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Birds That Say Their Own Names

Some birds, such as the Northern Bobwhite, take their names from their songs or vocalizations: "Bobwhite! Bobwhite!" 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... read more »

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Gray Jay - Picnic Bird

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. The nickname "Whiskey Jack" comes... read more »

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Sanctuary and Bird Sound - with Patti McLead

When Patti and Patrick McLead purchased land near the Edwards Plateau in Texas, they wanted to create a bed and breakfast that doubled as a bird sanctuary. They built cottages and created a meadow. When they put in a pond, birds were quick to respond. This Black-crested Titmouse is among the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  backyard sanctuary

Killdeer - Master of Distraction

The Killdeer is one of the most widespread and commonly seen shorebirds in North America. Killdeers lure predators - including humans - away from their nest by calling loudly while appearing to limp and drag a wing. Found throughout the United States and Canada, they nest on the ground, often in... read more »

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Fruit as a Bribe

In summer, many shrubs bear fruit that birds find irresistible. Elderberries, serviceberries, blackberries, dogwood berries, mulberries, and currants attract many species of birds, including waxwings, tanagers, robins, warblers and this Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Plants offer this bounty in exchange... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, gardening

Night Singers

This Whip-poor-will is a true night bird - feeding, 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... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Chuck Pettis: Earth Sanctuary

At a place called Earth Sanctuary on Whidbey Island in Washington State, Osprey and Song Sparrows raise their young. Swainson's Thrushes and Yellow Warblers find a welcome refuge when they return from South and Central America. The Wood Duck young seen here have a safe place to grow. Chuck Pettis... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  environmental champion

Gaping Blackbirds

Gordon Orians describes an unusual adaptation in blackbirds called "gaping": "...the ability to forcibly open the bill against some pressure, so that a bird can push its bill into the base of a grass clump, and forcibly open it, which reveals the insects that may be down hidden in the base. ...... read more »

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Birds on the Menu!

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... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  humor, language

What Do Desert Birds Drink?

In the desert Southwest, water can be scarce. Yet some birds, like this Black-throated Sparrow, thrive in a scorching landscape. The birds obtain moisture from foods like nectar and fruit, as well as insects and other prey. They tuck into the shade in the heat of the day, so they won’t lose water... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology