling you--and other squirrels--you're in their territory, particularly if you're near their central larder of conifer cones. Learn more. (1511KB)

12/11/2006

As heard on: KOHO - December 11, 2006. Why does the American Dipper dip? One possibility is that the dipper's repetitive bobbing, against a background of turbulent water, helps conceal the bird's image from predators. A second theory asserts that dipping helps the bird spot prey beneath the surface of the water. Other ideas? (1523KB)

12/11/2006

As heard on: KPLU - December 11, 2006. In early September, we followed the tiny Wilson?s Warbler as it began its long migration to the Central American country of Belize, where it winters. It's December now, and the warbler returned safely to its winter home a month ago. Navigating by the stars, this 1/4-ounce bird made a series of night flights spanning more than 2500 miles. Learn more. (1446KB)

12/10/2006

As heard on: KOHO - December 10, 2006. A songbird the color of wet, gray stones, the American Dipper stands on a rock in a stream, bobbing up and down on its long legs--"dipping"--hence the name. But watch! This nondescript bird steps off a small boulder right into the torrent, and begins to peer under water. Learn more. (1586KB)

12/08/2006

As heard on: KPLU - December 08, 2006. The chicken is perhaps the most widespread avian species in the world--and the exotic Red Jungle Fowl is the ancestor of the hybrid Araucanas and Rhode Island Red. Why is the crowing of a rooster so regular, so persistent? Learn more. (1495KB)

12/07/2006

As heard on: KOHO - December 07, 2006. As the winter sun sinks over the Coulee Lakes, hundreds of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches suddenly appear, an undulating cloud that swarms into the upper levels of the basalt cliffs. The finches nest high in the mountains in summer, and roam the countryside in large flocks in winter. Learn more. (1495KB)

12/07/2006

As heard on: KPLU - December 07, 2006. An Anna's Hummingbird is a year-round resident as far north as southern British Columbia. How is it possible that a bird that weighs just four grams, lacks insulating down feathers, and needs to eat roughly twice its weight a day could possibly make it through a freezing Northwest night? Learn how--click here! (1453KB)

12/06/2006

As heard on: KPLU - December 06, 2006. During late December, birdwatchers will be out counting birds in the annual "Christmas Bird Count." Audubon societies across the United States (as well as in other countries) sponsor these daylong counts. To learn how you can get involved, click here. (1483KB)

12/05/2006

As heard on: KPLU - December 05, 2006. Why the Robin Has a Red Breast, from the Suquamish tradition: Many years ago, South Wind blew hot and long. The animals banded together and found the source of the wind?a fortress atop a rocky mountain. At night, the animals crept into the fortress and vanquished the men who protected the South Wind. Then what? (1473KB)

12/04/2006

As heard on: KOHO - December 04, 2006. In many songbirds, the song-producing apparatus known as the syrinx is not much bigger than a raindrop. Extremely efficient, it uses nearly all the air that passes through it. By contrast, a human creates sound using only two percent of the air exhaled through the larynx. Learn more. (1425KB)

12/04/2006

As heard on: KPLU - December 04, 2006. In a tropical woodland in eastern Australia, you might glimpse a Southern Cassowary, a huge flightless bird that must rate as the most prehistoric looking of all birds. It's nearly six feet tall with a crest like one of the bony plates on the back of a stegosaurus. Learn more. (1448KB)

12/03/2006

As heard on: KOHO - December 03, 2006. Remember when you were a young Saturday morning birdwatcher, learning the intricate lessons of predator-prey relationships? Let's return, today, to the alarm call of a small, animated yellow bird native to Southern California, Twitiavis superciliosis. (1492KB)

12/01/2006

As heard on: KPLU - December 01, 2006. Long-tailed Ducks are back for the winter from the north, where they nested on tundra ponds and marshes. These diving ducks spend the winter in deep salt water, often in sheltered bays. Learn more. (1447KB)

12/01/2006

As heard on: KOHO - December 01, 2006. Coast to coast, border to border, forest to feeder, the Downy Woodpecker goes about its business in 49 states. The smallest woodpecker in the United States, it turns up everywhere there are a few trees, except in the dry deserts of the Southwest and in Hawaii. Learn more. (1489KB)

11/30/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - November 30, 2006. At the mouth of Sequim Bay, we see loons, grebes, and scores of diving ducks like mergansers and goldeneyes. A large shadow passes overhead. An adult Bald Eagle, imposing and formidable with its six-foot wing span, flies overhead, and then a second joins the first. Learn more. (1450KB)

11/29/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - November 29, 2006. The Skagit Flats area is an ideal place to see thousands of Snow Geese. Flocks of hundreds fly over, calling, black wing-tips showing vividly against all-white bodies, while others forage in the field. Learn more on a field trip--click here. (1452KB)

11/28/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - November 28, 2006. This month, the Bufflehead returns from the boreal forests of Canada and Alaska to winter in our waters. Its nicknames include little black-and-white duck, bumblebee duck, buffalo-headed duck, butterball, and spirit duck. Learn more. (1447KB)

11/27/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - November 27, 2006. Victor Scheffer has lived in the Seattle area since early childhood. He served for years as a federal wildlife management biologist and also lectured at the University of Washington. He wrote than a dozen books, and his award-winning Year of the Whale helped spark the marine mammal conservation movement of the '70s. Learn more. (1455KB)

11/26/2006

As heard on: KOHO - November 26, 2006. A Red-tailed Hawk soars on broad, rounded wings, the epitome of effortless flight. Without flapping, it traces a leisurely, rising circle. The Red-tailed Hawk is riding a thermal, a column of warm rising air generated near the earth's surface by heat from the sun. Learn more. (1495KB)

11/25/2006

As heard on: KOHO - November 25, 2006. Put your winter garden to work as a haven for birds. Leaves and brush left to compost provide foraging and roosting places, smother weeds, and feed next spring's plant growth. Watch for Spotted Towhees and Song Sparrows in the leaf litter, and Bewick's Wrens in the brush. Learn more. (1480KB)

11/24/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - November 24, 2006. Traveling "as the crow flies," "eating like a bird," and "free as a bird" are just a few of the sayings we use to describe everyday human actions and feelings. But these often don't take into account the birds' real activities, relative to their size. Learn more. (1500KB)

11/23/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - November 23, 2006. The Wild Turkey, from which the domestic variety has been bred, is native to North America. Noted as a table delicacy, the four-foot long Wild Turkey was hunted by both Native Americans and the Europeans who populated our country. Learn more. (1535KB)

11/20/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - November 20, 2006. The Tower of London has a long and notorious history of murderous political intrigue, dungeons, and famous beheadings. And for more than 300 years, the Tower of London has also been home to a set of royally maintained ravens. Learn more! (1499KB)

11/19/2006

As heard on: KOHO - November 19, 2006. Is it true that a hummingbird migrates by hitching a ride on the back of a goose? Not exactly! The Rufous Hummingbird flies 49,000,000 times its body-length as it makes its full migration loop. That's about like a human traveling more than 50,000 miles. Learn more. (1405KB)

11/18/2006

As heard on: KOHO - November 18, 2006. Pileated Woodpeckers (sometimes pronounced pill -e-a-ted) chip out characteristic oval or rectangular excavations in the trees in which they forage. They eat wood-boring insects and insects that nest in trees, including long-horned beetles and especially carpenter ants. Their drumming can be heard for long distances, as can their loud "laughing" call. (1495KB)

11/16/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - November 16, 2006. Some birdwatchers travel the world to explore new habitats; others focus on their own communities. If you seek birds close to home, you'll benefit from a new on-line resource called SoundToSage. It's an atlas of birds that breed in King, Kitsap, Kittitas, and Island Counties. Learn more! (1445KB)

11/15/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - November 15, 2006. When you first glimpse a male Gadwall, you might think you're looking at a female Mallard. But take a closer look, and you'll see plumage as richly and subtly colored as an English gentleman's tweed jacket. For a larger picture, click here: (1431KB)

11/14/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - November 14, 2006. In the opening lines of Melville's masterpiece, Moby Dick, the narrator, Ishmael, confesses to "a damp, drizzly November in my soul." One sure way to brighten November's damp and drizzly mood is to welcome birds into your yard with feeders and birdbaths. Learn how! (1447KB)

11/13/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - November 13, 2006. Much maligned as a pest and cursed by many as an "invasive species," the European Starling has had many fans, too. Eugene Schieffelin introduced about 50 pairs into the United States in the 1890s. And Rachel Carson noted that the starling carries "more than 100 loads of destructive insects per day to his screaming offspring." Learn more. (1496KB)

11/12/2006

As heard on: KOHO - November 12, 2006. It's morning on the island of New Guinea, and the lowland forests erupt with the crowing calls of Birds of Paradise. Male Raggiana Birds of Paradise perform elaborate displays to attract females, sometimes even hanging upside-down with their wings pointing upward. Learn more. (1506KB)

11/11/2006

As heard on: KOHO - November 11, 2006. Look high into the top branches of a Douglas fir tree, and you may see a Bald Eagle, our national symbol. Sitting about three feet tall, this majestic bird has a wingspan of more than six feet. Stretch your arms as far as you can, and imagine a bird whose reach is even greater! Learn more! (1549KB)

11/10/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - November 10, 2006. One of the most elegant of water-birds, the Western Grebe once wintered on Washington's Puget Sound by the thousands. But since the 1980s, the wintering population of Western Grebes has plummeted, in some areas by ninety-five percent! Learn more. (1492KB)

11/09/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - November 09, 2006. Finches are always favorites of feeder-watchers, as they come and go unpredictably--sometimes absent, sometimes arriving in breathtaking numbers in their winter flocks. Project FeederWatch has followed these species for nearly 20 years. Learn more, and participate! (1461KB)

11/08/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - November 08, 2006. Many of the bird sounds you hear on BirdNote come from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. But Cornell adds still more to our understanding of the avian world. Project FeederWatch, sponsored by Cornell and National Audubon, is a window on the birds of winter. And you can help! Click here to find out how. (1459KB)

11/07/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - November 07, 2006. The eyes of a Great Gray Owl are set in a broad, gray-feathered, dish-shaped face. Ridges of tiny hair-like feathers rim the owl's face, creating what are known as "facial disks." Just below the margins of the facial disks, concealed by feathers, are the openings to the owl's ears. Learn more. (1465KB)

11/06/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - November 06, 2006. An owl's gaze is uniquely penetrating. Peer into an owl's face--there is something almost human about its large, forward-facing eyes. Just how big are those eyes? They are astonishingly large in proportion to the size of the owl's head. Learn more. (1465KB)

11/05/2006

As heard on: KOHO - November 05, 2006. An owl's seeming ability to rotate its head in a complete circle is downright eerie. Are spectral forces at work here, enabling an owl to spin its head 360 degrees? Or do its neck feathers hide some anatomical secret? What is it? (1447KB)

11/04/2006

As heard on: KOHO - November 04, 2006. Ever wonder how birds were named? Some, such as the Black-capped Chickadee, take their names from their songs or vocalizations: "Chick-a-dee, dee, dee." The Killdeer is another bird named for its song. "Kill-dee, kill-dee, kill-dee," it cries. There are others. Learn more. (1529KB)

11/03/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - November 03, 2006. The Bobwhite, whose official name is Northern Bobwhite, has an unmistakable call, which is also the source of its name. The species is native to the US, east of the Rockies, but Bobwhites have been released into the wild as game birds in many locales in the West. Learn more. (1448KB)

11/02/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - November 02, 2006. Cackling Geese are similar to the Canada Geese that breed farther north and commonly winter along the Pacific coast. In Washington, you can see them migrating in large numbers, often with Canada Geese but in separate flocks. Learn more. (1465KB)

11/01/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - November 01, 2006. Boobies are related to pelicans and cormorants and are normally seen only in the tropics. But in August 2006, a Blue-footed Booby was seen in Washington, and a Masked Booby was found in Oregon. What brings these tropical birds to our waters? Learn more! (1474KB)

10/31/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - October 31, 2006. Some early sailors, visiting remote Pacific islands, surely feared that the ungodly wailing on shore meant they had been tricked to the gates of Hell itself. In truth, they stood among courting pairs of seabirds called Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. Learn more. (1886KB)

10/28/2006

As heard on: KOHO - October 28, 2006. Many owls appear in the Harry Potter films. Harry's pet owl is an easy one to remember. Hedwig is a two-foot tall Snowy Owl. (Portrayed as a female, it's actually a male--you can tell because it is pure white.) Ron Weasley, Harry's friend, also has a pet owl, Pigwidgeon, a scops owl. Learn more. (1425KB)

