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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

Cape May in October

Cape May Autumn Birding Festival, October 24 - 26!Cape May is one of the most famous birding destinations in the US. And October may be the most exciting month of all to watch birds there. It's hawk migration! Cape May lies at the southernmost tip of New Jersey, on a peninsula that divides... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birding

Geese in V-formation

Autumn … and geese fly high overhead in V-formation. But what about that V-formation, angling outward through the sky? This phenomenon – a kind of synchronized, aerial tailgating – marks the flight of flocks of larger birds, like geese or pelicans. Most observers believe that each bird behind the... read more »

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Black-footed Albatross, Graceful Giant

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. Black-footed Albatrosses do not breed until... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  flight

Waterfowl Migration in Flux

Waterfowl such as this Greater White-fronted Goose have long followed a predictable schedule, flying south in autumn after breeding in the north. But for some birds, climate change may be delaying fall migration. Beginning in 1979, scientists in northern Europe recorded migration dates of geese... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration

Chorus Line in the Sky

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... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  flight

Great Missoula Flood - Scablands and Plunge Pools

During the last ice age, a lobe of the ice sheet covering western Canada dammed the Clark Fork River, creating a vast lake in what is now northwestern Montana. Several times during the past 15,000 years, the ice dam broke, sending hundreds of cubic miles of water roaring across the inland... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

Waterfowl and Lead

Waterfowl must swallow hard particles so their gizzards can grind up hard foods, like grains. Unfortunately, they can't tell a lead pellet from a small pebble. Beginning in 1991, waterfowl hunters were required to switch from lead shotgun pellets to pellets made of non-toxic metals. The switch to... read more »

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Cattle Egret - You've Got a Friend in Me

Many birds that forage in open country, such as Cattle Egrets, benefit from association with large grazing mammals. The mammals scare up insects as they move, making them more visible to the birds. In the egrets’ native lands in Africa, the birds feed with elephants, rhinos, and Cape buffalos. In... read more »

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