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Past Shows

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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

Bird Sound Types and Qualities Part I

Since it’s often hard to see a bird, veteran birders characterize the sounds of birds in order to identify them. So what words do they use? Well, they use “whistle,” for example, to describe the sound of this Olive-sided Flycatcher. And "rattle" for that of the Belted Kingfisher. There's the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching by ear, sound

Hold the Phone

Many birds are difficult to see, such as the Sora. Its plumage blends perfectly with the dense marsh grass where it lives. So how can we get a good look at this denizen of the undergrowth? One way is to play a bird-call app on a mobile device. But using an app requires sensitivity. Because stress... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Submarine Gulls

Among the most feared weapons deployed in World War I, submarines sank almost 5,000 ships, sending 15,000 sailors to watery graves. Scientists and navy men worked to come up with a way to detect enemy subs. One thought was to feed wild gulls from a dummy periscope, in the hope that the birds... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

Listening to Nuthatches

Nuthatches rank high on the list of favorite backyard birds. Compact and stub-tailed, they climb down tree trunks and along the underside of branches with comical ease. One at a time, they flit in for suet and sunflower seeds. But out in the woods, where they spend most of their time, nuthatches... read more »

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Unique Chaparral

The dense cover of coastal chaparral supports many birds found nowhere else in the world, including this California Thrasher. The plant species are different, but the chaparral of California is much like shrubby coastal vegetation in southern Europe, South Africa, southern Australia, and Chile.... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology

Just Whose Ducklings Are Those?

It’s spring, and a female duck swims across a pond with ducklings in tow. Some of the youngsters might not be her own. Wood Ducks and others may lay some of their eggs in other ducks’ nests — or in the nests of other kinds of ducks, like Hooded Mergansers and goldeneyes. Biologists call this nest... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

International Migratory Bird Laws

In May, we celebrate migratory birds, including this Common Yellowthroat. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 gave much needed protection to birds, especially migratory songbirds. In 1940, the US and 17 other countries throughout the Americas signed a pact to "protect and preserve - in their... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, science
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