10/27/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - October 27, 2006. A flock of small sandpipers twists and turns, glittering in the sky. When threatened by a falcon, these birds take to the air, flying so close together that it's hard for a predator to capture one. How do they do it? (1446KB)

10/26/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - October 26, 2006. High in the Cascade Mountains, near tree-line, a Clark's Nutcracker makes a cache of pine seeds, burying them with its long, black bill. Since August, the nutcracker has been harvesting and caching the seeds of whitebark pines. Learn more. (1463KB)

10/25/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - October 25, 2006. Some people specialize in a particular bird. Others are drawn to a special place. Watching, in all seasons, they know when every species of bird should be coming and going, and they always know when something unusual turns up. Learn more. (1466KB)

10/24/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - October 24, 2006. Ravens are the fascinating subjects of many a scientific study. Raven researcher Bernd Heinrich writes: "Ravens associate with any animals that kill large game--polar bears, grizzlies, wolves, coyotes, killer whales, and humans." What's going on? (1455KB)

10/23/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - October 23, 2006. If you lived along the forest's edge in Central America, every morning might begin with a cacophony of rhythmic guffaws, whistles, screeches, and screams. Plain Chachalacas and Great Kiskadees join in the chorus. It's a tropical wake-up call. Click here. (1443KB)

10/22/2006

As heard on: KOHO - October 22, 2006. Just a couple dozen miles off the Northwest coast, immense dark birds with long, saber-shaped wings glide without effort above the waves. These graceful giants are Black-footed Albatrosses, flying by the thousands near the edge of the continental shelf. Learn more. (1890KB)

10/20/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - October 20, 2006. The North American Bird Conservation Initiative has scientifically identified habitats that are essential to birds in different stages of their lives, including breeding, wintering, feeding, and migration. These habitats are critical in maintaining healthy populations of birds. Learn more. (1455KB)

10/19/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - October 19, 2006. 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 much information in a short sound. Winter Wrens are found most often in closed-canopy conifer forests, nesting in cavities, usually within six feet of the ground. Learn more about this versatile songster at BirdWeb.org. (1430KB)

10/19/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - October 19, 2006. 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 much information in a short sound. Winter Wrens are found most often in closed-canopy conifer forests, nesting in cavities, usually within six feet of the ground. Learn more about this versatile songster at BirdWeb.org. (1483KB)

10/18/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - October 18, 2006. Among the most evocative sounds of early autumn are the voices of migratory geese, flying overhead in V-formation. This phenomenon marks the flight of flocks of larger birds, like geese or pelicans, but isn't seen in smaller birds like robins or sandpipers. Learn more. (1885KB)

10/17/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - October 17, 2006. Through all of spring and summer, swallows dart and sail overhead, their airborne grace a wonder to behold. But by October, the skies seem empty. The swallows have flown south, in search of insects. Learn more. (1475KB)

10/16/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - October 16, 2006. In the golden sunlight of an October morning, a Golden-crowned Sparrow sings plaintively from a hedgerow, and soon a Fox Sparrow chimes in. Both nested in Alaska last summer, but will spend September to May in the Pacific Northwest. The Snow Geese are returning, too. Learn more. (1452KB)

10/15/2006

As heard on: KOHO - October 15, 2006. If there's a hummingbird still visiting your yard these days, it's the Anna's Hummingbird, the only hummer seen here during winter. How did this lovely jewel get its name? Learn more. (1891KB)

10/14/2006

As heard on: KOHO - October 14, 2006. Putting out a feeder is easy. The next step may be a challenge, yet it's the most important part--keeping it clean and disease-free. A clean feeder is a life-and-death matter to some birds. Pine Siskins, in particular, are prone to salmonellosis, a bacterial disease. Learn more. (1885KB)

10/10/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - October 10, 2006. Have you noticed groups of crows flying overhead in the late afternoon, wheeling and diving? These are American Crows with a purpose. They're headed to their night roost, a giant slumber party. Up to 40,000 crows in one space is not uncommon for a winter-time roost. Learn more. (1495KB)

10/09/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - October 09, 2006. Anyone with an interest in birds and bluegrass music won't want to miss the 7th annual Ridgefield BirdFest, held the weekend of October 14th and 15th, 2006, at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge on the Columbia River north of Portland. Ridgefield's BirdFest focuses on art and music as well as birds. (1498KB)

10/08/2006

As heard on: KOHO - October 08, 2006. Thanks to Harry Potter, the owl is flying high. But throughout history, the owl has received mixed reviews. The Greeks believed an owl flying over a battlefield foretold victory, while in other cultures, owls were considered omens of death, prophets of doom. Listen again. (1892KB)

10/07/2006

As heard on: KOHO - October 07, 2006. Surprisingly, out of the 810 species of North American birds, there are only two that are completely black: the American Crow and the Common Raven. Here's a story that explains why the crow is black, according to Native American tradition. Read more. (1890KB)

10/06/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - October 06, 2006. The full moon on October 6, 2006 is the Harvest Moon--or as the Cree Indians called it, "The Moon of Falling Leaves." It's almost time to stow the tools and put the garden to bed for the winter. Learn more. (1438KB)

10/05/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - October 05, 2006. On October 5, 1861, Henry David Thoreau wrote, "Our little mountain-ash is all alive with [birds.] A dozen robins on it at once, busily reaching after and plucking the berries, actually make the whole tree shake. A robin will swallow half a dozen berries, at least, in rapid succession..." Learn more. (1452KB)

10/04/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - October 04, 2006. Fifty years ago, on the shores of Puget Sound, you would have been much more likely than today to hear the calls of the Black Brant, a small, elegant, black, brown, and white tidewater goose. Most now bypass Puget Sound and other West Coast estuaries, and migrate directly to Mexico. Learn more. (1499KB)

10/03/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - October 03, 2006. Early October brings American Robins to feed on tree fruit and berries. Are the robins you see now the same robins that you saw in your garden last summer? Some robins do stay here year 'round. Others only winter here, having nested farther north. Learn more. (1883KB)

10/02/2006

As heard on: KPLU - October 02, 2006. Bird bands are important tools in understanding birds, from their age to their patterns of migration. A student bird-bander from Seattle Audubon's BirdWatch program explains its importance: "We're doing this project to help the birds survive in an urban environment." Learn more. (1435KB)

09/29/2006

As heard on: KPLU - September 29, 2006. Since January, BirdNote has followed the lives of a family of Great Horned Owls, keeping a watchful eye on their nest in a tall cottonwood. Mid-September approaches; the mornings are chilly. For two weeks, the adults have not offered food to the young, but the owlets, now six months old, have become proficient hunters. Learn more. (1439KB)

09/28/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - September 28, 2006. In late September, Turkey Vultures funnel south to the tip of Vancouver Island. There, the imposing birds take advantage of thermals--rising columns of warm air--to spiral a thousand feet into the sky. What next? Where can you see this? (1460KB)

09/27/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - September 27, 2006. Today we hear from BirdNote listener and retired physician, Betsy MacGregor, as she tells of finding solace in the company of birds--first a bird of the eastern United States, a Northern Cardinal, and then a Hutton's Vireo. To listen to her story again, click here. (1438KB)

09/26/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - September 26, 2006. Phalaropes are sandpipers that make their living from the sea. After breeding on the Arctic tundra, they migrate to the open ocean. They remain there through the winter, feeding on tiny crustaceans and other marine animals, making an amazing adaptation to a completely different environment. Learn more. (1476KB)

09/25/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - September 25, 2006. A pair of White-throated Swifts careens by at high speed. They twist and turn, sailing through the air on black, scimitar-shaped wings that span 15 inches. Dashing headlong toward an unyielding wall, the birds disappear at the last second into a slender crevice. Learn more. (1451KB)

09/24/2006

As heard on: KOHO - September 24, 2006. When courting in spring, male and female Cedar Waxwings communicate with distinctly different calls and, perched side by side, often pass back and forth between them a berry or other small fruit or even a flower petal. Cedar Waxwings display a wealth of eye-catching plumage. Learn more. (1493KB)

09/22/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - September 22, 2006. Today marks the mid-point between June's longest day and December's shortest day. We may hardly notice, but ancient cultures closely watched the changes in the sun's daily patterns. Learn more. (1464KB)

09/21/2006

As heard on: KPLU - September 21, 2006. The calls of resident Black-billed Magpies resound on an early September morning. Some warblers, sparrows, grosbeaks, tanagers, and flycatchers remain, but they don't sing at this time of year. They seek a diminishing supply of insects and eat from a rich crop of berries. Learn more. (1631KB)

09/20/2006

As heard on: KPLU - September 20, 2006. Look out over Puget Sound on a winter day, and you're likely to see a peppering of waterfowl. Puget Sound is one of the most fertile saltwater habitats in the world, and every winter, waterfowl migrate from afar to feast on its bounty. Take a field trip and see these birds. Click here! (1446KB)

09/19/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - September 19, 2006. Ahoy, Mates! It's International Talk Like a Pirate Day. No doubt the most famous image of pirate and parrot is Long John Silver in Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. Long John's parrot (most likely a Yellow-crowned Amazon) went everywhere with him and had much to say. Learn more. (1497KB)

09/18/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - September 18, 2006. The flight call of the Common Nighthawk vividly evokes a warm summer evening. Not really a hawk at all, the Common Nighthawk is closely related to the more fully nocturnal nightjars, such as the Whip-poor-will of eastern North America. Learn more. (1458KB)

09/17/2006

As heard on: KOHO - September 17, 2006. A new figure joined the Seattle Seahawks last season, and helped inspire the team all the way to the Super Bowl. This proud dignitary appears along the sidelines during every home game. Last year, the Seahawks won every game when he was in the stadium. What kind of bird is it? (1486KB)

09/14/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - September 14, 2006. In Veracruz, Mexico, the flow of migrating raptors contains birds from all over eastern North America. Each fall, while the Chelan Ridge site in Washington counts about 1500 to 2000 birds, the Veracruz site sees five and a half million migrating raptors. Learn more. (1557KB)

09/13/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - September 13, 2006. Imagine standing on Chelan Ridge, at 5,000 feet, in the Cascade Mountains. Overhead, a Red-tailed Hawk catches an updraft as it migrates south. You are at a HawkWatch site, one of fourteen North American fall raptor migration sites monitored by HawkWatch International. Learn more. (1470KB)

09/12/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - September 12, 2006. Natural adaptations have given a bird a strong yet lightweight body. And, for their weight, its feathers are among the strongest structures in the world. That Red-tailed Hawk has hollow bones strengthened by struts--light but strong. And what about this Magnificent Frigatebird? Learn more. (1458KB)

09/11/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - September 11, 2006. The finches of the Galapagos Islands are famous in the history of evolutionary theory. But Charles Darwin spent four years studying other birds as well, as his ship, the Beagle, circumnavigated southern South America before reaching the Galapagos in 1835. Learn more. (1455KB)

09/10/2006

As heard on: KOHO - September 10, 2006. Once nesting season ends, Violet-green Swallows know it's time to party! Although these swallows often nest as single pairs in cavities or nesting boxes, both adults and juveniles now gather on electrical wires by the dozens, socializing before they migrate. Learn more. (1544KB)

09/09/2006

As heard on: KOHO - September 09, 2006. It's autumn. Where have all the eagles gone? Only a few weeks after young Bald Eagles fledge from their nests, the parents leave the area as well. Bald Eagles do a kind of "fall walkabout," leaving their nesting territories for better foraging areas. Where do they go? (1563KB)

09/08/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - September 08, 2006. The structure and delicate softness of its feathers allow a Barn Owl to approach its prey almost without sound. This skillful hunting is enhanced by exceptional sight in dim light, and also acute hearing. 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. Learn more. (1433KB)

09/07/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - September 07, 2006. It's late summer, and migratory birds are departing. Although many resident birds are still here, their voices are now quiet. During fall and winter, the non-breeding season, birds don't need to sing to establish a breeding territory and attract a mate. Learn more. (1535KB)

09/06/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - September 06, 2006. A Pied-billed Grebe, a bird that you'd normally see on a lake, sits on a parking lot. The grebe struggles and flaps, but cannot fly. At the same time, on the island of Kauai, a resident finds a Newell's Shearwater--another water bird--stranded on a tennis court. What's going on? And how can you help stranded birds? (1469KB)

09/05/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - September 05, 2006. The Wilson's Warbler is soon to head south, not to return until spring, one of many songbird migrants returning to the Central American tropics for the colder months. He will fly after dark to avoid the threat posed by hawks and falcons. Learn more. (1449KB)

09/04/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - September 04, 2006. The tens of thousands of shorebirds that converged near the coast in late April are part of a highly synchronized migration. Moving north together during a few weeks in spring, they reached their Arctic breeding grounds in time to quickly pair up and nest, making the most of the short northern season. But what about migration in fall? (1448KB)

