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Past Shows

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Three Buntings - Indigo, Lazuli, and Painted

Each spring and summer, Indigo Buntings sing their buzzy, jumbled songs from brushy edges throughout the Eastern US. West of the Rockies, a different bunting sings his song. Named for the gemstone lapis lazuli, a male Lazuli Bunting shimmers an iridescent azure. He looks as if he might have been... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  plumage, vocalization

Do Woodpeckers Harpoon Their Prey?

Because many woodpeckers have pointed tongues, it was once assumed that they “harpoon” their prey. But what they actually do is more complex. Like a safe-cracker in a movie, birds like this Hairy Woodpecker use a killer combination of sensitivity and force. First, as it scales a tree trunk, the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ornithology

A Rufous in the Rain

In a garden near the McKenzie River in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, a downpour pummels the landscape. Imagine a Rufous Hummingbird, like this male, out and about, extracting nectar, searching for gnats and aphids. A hummingbird's stamina against the heavy rain is marvelous. Consider this: its body... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration

Red Knot Migration

Thanks to radio transmitters, scientists have vastly increased their knowledge of Red Knot migration patterns. For example, the vast majority of Red Knots on the Pacific Coast rely on a small number of places to rest and feed during spring migration from Mexico to the Arctic. Those locations... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration

Turkey Vultures and Gas Pipelines

Do vultures detect carrion by sight or by smell? The lightbulb moment came to ornithologist Kenneth Stager when a Union Oil employee told him of vultures congregating at the spots along pipelines where gas leaks were occurring. Why would they do that? Because a key ingredient in the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ornithology, science

Hoatzin!

The Hoatzin is a strange bird, indeed! It looks like it was put together by a committee. But the way it looks isn't the only thing that sets this bird apart. The Hoatzin is strictly a leaf-eater, filling its stomach with leaves, and then resting and digesting for long periods. Chicks have... read more »

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Urban Cooper's Hawks

Next time you’re in the city, look up. When pigeons are wheeling, you might just see a different bird in pursuit. The Cooper’s Hawk, once known as the “chicken hawk,” used to be in steep decline due to hunting and the effects of DDT on breeding. Today, it’s the most abundant of the bird-eating... read more »

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Grosbeaks and Monarchs

Black-headed Grosbeaks are one of very few birds that regularly eat Monarch butterflies. Most birds and other animals find the butterflies unpalatable, if not downright toxic. The caterpillars of Monarchs consume milkweeds that contain toxic substances known as cardenolides. The poison is stored... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Meadowlarks and Grasslands

The clear, whistled music of the Eastern Meadowlark (seen here) is the unmistakable anthem of eastern North America's farmlands and open country. The Western Meadowlark and its sweet, liquid notes epitomize the natural expanses of the American West. Sadly, birds of such grassy habitats are among... read more »

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Gannets and Dolphins

Northern Gannets, fish-eating seabirds, dive headfirst into the ocean at speeds of up to 60 miles an hour, pursuing their prey. Sometimes, they get help. Dolphins herd fish into dense, frantic concentrations near the surface, while gannets take advantage and plunge into the shoals from aloft.... read more »

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