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Shelterbelts and Their Birds

Many species of birds nest in shelterbelts — also known as windbreaks — parallel rows of trees and shrubs planted to shelter houses, farms, and livestock from strong winds and drifting snow. Because shelterbelts often provide more food and lack the predators found in woodlands, they are great... read more »

Topics & Themes:  ecology, nesting

Bald Eagles Fledge

When young Bald Eagles fledge, the event is the culmination of nearly a year’s work by the parents. Let’s recap how it might have gone: male and female build a nest over the winter. By March, they have two eggs. The female incubates the eggs for about a month, with the male taking an occasional... read more »

Topics & Themes:  nesting

How Birds Stay Cool

On a hot summer’s day, watch a bird such as a crow — or this Purple Martin — very carefully. You’ll never see them sweat, because birds don’t have sweat glands. So how do they keep cool? One way is panting. As the bird breathes rapidly, heat is carried out of its body through the lungs and air... read more »

Topics & Themes:  science

Albatross Surfs the Wind

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... read more »

Topics & Themes:  flight

A Childhood Love of Birds

Gordon Orians, a writer and science advisor for BirdNote, reflects on how he developed an appreciation of birds and science during his youth. “I think I always had some sort of attraction to birds, and then I started going out bird watching with my dad,” he says. By the time Gordon was in high... read more »

Topics & Themes:  ornithology, reflection, science

A Crossbill's Beak Does the Job

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. The Red Crossbill bites between the scales of a cone and pries... read more »


Turkey Vulture, A Poem

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... read more »

Topics & Themes:  reflection

Sparrows Sing in Arizona Monsoon

Midday temperatures in southeast Arizona soar above 100 degrees during the month of July. But relief is coming. A summer monsoon refreshes the Sonoran Desert like a second spring. Grass grows lush, wildflowers spring forth, and birds sing. Cassin’s Sparrows sing their plaintive phrases almost... read more »


Waterfalls, Caves, and White-collared Swifts

A flight of White-collared Swifts, huge swifts the size of small falcons, wing their way toward a small waterfall in Southern Mexico. Flying up to 100 miles per hour, they slice right through the waterfall into the cave beyond. White-collared Swifts are found from Mexico to Brazil. By day, they... read more »

Topics & Themes:  flight, nesting

What to Talk About When You Talk About Birds

If you’re a biologist and you want to save habitat for birds such as this Savannah Sparrow, how do you do it? You talk to people, says Ros Renfrew of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies. And you listen. Ros meets with landowners in Vermont, New Hampshire, and across New England. “We might not even... read more »

Topics & Themes:  environmental champion