09/03/2006

As heard on: KOHO - September 03, 2006. Since Samuel Coleridge published The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, we've associated albatrosses (like this Black-browed Albatross) with the superstition that shooting one would bring misfortune.
   At length did cross an Albatross,
   Through the fog it came? (1472KB)

09/01/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - September 01, 2006. The Vaux's Swift is usually seen only in flight and is often described as a cigar with wings. Washington's Vaux's Swifts move south in the fall, mostly to Mexico. But before they go, they gather together in large flocks and swirl down into a hollow tree or chimney for the night. Where can you see this? (1434KB)

08/31/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - August 31, 2006. Natural disasters sometimes take a terrible toll on birds and other wildlife. Hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, and forest fires all can kill birds in great numbers. But it's important also to know what happens after these disasters. What now? (1462KB)

08/30/2006

As heard on: KOHO - August 30, 2006. Because cell towers stretch high above surrounding trees and buildings, they sometimes offer perfect nesting sites for Ospreys, large brown and white birds of prey. Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Osprey nests are protected, even on cell towers. Learn more. (1539KB)

08/30/2006

As heard on: KPLU - August 30, 2006. Small, tern-like Bonaparte's Gulls often form a chorus-line at the water's edge. Side by side, in half an inch of water, they stomp their feet as fast as they can. Under this pummeling, a smorgasbord of shrimp is stirred up for the gulls to harvest. Learn more. (1562KB)

08/29/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - August 29, 2006. The Greater Roadrunner is a common species in the desert and brush country of the Southwest, but its full range reaches from California to western Louisiana. Its soft cooing voice hints at its connections to anther bird: scientists group roadrunners with the cuckoos. Learn more. (1436KB)

08/28/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - August 28, 2006. This Laysan Albatross, with a wing span of about seven feet, is completely at home in the vastness of the open ocean. It glides up and down, back and forth, across the wake, sometimes riding up 100 feet, then coasting right back down near the surface. Its wings stay slightly arched, but don?t seem to flap. What's going on? (1436KB)

08/27/2006

As heard on: KOHO - August 27, 2006. The Canyon Wren's eloquent song soothes the soul. Naturalist Ralph Hoffman likened it to "the spray of a waterfall in sunshine." Its close cousin, the Marsh Wren, wound up with a harsh, ratcheting song--about as musical as a tiny machine-gun barrage. What's going on? (1462KB)

08/25/2006

As heard on: KOHO - August 25, 2006. The Flammulated Owl is a study in camouflaged grays and browns, with cinnamon-brown shoulder straps and large brown eyes. This astute aerial predator stands a little more than six and a half inches tall, from its sharp-clawed feet to its stubby, ear-like tufts. Learn more. (1503KB)

08/24/2006

As heard on: KPLU - August 24, 2006. What exactly do 70 million birdwatchers watch? How do they identify a particular species? Well, they observe a bird's habitat and its behavior; they look at its color and markings; they take note of its size; and they listen for calls and songs. (1439KB)

08/23/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - August 23, 2006. The cool, coastal fog of Washington lifts on a fall morning, revealing a monumental natural drama. Tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of seabirds circle low over the ocean, the tips of their long narrow wings just grazing the waves. Sooty Shearwaters, moving south. Learn more. (1481KB)

08/22/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - August 22, 2006. Hurricanes bring tragedy to birds and other wildlife. Katrina killed approximately 70% of the birds on the Mississippi coast in 2005. Severe storm winds not only kill many birds but blow others, especially seabirds, far from their normal range. Learn more. (1446KB)

08/20/2006

As heard on: KOHO - August 20, 2006. Western Tanagers are distinctive summer visitors to our area and the only tanagers seen regularly in Washington. They are typically found in open coniferous or mixed coniferous and broadleaved forests, and seem most at home in the dry Douglas-fir forests of Eastern Washington. Learn more. (1453KB)

08/19/2006

As heard on: KOHO - August 19, 2006. The remarkable drumming of a Ruffed Grouse, that percussion produced by a rapid beating of the wings, is a vivid example of a non-vocal or instrumental bird sound. Birds communicate with a fascinating array of instrumental sounds, and nearly all are made by their feathers or bills. Learn more. (1486KB)

08/18/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - August 18, 2006. Welcome back to the Night Owl Diner, Ducky! If you're feeling a bit peckish, we can find something to fill the bill. But first? A cocktail? So today, we've got fried chicken. A bird in the hand, my friend. A little greasy, but better than two in the bush. There's more. (1456KB)

08/17/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - August 17, 2006. Do you remember the raucous sound of this bird? And how about its name? It is a jay, and it's blue, but its true name is Steller's Jay. There are a few true Blue Jays in Washington, but you'll have to travel east of the Rocky Mountains to hear most of them. Learn more. (1473KB)

08/15/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - August 15, 2006. Helen Trefry, a wildlife biologist in Edmonton, Alberta, wanted to know where the Burrowing Owls in her part of Canada migrated to. How long did it take them to get to their destinations, and where--and how--did they spend their stopovers. What did she do? (1476KB)

08/14/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - August 14, 2006. A fine woodworker has a chest full of tools, each designed for a specific task. Birds also have highly refined tools--their bills. The size and shape of a bird's bill match perfectly the food they seek and the way in which they obtain their meals. Learn more. (1465KB)

08/13/2006

As heard on: KOHO - August 13, 2006. The argonauts of the western Pacific and Polynesia, when navigating the vast distances between tiny islands, observed with great care the migration of birds. Polynesian navigators often carried with them frigatebirds, which they released and followed to land. Learn more. (1440KB)

08/12/2006

As heard on: KOHO - August 12, 2006. Nearly 4.5 pounds of garbage per person per day get thrown into America's landfills. At a solid waste transfer station, gulls and crows eye the intake, arguing over who gets what before it gets hauled off to a major landfill. Learn more. (1445KB)

08/11/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - August 11, 2006. In some vineyards of Napa and Sonoma Counties in California, owls patrol by night, and kestrels, harriers, and other raptors take the day-watch. They eat the mice, rats, and gophers that nibble on the roots of young grapevines. Other birds help, too, including this Western Bluebird. Learn more. (1461KB)

08/10/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - August 10, 2006. The Sky Lark is a bird whose songful brilliance inspired English poets, and gave its name to the phrase "an exaltation of larks." To glimpse a singing Sky Lark, look high up, where the male flutters and circles perhaps 100 feet off the ground, broadcasting its complex song. Learn more. (1510KB)

08/09/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - August 09, 2006. By late summer, the male Mallard's need for fancy feathers to attract the females has passed. These birds have molted, and their bright feathers are replaced with mottled brown ones. Subdued colors help camouflage the male ducks, protecting them from predators. Learn more. (1541KB)

08/08/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - August 08, 2006. A young bird's nest is its first home. But most birds don't live in a nest year round, even at night. By August, many of our birds have left the nest behind. So, after they spend the day flying and foraging, where do they go at night? Learn more. (1459KB)

08/06/2006

As heard on: KOHO - August 06, 2006. Imagine watering your garden on a hot August day, when a small yellow and gray warbler flutters into the spray and begins taking a shower. The Yellow-rumped Warbler, probably mid-way through its fall migration, is unafraid. Learn more. (1571KB)

08/05/2006

As heard on: KOHO - August 05, 2006. Woodpeckers--such as this Williamson's Sapsucker--eat far more ants than do most birds. Although many other vertebrates avoid ants because of their stings or noxious chemical deterrents, the Northern Flicker is known to have ingested over five thousand ants in one sitting. Learn more. (1535KB)

08/04/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - August 04, 2006. The Brown Creeper lives in a mature forest where evergreen and deciduous trees reach for sun. Its habit of moving up the trunk, looking for insects, inspired Hazel Wolf, who--when she was 64--went on to start 21 new Audubon chapters. Learn more. (1625KB)

08/02/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - August 02, 2006. By August, many young birds are full sized, have left the nest, and can fly short distances, but they still follow their parents and beg for food. Not only do they squawk, but they also assume a begging posture, with wings drooping and head hunched down, and frequently quiver. Learn more. (1447KB)

07/31/2006

As heard on: KOHO - July 31, 2006. A close look at this Red Crossbill reveals a curious adaptation. The long tips of the upper and lower bill don't meet, but instead cross over each other. The bills of young birds are not crossed at hatching, but cross as they grow. Learn more about the crossbill's beak. (1539KB)

07/31/2006

As heard on: KPLU - July 31, 2006. In summer, the thick tangles of streamside vegetation in many Eastern Washington canyons echo with an uncanny sound--the Yellow-breasted Chat. You may find it in willow thickets, brushy tangles, and other dense, understory habitats, usually at low to medium elevations around streams. Learn more. (1634KB)

07/28/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - July 28, 2006. Raven, in Northwestern Indian mythology, is the Trickster, the agent of mischief and games. One of the creation myths is the story of how the sun came to be in the sky. Raven was covetous of the sun but couldn't figure out a way to gain access to the longhouse and steal it. Learn more. (1437KB)

07/27/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - July 27, 2006. In late July, the Great Horned Owl chicks that we have been following are four and a half months old, and must fend for themselves much of the time. The young birds continue to learn valuable lessons by watching the adults hunt. Their first hunting forays were clumsy. But by late July, they've graduated to catching mice. Follow the story of the Great Horned Owl family: January... March... May... (1433KB)

07/26/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - July 26, 2006. Someone must show children the delights and knowledge of the natural world, opening the gate for a lifetime of learning. When children dampen their feet in a local stream, they become connected to all that flows through the watershed--even when it flows from afar. How can you help? (1448KB)

07/25/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - July 25, 2006. Have you ever wondered how you could "birdwatch" if you were blind? It can be difficult to identify a bird by its appearance, and just as challenging to do so by its song. And birding by ear is a great way to approach the world of birds. Learn more. (1445KB)

07/24/2006

As heard on: KPLU - July 24, 2006. At the crack of the bat, a Blue Jay flies toward first and glides around the base. Deep in left field, an Oriole pounces on the ball. He wings the ball toward second, where a fellow Oriole snares it on a hop--just as the swift Blue Jay slides toward the base in a cloud of red dust. Learn more. (1478KB)

07/21/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - July 21, 2006. We've been sharing your interesting stories with BirdNote listeners. Washington State Senator Ken Jacobsen tells of his visit with a constituent and their discussion of birdbaths and accessories. And naturalist Rob Sandelin recalls how he coaxed swallows to nest in his yard. Read on. (1492KB)

07/20/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - July 20, 2006. Recently we invited you to tell us your interesting bird stories. John Tubbs of Snoqualmie, Washington tells of a raft trip down the Deschutes River in Oregon. And Beck Elan of Kirkland recalls a misunderstanding, something to do with herons? Read on. (1484KB)

07/19/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - July 19, 2006. Nothing will bring wondrous songbirds to your yard faster than a ready supply of water. Summer is a crucial time to keep your backyard birds supplied with water for drinking and bathing. Birdbaths set at different heights serve a great variety of birds. Learn more. (1447KB)

07/18/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - July 18, 2006. The Bullock's Oriole is the only member of the oriole family that nests in the Northwest. With slender, sharply pointed bills, orioles weave marvelous pouch-like nests that hang suspended from their upper rims. Learn more. (1457KB)

07/17/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - July 17, 2006. A dazzling bolt of avian lightning -- a blaze of neon-orange, shooting across a gray, sage-covered hillside on quick wing-beats. It's a Bullock's Oriole, sailing out from its nest among the upper branches of a cottonwood, hunting for insects in the shrubby sage. Learn more. (1447KB)

07/16/2006

As heard on: KOHO - July 16, 2006. When Turkey Vultures circle low, you can see their naked red heads and deeply slotted black primary feathers, which the wind separates and turns up expressively. With their wings canted in a dihedral "V," they tilt upwind from side to side to catch the stink of carrion, their primary food. Learn more. (1578KB)

07/15/2006

As heard on: KOHO - July 15, 2006. Although some of the Turkey Vulture's habits may evoke our disgust, these remarkable birds also inspire our awe. With wingspans approaching six feet, Turkey Vultures ride currents of air to make their spring and fall journeys, and to cover the miles of their home range in summer. Learn more. (1508KB)

07/14/2006

As heard on: KPLU - July 14, 2006. You're one lucky duck to have landed at our little diner. This is no fly-by-night joint. May I start you with a drink--a swallow of Old Crow or Wild Turkey, perhaps? You're just in time for the early-bird specials, when toucan eat for the price of one. What'll ya have? (1458KB)

