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Bald Eagle - National Symbol

Stretch your arms as far as you can, and imagine a bird whose reach is even greater! Sitting about three feet tall, the Bald Eagle has a wingspan of more than six feet. When you see a mature Bald Eagle, you'll see a snowy-white head and tail with a dark brown body. Look closer and you'll see... read more »

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Swan Song

The idea of the "swan song" recurs from Aesop to Ovid to Plato to Tennyson. Ovid described it, "There, she poured out her words of grief, tearfully, in faint tones, in harmony with sadness, just as the swan sings once, in dying, its own funeral song." But it's based on a sweet fallacy - that a... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  myth, vocalization

Bird Tracks in the Snow

Look for the stories birds tell with their tracks in the snow. A crow swaggers, leaving right-and-left steps much as a walking human would. Juncos under a birdfeeder leave a hopping pattern of tiny footprints in side-by-side pairs. Look for beak marks, where a bird picked up a choice morsel or... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching

Eau de Junco

It’s junco season in North America. Flocks of these white-bellied snowbirds are kicking and scratching on woodland edges and beneath feeders from southern Canada to Mexico. On warm winter days, the males may even break into song. But songs and calls aren’t the only way Dark-eyed Juncos... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  plumage

Chickadee Line-up

You'll find the Black-capped Chickadee across the northern US into Canada. The Carolina Chickadee holds sway in the Southeast. Hear the husky voice of a Mountain Chickadee in the Rockies. Travel to Canada for the Boreal Chickadee. The Chestnut-backed Chickadee calls the Pacific Northwest home.... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  citizen science

Elephant Birds Laid Really Big Eggs

What bird laid the largest eggs ever known? To date, the record holder is the now-extinct Elephant Bird, a relative of the present-day Ostrich and other large, flightless birds, including rheas, cassowaries, and kiwis. Up to the late 1600s, Elephant Birds lived on the island of Madagascar. But by... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

Mating for Life

Most bird species in North America mate for a single breeding season. Some may team up again the following year, just because both stay in - or return to - the same territory. Fewer than one-fifth of Song Sparrow pairs, like these, are reunited. Hawks, eagles, and ravens have wide territories,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

Raven's Love Song

Ravens are seen as tricksters in many traditions. But Common Ravens have a softer side. During courtship, a pair will often sit side by side, sometimes preening each other's feathers. And during that ritual, one or both may make soft warbling sounds. Raven nestlings sometimes make this same sound... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display, vocalization

Winter Field Notes - Reflections by Heather Murphy

Heather Murphy, a naturalist, watches for birds with the trained eye of a wildlife biologist, then makes a few field notes. From her journal: "I hear tzeet-tzeet-tzeet. Fast movement. Ah, a tiny kinglet. Which kinglet? Hm.m.m. No leaves anymore, so I easily see an olive-green back. And through my... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  reflection

Ruffed Grouse and Aspen Groves

In spring, the loud wing-thumping of male Ruffed Grouse brings new life to northern forests across the continent. These handsome, wily birds reside in the forest year round. And while their numbers rise and fall cyclically, they average nearly seven million. Still, Audubon lists Ruffed Grouse... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display
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