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Past Shows

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Mark Twain and Tropicbirds

When Mark Twain visited Hawaii in 1866, he was able to inspect a live volcano, Halema’uma’u, which he described as “a crimson cauldron.” Twain concluded his impressions of the hellish scene by writing, “The smell of sulfur is strong, but not unpleasant to a sinner.” That eruption came to an end... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

Swainson's Warbler

On a fine May morning in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a song issues from within a rhododendron thicket. It's a Swainson's Warbler — one of North America's shyest birds. These birds forage quietly on the ground, flipping over leaves to expose and capture insects. They scurry away, calling... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Ruddy Duck

When male and female Ruddy Ducks meet on their breeding grounds, the male gets right to strutting his stuff. The male raises his tail and his head, until his feathers look like horns. He inflates his neck and, faster and faster, strikes his chest with his bill. These blows cause the water to... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display

Bushtits

Weighing about as much as four paperclips, Bushtits are smaller than many hummingbirds. And they take full advantage of their diminutive size. While larger insect-eaters forage on the upper surfaces of leaves, Bushtits hang beneath them, plucking all the tiny insects and spiders hiding out of... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

Pied-Billed Grebe Nest Construction

The call of the Pied-billed Grebe is unusual. Their nests are unusual too – little platforms of plant material that float on water, hidden behind vegetation. Martin Muller, an expert who loves unraveling the mysteries of Pied-billed Grebes, explains how grebe parents like this one build their nests. read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

A Young Bewick's Wren Learns to Sing

Donald Kroodsma, avian communication expert, offers great research on the songs of the Bewick's Wren. At this time of year, a very young male Bewick's Wren is beginning to learn how to sing. His father sings a crisp well-defined song, separated by pauses, but the young bird's song is fuzzy,... read more »

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Great Bustard

A Great Bustard shows off to a group of females by inflating special neck sacs – producing what sounds like a massive sneeze followed by a Bronx cheer. He flips his wings almost upside down to reveal bright white undersides, while fanning his tail and long, white throat whiskers. Three feet tall... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display

Birds' Sense of Taste

Even though it’s been known for many years that birds spit out caterpillars they find repellent, little research has been devoted to birds’ sense of taste. It wasn’t until the 1970s that a scientist found taste buds on the inside of a duck’s bill — more than 400 of them. An experiment with... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

American Robins Are Exceptional Singers

As singers go, American Robins are exceptional. They’re often the first birds to sing in the morning, and the last you’ll hear in the evening. While their average song strings fewer than a dozen short phrases together and lasts only a few seconds, robins sometimes sing for minutes without a pause... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  sound, vocalization

Mother Birds

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

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Topics & Themes:  nesting
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