07/13/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - July 13, 2006. Snowy Plovers are specifically adapted to lay their eggs in a shallow scrape in the sand, which is lined with bits of shell, pebbles, and grass. This unfortunate nesting niche means the plovers run a forbidding gauntlet of disruption by people, dogs, cars, and impinging development. Learn more. (1532KB)

07/12/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - July 12, 2006. Birds are part of the complex web of Nature, and each fits into this web in its own way. Some even pollinate flowers! A hummingbird hangs in front of a flower and probes with its long bill, tubular tongue sucking up the nectar that provides essential nourishment. Learn more. (1458KB)

07/11/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - July 11, 2006. The Mourning Dove was named for the male's gentle voice. As the dove's mellow cooing reaches our ears, it may sound forlorn. Mourning Doves are common in suburban environments and along roadsides, adapting well to human habitation. Learn more. (1432KB)

07/10/2006

As heard on: KOHO - July 10, 2006. The Killdeer is one of the most widespread and commonly seen shorebirds in North America. This bird has also been called the Chattering Plover and the Noisy Plover. Killdeers lure predators away from their nest by calling loudly while appearing to limp and drag a wing. Learn more. (1537KB)

07/10/2006

As heard on: KPLU - July 10, 2006. The poet William Wordsworth wrote:
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
What can you do?... (1452KB)

07/07/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - July 07, 2006. Although not a first-rate vocalist, the Tufted Puffin is instantly recognizable to the eye. Puffins are icons of the seabird world. With clown-like faces and huge, multicolored bills, they stand upright on sea cliffs along the northern oceans. Learn more. (1533KB)

07/06/2006

As heard on: KPLU - July 06, 2006. When smaller birds join forces to ward off larger birds, it's called mobbing. This behavior--like calling your family for help--is used by many bird species. The best time to observe mobbing is spring and early summer, when breeding birds are trying to protect their nests and young. Learn more. (1460KB)

07/05/2006

As heard on: KPLU - July 05, 2006. The Boreal forest is a vast band of spruce and poplar that extends from coast to coast across Alaska and Canada. Called North America's "songbird bread basket," for a brief time, it teems with song. How many birds can you hear? (1428KB)

07/04/2006

As heard on: KPLU - July 04, 2006. The White-bearded Manakin lives in Trinidad and throughout much of South America. The males court females on a lek, snapping their wings with firecracker-like pops. A flurry of males flits rapidly back and forth from one slender, bare sapling to another, a foot above the ground--like an avian pinball game. Learn more. (1445KB)

07/03/2006

As heard on: KPLU - July 03, 2006. Back in the days when the buffalo roamed, Brown-headed Cowbirds followed the herds. As the buffalo wandered the prairies, they stirred up insects that the cowbirds ate. Since the buffalo didn't stay long in one place, the cowbirds didn't have time to build a nest. How did they manage that? (1485KB)

07/01/2006

As heard on: KOHO - July 01, 2006. How do birdwatchers identify a particular species? Like fishermen who know how to "read the water," it helps to understand habitat. At a wetland full of cattails, for example, you're likely to find a Red-winged Blackbird, because it requires dense marsh vegetation to nest. Learn more. (1577KB)

06/30/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - June 30, 2006. The tiniest bird in North America is the Calliope Hummingbird--a 3-inch jewel, weighing in at just a tenth of an ounce. These birds migrate north each spring from Western Mexico, to nest in dry, open forests and brushy areas, mostly east of the Cascades. Learn more. (1447KB)

06/29/2006

As heard on: KOHO - June 29, 2006. Shy and sometimes hard to see, the Band-tailed Pigeon lives in low-altitude conifer forests and treed suburbs. Band-tailed Pigeons stay in small flocks most of the year, uttering their soft call. They occasionally crowd into suburban bird feeders, nudging out smaller birds. Learn more. (1543KB)

06/29/2006

As heard on: KPLU - June 29, 2006. The Common Nightingale is a shy and plain-looking bird, but its song is lovely. In Ode to a Nightingale, the English poet John Keats wrote:
   Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
   No hungry generations tread thee down; ... (1481KB)

06/27/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - June 27, 2006. High in the Northwest mountains, where the long summer days stay cool, a beautiful song echoes. Even within the thrush family, which includes many highly renowned singers, the Hermit Thrush stands out. Its song has been described as "ethereal," "serene," or "flutelike." Learn more. (1444KB)

06/26/2006

As heard on: KOHO - June 26, 2006. Loping overhead at dusk, with long slender wings, the Common Nighthawk chases down aerial insects with sudden, choppy shifts of direction. Not really a hawk at all, the nighthawk is closely related to the more fully nocturnal nightjars, such as the Whip-poor-will of eastern North America. Learn more. (1540KB)

06/26/2006

As heard on: KPLU - June 26, 2006. The male Ruffed Grouse stands upon a resonant fallen log in the shelter of a brushy thicket, thumping the air with his wings. He raises them and--cupping them forward--beats the air, slowly at first, then faster, creating a reverberating drum roll. Learn more. (1443KB)

06/23/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - June 23, 2006. In June, when birdsong is on the wane, many baby birds leave the nest. Some shuffle tentatively along the nearest branch and practice flapping their wings, while others take the "big leap." Which path they take depends upon their species and the location of the nest. Learn more. (1512KB)

06/22/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - June 22, 2006. On a warm, sunny day, an American Robin sits on the ground, its wings outstretched and its tail splayed behind. Look more closely and you'll see that the robin is sitting astride an anthill, and that ants are swarming over its body! What's up? (1459KB)

06/21/2006

As heard on: KPLU - June 21, 2006. One of the most musical and complex bird songs in the US is that of the Brewer's Sparrow. It's a veritable aria, ringing forth from the sagebrush of Eastern Washington's Columbia Basin. Shrub-steppe is disappearing from the interior west as it is cleared for irrigated crops. Learn more. (1603KB)

06/20/2006

As heard on: KPLU - June 20, 2006. Bird song is heard frequently in classical music. And no bird has been so often evoked and emulated in song and symphony as the cuckoo. Among the best known examples are Handel's organ concerto, The Cuckoo and the Nightingale, the lovely "Andante" from Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony. Learn more. (1465KB)

06/19/2006

As heard on: KPLU - June 19, 2006. Yellow-billed Cuckoos were common breeding birds in the Pacific Northwest as late as the 1920s, but then they disappeared. Ornithologists are puzzled by their disappearance, because there's still suitable habitat for them in the riparian woodlands of Washington State. Learn more. (1465KB)

06/16/2006

As heard on: KPLU - June 16, 2006. What a comfort it would be if every bird song were as easy to recognize--and remember--as that of this Olive-sided Flycatcher. Bird ID guides have tried to capture its pattern and quality with such catchphrases as "quick-three-beer" or "what peeves you." Learn more. (1454KB)

06/15/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - June 15, 2006. Steller's Jays, close cousins to crows and ravens, may mimic the calls of raptors, in order to secure the food they want. Since the eagle is top predator within the bird world, the jay's most powerful weapon is to mimic the call of the Bald Eagle. Learn more. (1483KB)

06/14/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - June 14, 2006. The song of the Black-headed Grosbeak rings out from May well into summer, one of the most distinctive bird voices of the West. Some people say it sounds like a drunken robin, slurring its notes in syncopated time. Learn more. (1438KB)

06/13/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - June 13, 2006. The Red-breasted Sapsucker is a common but seldom-seen woodpecker of Western Washington forests. It quietly drills small holes in the bark of favored trees, then returns again and again to eat the sap that flows out. Learn more. (1452KB)

06/12/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - June 12, 2006. The California Quail's gray and rusty-colored body is beautifully adorned. But the most distinctive characteristic of this ground-dwelling quail is a black, forward-facing topknot that juts out from its forehead like a small flag. Learn more. (1434KB)

06/10/2006

As heard on: KOHO - June 10, 2006. This is the time of year that young birds leave the nest, and they are especially vulnerable to cats. For some, like robins, it takes a few days before they can fly high enough to be out of harm's way. Danger lurks. Learn more. (1513KB)

06/09/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - June 09, 2006. Strictly birds of the Americas, hummingbirds don't exist in the Old World. John James Audubon, the French naturalist who spent his adult life studying and painting the birds of North America, saw only this Ruby-throated Hummingbird, a bird of eastern North America. Learn more. (1451KB)

06/08/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - June 08, 2006. A House Wren sings from inside a thicket. With its tail cocked at a jaunty angle, this small, brown wren presents us with a classic bird image. That cocked tail, twitching sharply as the House Wren scolds, puts an exclamation point on the wren?s perky voice and attitude. Learn more. (1452KB)

06/07/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - June 07, 2006. Your eye may be drawn to the gorgeous male Wood Duck, but it is the call of the modestly plumaged female you?ll hear. This call tells the male where his mate is, important as the pair stays together through much of the winter and spring. Learn more. (1442KB)

06/06/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - June 06, 2006. Fish gotta swim. Birds gotta fly? But before they take flight, many baby birds spend time on or near the ground. Young robins and flickers, in particular, spend a few days at ground level after they leave the nest, and before they learn to fly. What to do, what to do? (1449KB)

06/05/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - June 05, 2006. The Salmonberry Bird is the name indigenous Northwest Coastal people gave to the bird known in English as the Swainson's Thrush. The Salmonberry Bird's name derives from its annual arrival in the Northwest in May, at the time when salmonberries ripen in our forests. Learn more. (1487KB)

06/01/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - June 01, 2006. In a recent episode about migration, we talked about the reasons many birds migrate at night. Fewer songbird predators are out at night, making for safer flight. The migrating birds use daylight hours to stop and feed along the way, or rest in protected spots. But then, we went astray. Learn more. (1455KB)

05/31/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 31, 2006. Roger Tory Peterson, the best known American figure of 20th Century birdwatching, offered help on birding by ear in his field guides to birds. Whenever he could, he provided a catchphrase to identify a bird's song. Learn more. (1463KB)

05/29/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 29, 2006. When Columbus first landed in the Americas, there were nine billion birds in what later became the United States--and about one-third of those birds were Passenger Pigeons. A century later, they were all gone. Learn more. (1480KB)

05/28/2006

As heard on: KOHO - May 28, 2006. The Bewick's Wren's song can carry for more than a quarter of a mile. And they start singing young, learning their songs first from their fathers, just two or three weeks after hatching, and then from other males near the territories they themselves establish. Learn more. (1525KB)

05/27/2006

As heard on: KOHO - May 27, 2006. While full-speed-ahead birding can mean sighting a large number of species, there's quiet joy in stand-still birding. Pick a place--forest, field, or marsh; find a seat that's dry, maybe with your back to a tree and your binoculars to your eyes. Be still and blend in. Learn more. (1460KB)

05/24/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 24, 2006. This Great Horned Owlet--about 2-1/2 months old and already as big as its parents--is quite well feathered, although its underparts remain downy white. Its wing and tail feathers are developing nicely, and it has begun to make short flights. Learn more. (1438KB)

05/23/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 23, 2006. On a November day in the late 1960s, flying in a light plane along the Mississippi River, the eminent waterfowl biologist Frank Bellrose came upon a raft of 450,000 Lesser Scaups that stretched for miles. Learn more. (1433KB)

05/22/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 22, 2006. Peregrine Falcons are evidence of the success of both the Endangered Species Act and the ban of the pesticide DDT. Numbers have increased dramatically, and many cities across the country now boast their own nesting Peregrines. Learn more. (1475KB)

05/21/2006

As heard on: KOHO - May 21, 2006. The mating call of the bullfrog was once heard only in the eastern half of North America. But starting a century ago, this large frog was introduced all across the West. Why? Because frog-leg enthusiasts wanted these tasty morsels locally available. Learn more. (1487KB)

05/20/2006

As heard on: KOHO - May 20, 2006. If you were to pinpoint the height of bird activity on the eastern flanks of the Cascade Mountains, you might pick the area around Leavenworth, during the latter part of May. You'll find excellent birdwatching and an impressive array of bird-related activities. Learn more. (1460KB)

05/16/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 16, 2006. Should you worry about catching avian flu from the birds at your feeder? No. Like human flu, there are many commonly occurring types. Only a few are harmful. Avian flu usually infects only certain types of birds: chickens, ducks, geese, gulls, and shorebirds like sandpipers and plovers. Learn more. (1484KB)

05/15/2006

As heard on: KPLU - May 15, 2006. The ten-inch-tall Burrowing Owl is diurnal, most active during the day. It migrates south for the winter and returns each spring to an ever more uncertain fate in Washington. Learn why. (1466KB)

05/14/2006

As heard on: KOHO - May 14, 2006. When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
   Read the rest of this poem by Wendell Berry. (1428KB)

05/13/2006

As heard on: KOHO - May 13, 2006. Every spring, millions of birds head north to their breeding grounds all across the North American continent. Many of them fly thousands of miles from tropical wintering grounds, with some heading all the way to the boreal--or subarctic--forest. Learn more. (1451KB)

05/12/2006

As heard on: KPLU - May 12, 2006. As we ponder the wonders of bird sounds, how many of us think of gulls? Are gulls underrated as singers? While we may be more inclined to prize gulls for their ability to catch French fries in mid-air along the waterfront, they are actually quite accomplished vocalists. Learn more. (1462KB)

05/09/2006

As heard on: KPLU - May 09, 2006. In its flight display, the male Long-billed Curlew flies up with rapidly beating wings and glides down, then up again and down, stitching a series of arcs across the sky and calling its bubbly song all the time. Their loud flight calls warn of the presence of potential predators. Learn more. (1447KB)

05/08/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 08, 2006. Unless kids are introduced purposefully to nature, they may understand the plight of the Amazon rain forest, but never dampen their feet in a local stream. They may never know the names and songs of the birds they see or understand the wonder of migration. Learn more. (1461KB)

05/05/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 05, 2006. Some bird songs leave us in admiration of their beauty, some with a sense of wonder at their complexity--and others are downright comical. The male Willow Ptarmigan sounds like he might be laughing, or at least doing his best to make others laugh. As a maker of silly sounds, he beats the Three Stooges hands down. Learn more. (1450KB)

05/03/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 03, 2006. The winds of spring, it seems, have a lot to do with the health of our region's seabirds. Scientists who study Pacific Coast marine birds are watching spring's prevailing winds with considerable concern. In 2005, early spring northerlies failed to materialize, and the result for seabirds was disastrous. Learn more. (1446KB)

05/01/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 01, 2006. The Wilson's Snipe lives in marshes and muddy areas, where it probes for worms and other squirmy delights. But when spring comes, it takes to the air. The male snipe circles high above in a series of roller-coaster arcs, each descent marked by a loud and distinctive sound. Learn more. (1445KB)

04/30/2006

As heard on: KOHO - April 30, 2006. In spring, the Black-capped Chickadee adds a new vocalization to its repertoire. By fall, that part of the bird?s brain has shrunk, and the bird caches food for the winter, retrieving it up to a month later. Learn more. (1462KB)

04/29/2006

As heard on: KOHO - April 29, 2006. Song Sparrows are found throughout the United States and into Southern Canada. To bring them into your garden, plant thick, low vegetation, or create a brush pile. The Song Sparrow utters its serenade morning, noon, and evening. Learn more. (1432KB)

04/28/2006

As heard on: KPLU - April 28, 2006. A high-pitched, tinkling bird song--suggesting a tiny, glass wind chime--rings across the open, grassy expanse of a field. The song comes from above, as a male Horned Lark hovers on fluttering wings, describing a large circle a hundred feet above the ground. Learn more. (1441KB)

04/27/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 27, 2006. In the 1800s, the Wood Duck was possibly the most abundant duck east of the Mississippi River. But the draining of wetlands, forest fragmentation, and market hunting caused precipitous declines in their numbers. In 1918, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act completely banned hunting of Wood Ducks for 23 years. Learn more. (1460KB)

04/26/2006

As heard on: KPLU - April 26, 2006. Two robin-sized woodpeckers excavate a nest hole. We are looking at a mated pair of Williamson's Sapsuckers, a migratory species that nests in the mountain forests east of the Cascades. Their radically different plumages so confounded 19th-century naturalists that, for nearly a decade, the birds were thought to be of different species! Learn more. (1454KB)

04/25/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 25, 2006. One of the most ethereal of spring sounds in the Northwest is that made by the Wilson's Snipe. Much as if they were playing a reed instrument, male snipe produce a winnowing sound in flight by metering, with their wings, the flow of air over their tail feathers. Learn more. (1477KB)

04/22/2006

As heard on: KOHO - April 22, 2006. Perhaps the most familiar duck in the Northwest, the Mallard is a large and heavy bird. Mallards are found virtually everywhere there is open water, from city parks and subalpine lakes to sheltered bays and estuaries along the coast. Learn more. (1528KB)

04/21/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 21, 2006. The Ivory-billed Woodpecker. We thought this bird had become extinct about 50 years ago, as the low-lying, hardwood forests of the Southeast were cut down. The bird has been found again, but its future remains uncertain. Learn more. (1486KB)

04/19/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 19, 2006. Western Washington sits mid-way along the Pacific Coast flyway. Coastal beaches and estuaries offer excellent resting and feeding stops for migrating shorebirds, some of which travel from Argentina to the Arctic and back, every year. Learn more. (1477KB)

04/17/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 17, 2006. Audubon chapters around the country hold "birdathons" every spring. Participants gather pledges for each species of bird they see within 24 hours. More birds equal more money for conservation and education. And you don't have to be an expert to participate. Learn more. (1458KB)

04/14/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 14, 2006. Imagine flying thousands of miles without map or compass. Imagine covering those miles in the dark of night. Tonight and throughout this month, songbirds are traveling north on their annual spring migration. Learn more. (1449KB)

04/13/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 13, 2006. If this week's bright full moon pulls you outside, pause for a moment and listen. You just might hear nighttime migrating songbirds. Avid birdwatchers, particularly on the East Coast, use binoculars or telescopes to observe flocks flying across the face of the moon. Learn more. (1491KB)

04/12/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 12, 2006. Once you've discovered the world of birds, you'll see them nearly everywhere. Even parking lots. Next time you?re at a shopping mall, grab a coffee, take a seat outside, and look around you. How many different species of birds can you see? Learn more. (1477KB)

04/11/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 11, 2006. We?ve all seen sandpipers at the beach, hunched over, probing industriously, as if drilling for oil. But sandpiper bills are far more than drills. Many sandpipers have sensitive nerve receptors in their bill tips, so they can find unseen prey through touch, odor, and pressure changes--and so, feed even at night. Learn more. (1462KB)

04/10/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 10, 2006. One person's dedication can make a difference, as it did with Kevin Li and Puget Sound's Purple Martins. Their numbers very much reduced in our region since the 1980s, these large, elegant swallows owe their recent resurgence here primarily to Kevin Li, who died this January. Learn more. (1507KB)

04/05/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 05, 2006. While spring heralds the return of many migratory birds, it also spells the end of a long winter stay in Washington by others. Even most of the Dark-eyed Juncos that winter here will soon leave for mountain forests, taking their ringing trills with them. Learn more. (1479KB)

04/04/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - April 04, 2006. The call of the male Ring-necked Pheasant carries over the open wheat field. During spring, the male pheasant establishes his territory and attracts one or more females into his harem. This bird is often called the Chinese Pheasant for its country of origin. Learn more. (1475KB)

04/02/2006

As heard on: KOHO - April 02, 2006. Crows. Large, black, noisy. The raucous birds of the neighborhood. Some people love them, others aren't so sure. Learn more. (1478KB)

03/31/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 31, 2006. Both Douglas squirrels and the firs they call home bear the name of David Douglas. In 1825 and 1826, the Scotsman Douglas tramped and canoed over 6000 miles of the Northwest, documenting plants and collecting seeds and cuttings. Learn more. (1434KB)

03/30/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 30, 2006. Springtime brings the sound of a woodpecker--maybe one like this Northern Flicker--drumming on a hollow surface. Members of the woodpecker percussion band announce their territory and attract mates, as they pound away on metal roofs or gutters. Learn more. (1461KB)

03/28/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 28, 2006. Brown Pelicans fly just above the breaking surf off the Washington coast. They circle high, then diving headfirst, plunge under water to catch fish. But doesn't that hurt? Several adaptations protect Brown Pelicans as they dive. Learn more. (1470KB)

03/26/2006

As heard on: KOHO - March 26, 2006. As the first rays of sunlight fill the trees on a spring morning, a symphony of birdsong erupts. As early morning light extinguishes the stars, male birds begin to belt out their songs. Learn more. (1467KB)

03/25/2006

As heard on: KOHO - March 25, 2006. The Master Gardener program began in Washington State in 1972, and is now active in 50 states and several other countries. Got bugs? They'll show you how to live with them--and without pesticides. They're water-wise, plant-savvy, and eager to help. Learn more. (1458KB)

03/24/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 24, 2006. When the Great Horned Owl eggs hatched in the first days of March, the downy owlets were the size of newborn chickens and their mother brooded them day and night. By late March, the Great Horned Owlets can be left alone while both adults resume hunting at twilight. Learn more. (1430KB)

03/23/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 23, 2006. Common nesters east and west of the Cascades, House Finches eat many kinds of seeds and fruits. A careful look at male House Finches at a feeder shows that, while most males show red feathering, some are decidedly more orange--and some even yellow. Learn more. (1478KB)

03/22/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 22, 2006. A striking vision amid the open habitats it prefers, the Black-billed Magpie is a familiar sight throughout much of the West. The magpie's bulky nest is a rough sphere of sticks nearly three feet across, with entrance ports on the sides. Learn more. (1462KB)

03/21/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 21, 2006. Pigeon fanciers from around the world race specially bred homing pigeons over distances up to 600 miles. These stalwart and intelligent birds course the skies at speeds greater than 60 miles an hour. What's the recent record? Learn more. (1487KB)

03/19/2006

As heard on: KOHO - March 19, 2006. European Starlings were first recorded in Pullman, Washington in 1943, 53 years after the first few pairs were released in Central Park. It's no wonder this bird has been successful--a pair generally has two to three broods a season. Even more unfortunate, the starling competes with native birds for nesting sites. Learn more. (1483KB)

03/18/2006

As heard on: KOHO - March 18, 2006. Up to 25,000 Lesser Sandhill Cranes pass through Eastern Washington's Columbia Basin each spring, on their way between California's Central Valley and their nesting grounds in Alaska. Long-necked and long-legged, these grayish cranes stand three feet tall. Learn more. (1484KB)

03/16/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 16, 2006. You can find European Starlings in huge flocks from coast to coast, and from Northern Canada deep into Mexico. Yet not one of these iridescent-black, yellow-billed starlings is native to the Americas. One hundred starlings were released in Central Park in New York City in 1890. Learn more. (1495KB)

03/12/2006

As heard on: KOHO - March 12, 2006. Arctic Terns nest in the Canadian Arctic, then cross the Atlantic, brush the west coast of Africa, and "winter" in Antarctica. Sometimes they'll circle the polar ice pack before heading north again, a total round trip journey of more than 30,000 miles. Every year. Learn more. (1502KB)

03/07/2006

As heard on: KPLU - March 07, 2006. Measuring barely over three inches, brownish-grey Bushtits usually flock in batches of 20 or more. They flitter across the landscape, passing erratically before you. One, two... another... until twenty or thirty, even forty, have flitted by. They stop to forage, then move on. Learn more. (1518KB)

03/03/2006

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - March 03, 2006. By March, Rufous Hummingbirds are returning to our region, after wintering in Mexico. Zipping about at high speed, they burn a great deal of energy, so they must seek food constantly. You can help by putting out nectar feeders beginning in early March. Learn more. (1442KB)

03/02/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - March 02, 2006. At first glance, a Varied Thrush can appear to be a robin. Except in winter, when it gathers in loose flocks to move to lower elevations, this shy bird prefers solitude. The intricate pattern of color on its wings resembles dappled sunlight on the forest floor. Learn more. (1469KB)

02/17/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - February 17, 2006. The weekend of February 17-20 is the annual Great Backyard Bird Count, sponsored by the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. Birders across the country count birds in parks or fields or their own back yards, and then report the numbers on-line. Learn more and sign up! (1447KB)

02/06/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - February 06, 2006. Among the most dramatic wildlife sights of a Northwest winter is that of a huge, silent, all-white owl perched out in the middle of the day: a Snowy Owl, visitor from the Arctic. Snowy Owls are usually rare visitors to Western Washington. Learn more. (1476KB)

02/03/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - February 03, 2006. What bird has an eagle?s speed, an Osprey's agility, and enough power to take down a mighty panther? The Seattle Seahawk, a not-so-rare bird of the Pacific Northwest, won't be found in any birding field guide, even though on certain days it numbers in the thousands. Learn more. (1513KB)

01/23/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - January 23, 2006. With a call like the bugle notes of a cavalry charge, a Western Scrub-Jay flaps and glides. Calling again, the Scrub-Jay perches boldly upright atop a tall tree, its long tail spiking downward. Western Scrub-Jays are on the move. Learn more. (1461KB)

