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Basalt as Shelter

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... read more »

Spooky Shearwaters

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... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

The Amazing, Head-turning Owl

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... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

When Starlings Cheat

When Hank Williams wrote Your Cheatin' Heart, birds probably weren't on his mind. But researchers have found evidence of what we might call "infidelity" in birds. Scientists in east Africa learned that female Superb Starlings often seem to have "cheatin'" on their minds. Superb Starlings live in... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

The Crows' Night Roost

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... read more »

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Some of My Best Friends Are Salt Marshes

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

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching

The Hardy Harlequin

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... read more »

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Raven, Dog, Bone

Ravens are crafty! BirdNote listener Gary Cummins tells a story about the intelligence of ravens. When he worked at Grand Canyon National Park, Gary had a Siberian husky named Tasha. When two ravens saw her with a tasty bone, they teamed up on her. One raven acted distressed, hopping slowly,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  listener story

Gull Identification I

Relatively few gull species are common nesters in the Lower 48. But in October, both the variety and number of gulls increase dramatically. Gulls that nested in Alaska or Canada fly south to spend winter in more temperate climates. Western Gulls are present in the West all year, mostly near the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching

Pileated Applepeckers

It's autumn, and apples have begun to fall, although many remain on the trees. In full view of its offspring, an adult Pileated Woodpecker stabs a tasty apple treat. After it feeds, it flies to a nearby tree. Alone now, the youngster repeats what it's seen, knocking apples to the ground until it... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  reflection