01/18/2006

As heard on: KOHO and KPLU - January 18, 2006. Urban owls escape the harsh weather of northern Canada or the Cascade or Rocky Mountains, spending the winter in somewhat milder climes. A crash of the rodent population in their own territories may send the birds into new feeding areas, often hundreds of miles away. Learn more--and let us know what you think of BirdNote! (1497KB)

01/10/2006

As heard on: KPLU - January 10, 2006. Parakeets in the wild? This far north? Members of a flock of about 20 to 25 parakeets first showed up in Seward Park in Seattle in the early 1990s. Ornithologists generally agree that they are Scarlet-fronted Parakeets, thousands of miles away from their native Central America. Learn more. (1453KB)

12/23/2005

As heard on: KOHO - December 23, 2005. Some bird songs leave us in admiration of their beauty, some with a sense of wonder at their complexity--and others are downright comical. The male Willow Ptarmigan sounds like he might be laughing, or at least doing his best to make others laugh. Learn more. (1435KB)

12/12/2005

As heard on: KPLU - December 12, 2005. During late December, birders go out counting every bird that hops, swims, flies, or soars into view, as they have for over 100 years. It's the Christmas Bird Count, and Audubon chapters across the United States and elsewhere sponsor these daylong counts. (1501KB)

12/08/2005

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - December 08, 2005. Flu--or influenza--occurs naturally in birds, as well as humans. Like our flu, there are many commonly occurring avian types. Only a few are harmful. Should you worry about catching it from birds at your feeder? Learn more. (1493KB)

11/30/2005

As heard on: KPLU - November 30, 2005. In late fall, the farmlands of Washington's Skagit River delta are a broad checkerboard of browns and greens. Yet one immense field appears snow-covered, blanketed in white. A closer look reveals more than 10,000 Snow Geese, covering the field in a dense flock. Learn more. (1477KB)

11/29/2005

As heard on: KPLU - November 29, 2005. On a still winter afternoon, walking the shore of Puget Sound, you may hear goldeneyes flying low across the water--whistlers, their wings sibilant, making the sound (as Ernest Hemingway wrote) of ripping silk. They could be Common or Barrow's Goldeneyes. Learn more. (1495KB)

11/25/2005

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - November 25, 2005. The Steller's Jay is a jay--and it's blue. But it's not a true Blue Jay with a capital "B." The bona fide Blue Jay is primarily a bird of the East. Both are smaller cousins to the American Crow and the Common Raven. Learn more. (1492KB)

11/23/2005

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - November 23, 2005. Take a walk around a lake in late November, and you'll find male ducks in their most brilliant breeding colors. Male Northern Shovelers have regained their deep emerald head feathers and rich brown flanks. Drake Mallards' heads and necks sparkle their greenest. Learn more. (1512KB)

11/22/2005

As heard on: KPLU - November 22, 2005. Few sights breathe life and color into a gray winter day like that of a backyard feeder bustling with birds. And the rewards of feeding birds in your yard are mutual: smaller birds, which have high energy demands, benefit greatly from the food you provide during the colder months. Learn more. (1506KB)

11/21/2005

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - November 21, 2005. So many little brown birds look the same--they might be sparrows, or wrens, or finches, or something altogether different. And you often find them together in winter. Learning to tell these LBBs apart can be really frustrating for novice birdwatchers. Learn more. (1488KB)

11/20/2005

As heard on: KOHO - November 20, 2005. The Black Oystercatcher is completely dependent on the marine shoreline for food, even in winter, when waves hit the rocks with awesome force. They forage mostly during low tide, moving slowly and deliberately through the rocks in search of food. Learn more. (1500KB)

11/18/2005

As heard on: KPLU - November 18, 2005. Trumpeter Swans land in a plowed field to forage for remnant potatoes, grain, and other waste crops. With an almost seven-foot wingspan and weighing nearly twenty-five pounds, this swan is among the largest of all waterfowl. The Tundra Swan is a bit smaller. Learn more. (1492KB)

11/17/2005

As heard on: KPLU - November 17, 2005. Although you may see Dark-eyed Juncos in the summer, come fall, many, many more--those that have been nesting in the mountains or farther north--come south to spend the winter. These avian "snowbirds" often visit seed feeders for winter feasting, Learn more. (1523KB)

11/14/2005

As heard on: KOHO - November 14, 2005. A family of dapper Black-capped Chickadees call as they hang upside down, pecking at alder seeds; a Bewick's Wren skulks and buzzes through the underbrush; a chattering Ruby-crowned Kinglet hovers at a branch tip; and a petite Downy Woodpecker whinnies near-by. What's going on? (1548KB)

11/07/2005

As heard on: KPLU - November 07, 2005. Twenty-five years ago, there were twice as many Lesser and Greater Scaup in North America as there are today. Starting in 1986, zebra mussels, previously unknown in the US, spread rapidly throughout the Great Lakes. And scaup love to eat them. What's wrong with that? (1514KB)

11/02/2005

As heard on: KPLU - November 02, 2005. Stroll along the shoreline, and notice the bills of a few birds--like the Long-billed Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit seen here. Call it a "bill" or a "beak", the variety of shapes and sizes of the birds' signature instrument is extraordinary. And crucial! Learn more. (1501KB)

11/01/2005

As heard on: KPLU - November 01, 2005. Driving the freeway or a narrow country road, you may glance up to a light pole where a large hawk sits in plain view. If it's brown and somewhat mottled, and its small head and short tail make it appear football-shaped, it's probably a Red-tailed Hawk. Learn more. (1490KB)

10/25/2005

As heard on: KPLU - October 25, 2005. Some ducks don't sound like ducks at all. Some, like the Harlequin, squeak. Harlequins are unique in other ways, too. Quick and agile in rushing white water, they dive to the bottom of mountain streams for food, and use fast-flowing rivers for breeding. Learn more. (1890KB)

10/20/2005

As heard on: KPLU - October 20, 2005. Wind farms--long rows of 15-story, high-tech windmills with rotating blades--allow us to convert renewable wind energy into electricity. The concept seems environmentally benign, but the windmills are often installed along the same ridges favored by migrating birds for their currents. (1888KB)

10/19/2005

As heard on: KPLU - October 19, 2005. He doesn't sound exactly like Woody Woodpecker, but this Pileated Woodpecker was the model for the 1950s cartoon character. The Pileated needs a tree at least 60 to 80 years old to carve out its nest cavity, which has a distinctive rectangular entrance. Learn more. (1878KB)

10/18/2005

As heard on: KPLU - October 18, 2005. Long ago the tide did not ebb and flow, but stayed close to shore. The people went hungry because the clams lay hidden under water. Raven had a plan. He put on his cloak of black feathers and flew along the shore to the house of the old woman who held the tide-line firmly in her hand. (1891KB)

10/17/2005

As heard on: KPLU - October 17, 2005. The bold Steller's Jay mimics the calls of hawks and eagles to scare off would-be competitors and maintain the advantage in its avian neighborhood. Since the eagle is top predator within the bird world, the jay's most powerful weapon is to mimic the call of the Bald Eagle. Learn more. (1885KB)

10/14/2005

As heard on: KPLU - October 14, 2005. In 1805, Captain William Clark of the westbound Lewis and Clark expedition first found the bird that today bears his name: Clark's Nutcracker. This bird inhabits remote areas near tree-line in the western mountains, where it lives in symbiosis with whitebark pines. Learn more. (1887KB)

10/12/2005

As heard on: KPLU - October 12, 2005. Merlins, compact birds of prey about ten inches long with a two-foot wingspan, are swift, powerful fliers, true thunderbolts on long, pointed wings. These small falcons nest north of us, but return to hunt through the winter, even right in the city. Learn more. (1890KB)

10/10/2005

As heard on: KPLU - October 10, 2005. Thirty years ago, there were six million Northern Pintails in North America. Now? Just over three million. Duck numbers plummeted in the 1980s drought. When returning rains improved breeding habitat, duck abundance rebounded. Except for Northern Pintails. What's going on? (1889KB)

09/27/2005

As heard on: KPLU - September 27, 2005. Have you ever wondered how some migrating birds return to the same location, year after year? Do they learn from their parents, or do they just know how to migrate? Some birds (like this Bar-tailed Godwit) have an innate homing ability, while others follow their parents. Learn more. (1491KB)

09/20/2005

As heard on: KPLU - September 20, 2005. October brings well over a dozen species of wintering ducks and seabirds to our waters. Watch carefully. Some dabble along the surface, feeding along shallow edges of lakes and estuaries. Others dive under the water, using their feet and occasionally their wings for propulsion. Learn more. (1586KB)

09/09/2005

As heard on: KPLU - September 09, 2005. Imagine: a Great Blue Heron trying to swallow a snake. Should it go down headfirst or tailfirst? If the snake's head is free, it could attack the heron, biting or whipping it. Learning to forage takes practice. In a trial-and-error world, how often does an inexperienced bird get a second chance? (1557KB)

09/05/2005

As heard on: KPLU - September 05, 2005. The Brown Creeper lives in a mature forest where evergreen and deciduous trees reach for sun. Its habit of moving up the trunk, looking for insects, inspired Hazel Wolf, who--when she was 64--went on to start 21 new Audubon chapters. Learn more. (1588KB)

09/02/2005

As heard on: KPLU - September 02, 2005. Imagine the nesting cliff of Common Murres, 100 feet above the ocean. Suddenly, a small murre chick, only three weeks old and just one-quarter the weight of an adult, lunges off the cliff, gliding clumsily to the water below. Soon other chicks follow, splashing into the sea. Now what? (1498KB)

09/01/2005

As heard on: KPLU - September 01, 2005. The Common Murre is among the few species of birds that can fly under water. When above the water, the 18"-long murre must flap frantically to stay aloft. But beneath the waves, with its flipper-like wings partly extended, it is a streamlined, masterful swimmer. Learn more. (1482KB)

08/31/2005

As heard on: KPLU - August 31, 2005. Herons nest in colonies, constructing their stick nests in adjoining trees or cramming several nests into one tree. But by autumn, the adults and gangly young have left the nests to take up solitary lives--a pattern that is the reverse of many other species. Learn more. (1559KB)

08/25/2005

As heard on: KPLU - August 25, 2005. Imagine--you've found your way to a marsh, forest, or other natural habitat. Now what? Apart from the color and size of a bird, you watch what the bird does--and where. A bird's behavior offers many clues. Watching birds is a bit like detective work. What do you look for? (1542KB)

08/23/2005

As heard on: KPLU - August 23, 2005. The Purple Martin is North America's largest swallow. From a high of perhaps 10,000 martins in Seattle in the 1940s, nearly the entire Puget Sound population had disappeared by the 1970s. Loss of habitat, plus competition by non-native birds, caused their drastic decline. Learn more. (1582KB)

08/19/2005

As heard on: KPLU - August 19, 2005. The beauty of the small, slender Snowy Egret is in its fine white feathers and long, lacy plumes. It's rare to see a Snowy Egret wading in Pacific Northwest waters, but once, it was rare to see one even in its home range of the south and central United States. Learn more. (1546KB)

08/18/2005

As heard on: KPLU - August 18, 2005. Loping overhead at dusk, the Common Nighthawk chases down aerial insects with sudden, choppy shifts of direction. Not really a hawk at all, the nighthawk is closely related to the more fully nocturnal nightjars, such as the Whip-poor-will of eastern North America. Learn more. (1537KB)

08/17/2005

As heard on: KPLU - August 17, 2005. Only the Glaucous-winged Gull nests in the Pacific Northwest, so for months, gull-watching has been pretty tame. But during August, several other gull species?including the Bonaparte's, Ring-billed, and Mew Gulls--begin returning to our area. Ah! The gulls of summer! Learn more. (1540KB)

08/16/2005

As heard on: KPLU - August 16, 2005. The harsh call of a silvery-white seabird rips the air. A Caspian Tern--a large tern, with a four-foot wingspan--flies watchfully above the Columbia River. The tern whirls, folds its wings, and plunges into the water, diving for small fish that swim just below the surface. Learn more. (1579KB)

08/15/2005

As heard on: KPLU - August 15, 2005. Chickadees and nuthatches swirl in small chattering flocks in the first light, to drink dew from the cups of leaves. Birds are gifted, as Henry Beston wrote, "with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings." (1540KB)

08/11/2005

As heard on: KPLU - August 11, 2005. You've bought a ticket, waited in line, and boarded the ferry. Before the boat leaves, climb the stairs and step out on the observation deck where you can enjoy a mini-birdwatching cruise. What birds you see depends upon the time of year and the route of your ferry. Learn more. (1524KB)

08/05/2005

As heard on: KPLU - August 05, 2005. If you go beach-birding, you're likely to see Glaucous-winged Gulls, crows, a Killdeer, maybe even a Bald Eagle. Listen for the rattling call of a Belted Kingfisher as it flies out over the water, looking for a fish. Look farther out, and you might see Pigeon Guillemots. Learn more. (1584KB)

08/04/2005

As heard on: KPLU - August 04, 2005. A recently fledged Bald Eagle, a juvenile just learning to fly, lands on the ground in somebody's yard. The parent Bald Eagles may react by calling from a tree, or they may have to descend to the ground, to tend to and encourage their young to take flight again. Learn more. (1564KB)

08/02/2005

As heard on: KPLU - August 02, 2005. In late summer, juvenile Glaucous-winged Gulls are taking flight over downtown Seattle. These gulls nest on flat, sunny rooftops that are generally inaccessible to humans. The nests are bits of gravel, debris, and dried vegetation or sticks, often next to a wall or chimney. Learn more. (1542KB)

07/29/2005

As heard on: KPLU - July 29, 2005. Often called the Camp Robber or Whiskey Jack, the mountain-dwelling Gray Jay will crash a picnic faster than hungry ants. The robber escapes with edible tidbits and caches them in trees with its sticky saliva, reclaiming its stored food in the cold, snowy winter. Learn more. (1547KB)

07/26/2005

As heard on: KPLU - July 26, 2005. A Peregrine attacks 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 the attacker. Learn more. (1514KB)

07/22/2005

As heard on: KPLU - July 22, 2005. When a hawk-predator chases a smaller bird, the hawk focuses on the strongly contrasting feathers of its prey. The hawk will attack that part of the bird, perhaps coming up with a mouthful of tail-feathers, while allowing the bird to escape. Flashy tail-feathers can help a bird escape a predator. Learn more. (1555KB)

07/15/2005

As heard on: KPLU - July 15, 2005. The jewel-like male Rufous Hummingbirds are fewer in number these days. They are moving out, heading south, pouring into southeastern Arizona--headed to wintering grounds in Mexico. The females (who take on all the nesting duties) and their offspring will follow later in the summer. Learn more. (1511KB)

07/13/2005

As heard on: KPLU - July 13, 2005. You might guess that the word "steller" describes an exceptional jay, but StellEr comes from a man's name. Back in July, 1741, George Wilhelm Steller, a German naturalist on the St. Peter and the first European to set foot on land later known as Alaska, first sighted this jay. Learn more. (1561KB)

07/12/2005

As heard on: KPLU - July 12, 2005. They fly in squadrons, heading north, and a few recently landed near Olympia. But instead of sending out an alarm, we celebrate the slow, gradual return of Brown Pelicans to Western Washington. Watch for these birds to perch atop a piling or glide along, just above the surface of the water. Learn more. (1546KB)

07/11/2005

As heard on: KPLU - July 11, 2005. A Red-breasted Nuthatch might remind you of a tiny woodpecker, but woodpeckers generally travel up the trunk, leaning on their tails, while nuthatches often work their way down the trunk. The nuthatch's insistent call matches its aggressiveness. Where did it get a name like "nuthatch"? Learn more. (1558KB)

07/07/2005

As heard on: KPLU - July 07, 2005. Along the coast of Washington, just after the summer solstice, thousands of Western Sandpipers settle in to feed along the tidal edge. Females predominate among the first wave of migrants, suggesting that males stay north longer to tend the young, which will fly south later in summer. Learn more. (1551KB)

07/06/2005

As heard on: KPLU - July 06, 2005. After hatching, baby robins spend up to fifteen days in the nest, growing and preparing for the world outside. By July, many young robins have left the nest, or fledged. Yet, they aren't ready to make it entirely on their own, and follow their parents around, learning to fend for themselves. Learn more. (1542KB)

07/01/2005

As heard on: KPLU - July 01, 2005. Prior to the rediscovery of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in April 2004, it had been considered extinct, even left out of some bird field guides. Sixty years is a long time for any species to hide out in deep forests, away from human observation, especially such a large, distinctive bird. Learn more. (1529KB)

06/30/2005

As heard on: KPLU - June 30, 2005. All birds need to sleep--or at least snooze--sometime during each 24-hour period. Most sleep at night. Birds don't usually sleep in nests, except to incubate eggs or brood young. But a bird does turn its head around and poke its beak under shoulder-feathers to keep its beak warm. Learn more . (1519KB)

06/27/2005

As heard on: KPLU - June 27, 2005. Listen quietly at dusk in the evergreen forests of the Puget Lowlands, and you are likely to hear the melodious, spiraling song of the Swainson's Thrush. These bright-eyed, secretive singers spend the winter in Mexico and South America, returning to Washington in mid-May. Learn more. (1545KB)

06/24/2005

As heard on: KPLU - June 24, 2005. To feed their young, Black Guillemots search for food at the edge of pack-ice. In 1972, this was a just short trip from Cooper Island. Now it's more than 25 miles. Unable to find sufficient food close by, they're abandoning their chicks in order to save themselves and try again the next year. What's happening? Learn more! (1534KB)

06/23/2005

As heard on: KPLU - June 23, 2005. For the past 30 summers, scientist George Divoky has studied Black Guillemots off Alaska's north coast. Divoky says, "They know they have to breed as soon as the snow melts. Their arrival on the island tells us precisely what day that is each summer. And that day is arriving earlier each year." Learn more. (1523KB)

06/22/2005

As heard on: KPLU - June 22, 2005. The bold Steller's Jay mimics the calls of hawks and eagles to scare off would-be competitors and maintain the advantage in its avian neighborhood. Since the eagle is top predator within the bird world, the jay's most powerful weapon is to mimic the call of the Bald Eagle. Learn more. (1523KB)

06/21/2005

As heard on: KPLU - June 21, 2005. California Quail build their well-concealed nests right on the ground. A nest can hold from one to 24 eggs. Twenty four?! Yes, the large clutches may include eggs from more than one female. Immediately after hatching, the precocial chicks follow their parents around, scratching for food. Learn more. (1549KB)

06/20/2005

As heard on: KPLU - June 20, 2005. In the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, June days offer almost continuous daylight to breeding birds, including the Black-bellied Plover. Many have settled in to nest on dry heath tundra. Shortly after the summer solstice, however, the adults begin their southbound migration, without their young. Learn more. (1543KB)

06/17/2005

As heard on: KPLU - June 17, 2005. The White-crowned Sparrow sings "see me, pretty, pretty me" far and wide. But Oregon and Washington White-crowns have different dialects, just as we humans do. And along one 30-mile shoreline in northern California, six distinctly different White-crowned Sparrow dialects can be heard. Learn more. (1535KB)

06/16/2005

As heard on: KPLU - June 16, 2005. If there ever was a birdsong that could become monotonous, it's the song of the White-crowned Sparrow. The White-crowned Sparrow's "see me, pretty, pretty me" can be heard over and over each spring and summer day and even on moonlit nights, often repeated up to 15 times a minute. Learn more. (1520KB)

06/15/2005

As heard on: KPLU - June 15, 2005. Although many seabirds utter ugly-sounding groans and croaks, the Pigeon Guillemot produces a lovely series of trills and whistles. As part of their courtship, they take off from the water, flying side by side in large circles and loops, a perfect synchronized flying act. Learn more. (1563KB)

06/10/2005

As heard on: KPLU - June 10, 2005. Although the American Crow may seem blase about pillaging another bird's nest, it regards a threat to its own young as a punishable offense. Crows are ferocious and fearless parents. To protect their nest and their young, adult crows dive-bomb people, cats, and other birds or animals. Learn more. (1549KB)

06/09/2005

As heard on: KPLU - June 09, 2005. Baby pigeons, robins, and most songbirds spend perhaps only two weeks maturing in the egg, while baby ducks and geese spend up to 30 days. Ducklings are able to walk, swim, and feed themselves as soon as they hatch--they are precocial, while baby robins are totally helpless--altricial. Learn more. (1557KB)

06/08/2005

As heard on: KPLU - June 08, 2005. When they first leave the nest, young birds are especially vulnerable to cats. For some birds, it takes a few days before they can fly high enough to be out of harm's way. You can help by keeping your cat indoors, especially during the breeding season, March through July. Learn more. (1528KB)

06/06/2005

As heard on: KPLU - June 06, 2005. Just because a young bird is alone--whether on the ground or squawking loudly from a bush or tree--doesn't necessarily mean it is sick or injured. At this time of year, young birds are leaving their nests. The best thing you can do is to keep your cats indoors, and leave the birds alone. Learn more. (1599KB)

06/03/2005

As heard on: KPLU - June 03, 2005. The Osprey suffered great declines in the past century as a result of DDT, an eggshell-thinning pesticide. Since the ban of DDT in 1972, the Osprey has made, and continues to make, a strong comeback in much of North America. This is the only North American raptor to feed exclusively on fish. Learn more. (1561KB)

06/02/2005

As heard on: KPLU - June 02, 2005. Birds' eggs range in size from the tiny hummingbird egg to the eight-inch Ostrich egg. Swifts lay only one or two eggs; ducks may lay as many as 16. The female lays one egg per day until the clutch is complete. When all the eggs are laid, incubation begins, so all the eggs hatch about the same time. Incubation can take as few as 11 days to as many as 11 weeks. (1553KB)

06/01/2005

As heard on: KPLU - June 01, 2005. Great Horned Owls are large, powerful owls with prominent ear-tufts. They are found in more varied habitats than any other owl in North America. They often nest in trees, but may also nest on cliffs in arid areas far from trees. The female incubates the eggs, while the male brings food to her. Learn more. (1558KB)

05/31/2005

As heard on: KPLU - May 31, 2005. Pudgy, social, chatty, and ubiquitous, the House Sparrow has adapted to living in cities, suburbs, and rural areas. Like most birds, these sparrows enjoy a daily bath. By setting out a birdbath, you can watch them chatter and splash and shake like a dog, sending droplets flying. Learn more. (1577KB)

05/30/2005

As heard on: KPLU and KOHO - May 30, 2005. John James Audubon calculated that there were 1.1 billion Passenger Pigeons in North America in the early 1800s. A century later, they were all gone. The last Passenger Pigeon in the world died in the Cincinnati Zoo on September 1, 1914. What happened to these lovely long-tailed doves? Learn more. (1512KB)

05/27/2005

As heard on: KPLU - May 27, 2005. Native plants offer sustenance year round?nectar in spring and summer, berries, nuts, fruits, and seeds in winter. They also provide cover--shelter from the weather and protection from predators. And plants native to this area are not invasive--they don't displace natural habitat. Learn more. (1602KB)

05/26/2005

As heard on: KPLU - May 26, 2005. Bluebirds nest in tree cavities, but clear-cutting and the removal of snags have decreased their natural nesting sites. Bluebird-advocates have stepped in and installed wooden nest boxes, following exact specifications to meet the bluebirds' needs, and placing them in the perfect place. Learn more. (1555KB)

05/25/2005

As heard on: KPLU - May 25, 2005. If you?ve ever stood on a wharf outside a Seattle fish and chips restaurant and flung a French fry into the air, you've probably seen the common Glaucous-winged Gull, wheeling and catching the toss. These aerial acrobats provide an important service: they're one of nature's marine clean-up crews. Learn more. (1578KB)

05/24/2005

As heard on: KPLU - May 24, 2005. Have you ever wondered if a hummingbird can recognize colors other than red, or if other birds see color? Some male birds literally shimmer with brilliant colors--the Wood Duck and peacock, for instance. But color is probably lost on nocturnal birds, which may actually be colorblind. Learn more. (1533KB)

05/23/2005

As heard on: KPLU - May 23, 2005. 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 much information in a short sound. Winter Wrens are found most often in closed-canopy conifer forests, although they also live in other forest types as long as there is dense understory. They nest in cavities, usually within six feet of the ground. To learn more about this versatile songster, visit BirdWeb.org. (1483KB)

05/20/2005

As heard on: KPLU - May 20, 2005. The raucous laughter of the Common Murre rings out from a nesting colony, high on a narrow ledge on a sea cliff. Precarious as their nest site is, Common Murres are highly successful. Their eggs are pointed at one end and blunt at the other, so they spin on the ledge rather than tumbling into the sea. Learn more. (1516KB)

05/19/2005

As heard on: KPLU - May 19, 2005. Barn Swallows have adapted to nesting near people, and often build their cup-shaped mud nests in barns and garages, and on protected ledges. There may be several nests near each other. The good news? These twittery, flittery birds love to eat the insects that we humans consider pesky. Learn more. (1416KB)

05/18/2005

As heard on: KPLU - May 18, 2005. Mount Saint Helens erupted on May 18, 1980. The cataclysmic explosion erased life from the countryside and resculpted the landscape. Birds were some of the first species to return to the devastated area. Those in the vanguard included some unexpected species, like the Mountain Bluebird. Learn more. (1533KB)

05/17/2005

As heard on: KPLU - May 17, 2005. Have you ever looked for the word "seagull" in the index of a birding guide? You won't find it. It's not listed. This bird and all its relatives are actually called "gulls". The most common gull in the Puget Sound lowlands during May is the Glaucous-winged Gull. (The word "glaucous" means gray.) Learn more. (1554KB)

05/16/2005

As heard on: KPLU - May 16, 2005. The songs of a Bewick's Wren can carry for more than a quarter of a mile, produced by vocal chords no larger than a raindrop. And the wrens start singing young, learning their first songs from their fathers, just two or three weeks after hatching. The bird itself would fit easily in the palm of your hand... Learn more. (1572KB)

05/13/2005

As heard on: KPLU - May 13, 2005. May 14 is International Migratory Bird Day, established by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. All across North America, there are field trips, festivals, and exhibits to celebrate the birds that migrate. Washington State hosts more than 95 different migrants. Learn more. (1557KB)

05/12/2005

As heard on: KPLU - May 12, 2005. For most of the year, the long-tailed Bushtits flutter low through the trees and shrubs, in loose flocks of five to forty birds. But for a few short weeks in spring, pairs break from the flock to build their old sock of a nest. The Bushtits begin by attaching spider webs to a forked branch? Learn more! (1587KB)

05/11/2005

As heard on: KPLU - May 11, 2005. The Ruby-crowned Kinglet is one of the smallest songbirds on the continent, weighing in at just a little more than half a chickadee. Mostly green and hard to spot, it hovers in mid-air as it catches tiny insects. The male's green crown-feathers conceal a swatch of red ones. Learn more! (1563KB)

05/10/2005

As heard on: KPLU - May 10, 2005. While small birds gather feathers and fuzz, an Osprey adds material to its showy nest, high on a tree with a broken top--or maybe on a tower. Take branches three feet long; add sticks, bark, and mats of algae; throw in some flotsam and jetsam, and you have an Osprey's nest! Learn more. (1549KB)

05/09/2005

As heard on: KPLU - May 09, 2005. Imagine building a structure out of sticks and twigs, capable of supporting vigorous offspring, 40 feet high in a swaying tree. The male Great Blue Heron finds and brings the sticks, and the female decides what goes where. First, she wedges one strong stick near the main branch of a tree. Learn more! (1568KB)

05/06/2005

As heard on: KPLU - May 06, 2005. A birdhouse is a great asset for a garden. Plain natural wood is good. A rough interior helps young birds scramble to the hole. And no perches, please--they only allow invaders to reach the eggs or the young. Hang or place the nest box well above the reach of mammal predators. Learn more! (1552KB)

05/05/2005

As heard on: KPLU - May 05, 2005. Entice native birds to your garden with a birdhouse. To allow chickadees, nuthatches, or wrens into a birdhouse, and to keep aggressive, non-native species out, be sure the entrance hole is exactly one and one-eighth inches. If the hole is too big, use an adapter to reduce its size. Learn more! (1572KB)

05/04/2005

As heard on: KPLU - May 04, 2005. Cliff Swallows gather in spring, in nesting colonies. A single colony may contain up to 3,500 nests. Look for swarms of swallows under bridges, under the eaves of barns, or even the side of your house. These super fliers use mud to make gourd-shaped nests--side-by-side and jumbled together. Learn more! (1627KB)

05/03/2005

As heard on: KPLU - May 03, 2005. Western Washington sits mid-way on the Pacific Coast flyway. Coastal beaches and estuaries offer resting and feeding stops for migrating shorebirds, some of which travel from Argentina to the Arctic and back, every year, including plovers, sandpipers, dowitchers, and yellowlegs, among others. Learn more! (1542KB)

05/02/2005

As heard on: KPLU - May 02, 2005. As part of their spring courtship, Downy Woodpeckers perform a spectacular "butterfly flight"--the male and female seem to dance in the air, holding their wings high, and flapping slowly and lazily like butterflies. A crimson red splash on the back of the head distinguishes the male from the female. Learn more. (1553KB)

04/29/2005

As heard on: KPLU - April 29, 2005. The Belted Kingfisher dashes through the air, warning intruders with its rapid-fire, rattling call. In spring, the best places to see Belted Kingfishers are along sandy banks--they are busy digging burrows, where they will nest. The holes typically reach three to six feet into the bank. Learn more! (1415KB)

04/27/2005

As heard on: KPLU - April 27, 2005. Warblers can be hard to spot. But unlike many warblers that ply the tops of the trees, the Audubon's Warbler, a subspecies of the Yellow-rumped Warbler, is happy filtering through the lower branches of trees, providing flightless mortals with half a chance of seeing it? (1436KB)

04/26/2005

As heard on: KPLU - April 26, 2005. April 26th is the birthday of John James Audubon--flamboyant, groundbreaking artist, dedicated observer, adventurer, and writer. The Audubon's Warbler was named for him, and he is also recognized as the man after whom the Audubon Society was named, for where there are birds, there is Audubon. (1421KB)

04/25/2005

As heard on: KPLU - April 25, 2005. For years, scientists wondered why songbirds migrate at night. Recent studies show that songbirds use stars to help guide them, and will fly the wrong way when they are disoriented. Although this experiment explains a bit about bird migration, the essential phenomenon remains a mystery? (1449KB)

04/22/2005

As heard on: KPLU - April 22, 2005. Earth Day, April 22, reminds us of the natural resources that sustain the full community of life, for people and birds. Knowledge, will, and action are the keys--to ensure that the sounds of birds continue to join the earth's chorus. (1453KB)

04/21/2005

As heard on: KPLU - April 21, 2005. If this week's bright full moon pulls you outside, pause for a moment and listen. You just might hear migrating songbirds, flying overhead. Most songbirds do migrate at night, when fewer predators are out. The migrants stop, feed, and rest during the day. However, scientists believe that the main reason songbirds migrate at night is that the stars help orient them on their northward journey. Learn more about Washington's migratory songbirds and other birds at BirdWeb.org. (1491KB)

04/21/2005

As heard on: KPLU - April 21, 2005. If this weekend?s bright full moon pulls you outside, pause for a moment and listen. You just might hear migrating songbirds, flying overhead. Most songbirds do migrate at night, when fewer predators are out. The migrants stop, feed, and rest during the day. However, scientists believe that the main reason songbirds migrate at night is that the stars help orient them on their northward journey. Learn more about Washington's migratory birds at BirdWeb.org. (4695KB)

04/14/2005

As heard on: KPLU - April 14, 2005. With relatively short rounded wings and a long tail, the Sharp-shinned Hawk maneuvers easily through branches of open trees and near the ground. If the 'Sharpie' misses its prey, it may pull up and land on a low branch of a tree, settling in to watch for its target birds to return. (1414KB)

04/08/2005

As heard on: KPLU - April 08, 2005. Sitting on a piling with its wings outstretched, the Double-crested Cormorant looks like a black Celtic cross. Cormorants dive from the water?s surface to pursue prey under water, propelled by powerful webbed feet. The male performs a flashy wing-waving display that emphasizes his colorful head-tufts and neck. (1421KB)

04/07/2005

As heard on: KPLU - April 07, 2005. Hummingbirds love red, and both the Anna's and the Rufous Hummingbirds love the red-flowering currant, a Pacific Northwest native plant. Known as Ribes sanguineum to gardeners, the plant is available at most nurseries. For more information about gardening for wildlife, please click here. (1433KB)

04/05/2005

As heard on: KPLU - April 05, 2005. The population of waterfowl we call Canada Geese is made up of several subspecies that have widely differing behaviors. The geese we remember migrating in years past still do. But the geese native to Eastern Washington and the Great Basin do not. Happily enjoying our benign climate and abundant food, they've prospered. To learn more about Canada Geese, visit BirdWeb.org. (1415KB)

03/30/2005

As heard on: KPLU - March 30, 2005. Rufous Hummingbirds are highly territorial and defend their feeding territories not only while breeding but also during migration. Rufous Hummingbirds do not sing but make warning chips in response to perceived threats. Their wings make a whine much like the sound of a cicada. (1479KB)

03/29/2005

As heard on: KPLU - March 29, 2005. Red-tailed Hawks are found in almost every type of habitat, as long as there are open areas interspersed with patches of trees or other elevated perches. The Red-tail is the most common and widespread hawk in North America. (1496KB)

03/28/2005

As heard on: KPLU - March 28, 2005. If you hear twittering sounds coming from iridescent-green birds darting and wheeling above your home, you'll know spring is here. These Violet-green Swallows are announcing their arrival from their wintering grounds in Mexico and Latin America. (1512KB)

03/17/2005

As heard on: KPLU - March 17, 2005. Sweet nectar from cultivated exotic plants in gardens and cities has lured and kept the Anna's Hummingbird beyond its former range. (1486KB)

03/16/2005

As heard on: KPLU - March 16, 2005. An owl with horns? The 22-inch Great Horned Owl has two tufts of feathers that stick up from the top of its head. (1472KB)

03/14/2005

As heard on: KPLU - March 14, 2005. The lanky Sandhill Crane stands three feet tall. During the breeding season, Sandhill Cranes paint themselves with mud, which also acts as camouflage. Their elongated feathers create a fluffy bustle, accentuating their gangly walk and making their mating dance a sight to see. (1541KB)

03/11/2005

As heard on: KPLU - March 11, 2005. The night-time sound of Pacific Chorus Frogs is one of the surest signs that spring is on its way. During the breeding season, from early February into June, the male frogs sing loudly, reminding us that rich natural habitats are close by. (1470KB)

03/10/2005

As heard on: KPLU - March 10, 2005. The cheery American Robin is often the first bird to wake up and start singing on a spring morning. Robins breed in the widest variety of habitats of any Washington songbird. They are common in almost all habitats and most elevations throughout the state. (1475KB)

03/09/2005

As heard on: KPLU - March 09, 2005. Springtime brings the sound of a Northern Flicker drumming on a hollow surface, to proclaim his territory and attract a mate. (1525KB)

03/08/2005

As heard on: KPLU - March 08, 2005. What bird can fly straight up and down, backwards and forwards, and even upside down? A hummingbird can do all this, and fly up to 75 miles an hour. And most amazing of all? This bird can slow from 25 miles an hour to a dead stop in a space no longer than your index finger. One hummingbird commonly seen in the Pacific Northwest is this Rufous Hummingbird. To learn more about this mighty puffball, visit BirdWeb. (1491KB)

03/08/2005

As heard on: KPLU - March 08, 2005. What bird can fly straight up and down, backwards and forwards, and even upside down? A hummingbird can do all this, and fly up to 75 miles an hour. And most amazing of all? This bird can slow from 25 miles an hour to a dead stop in a space no longer than your index finger. One hummingbird commonly seen in the Pacific Northwest is this Rufous Hummingbird. To learn more about this mighty puffball, visit BirdWeb. (1501KB)

03/01/2005

As heard on: KPLU - March 01, 2005. Rock Pigeons are one of the most common urban birds. But why do we never see baby pigeons? (1466KB)

02/24/2005

As heard on: KPLU - February 24, 2005. The Chestnut-backed Chickadee is slightly smaller than its cousin, the Black-capped Chickadee, and the two sound different. (1551KB)

02/23/2005

As heard on: KPLU - February 23, 2005. Who's the dapper bird with a black and white head? The Black-capped Chickadee lives year round in the Pacific Northwest. It has many calls, including one that sounds as if it's calling its own name. (1492KB)

02/22/2005

As heard on: KPLU - February 22, 2005. Rounding a bend on the Skagit in winter, you see farmland covered in white. More than 5000 Snow Geese spend the winter in Western Washington. (1531KB)

02/21/2005

As heard on: KPLU - February 21, 2005. Stretch your arms as far as you can, and imagine a bird whose reach is even greater! Sitting about three feet tall, the Bald Eagle has a wingspan of more than six feet. (1632KB)

Help

What is a podcast?
A podcast is a series of audio or video digital media files distributed over the web. You can listen to or watch a title just like any other MP3 or media file, or you can subscribe to a feed for automatic updates.

How do I listen to a podcast?
For most audio podcasts simply click on the "Play Podcast" button to launch the Flash player. You must have Flash installed for this to work. For all files, you can right-click on the title to download the file and play it in your favorite media player.

How do I subscribe to a feed?
Click on the "RSS" link to the right of the channel and paste the URL into your favorite digital media player such as iTunes.

Where do I find more feeds?
There are a number of places, such as iTunes Music Store and Odeo.

What? Where? How?
Visit Wikipedia for more information and links.

Fatbirder's Top 1000 Birding Websites