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human disturbance

Dippers on the Elwha

In 2014, the dams on the Elwha River in Washington State were removed. As the river ran free again, salmon from the Pacific were able to spawn upstream for the first time in 100 years, dramatically improving conditions for American Dippers. Recent research has demonstrated that birds with access... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology

America's Love of the Lawn

According to NASA, there are about 63,000 square miles of lawn in the US — nearly enough to cover the state of Wisconsin. That’s bad news, because most birds (other than this European Starling) prefer shrubs that provide food and cover. And lawns suck up fertilizers, herbicides, fossil fuels, and... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  backyard sanctuary

Forest Fires, Recovery, and Birds

Forest fires have profound effects on birds and other wildlife — for better or worse. Birds such as this Black-backed Woodpecker find a bonanza of insects under burned bark and ample snags in which to carve out nest holes. Woodpecker cavities are often reused by birds like bluebirds. And birds... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology

The Cowbird Story, Revisited...

You may have heard the story of the Brown-headed Cowbird evolving its habit of "nest parasitism," due to the bison, wandering the prairies. BirdNote science advisor, Dennis Paulson, has a different take on the matter. He writes:The bison story obviously has great currency, as I’ve heard it from... read more »

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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

How Humans Affect Competition Among Birds

Evolutionary time is long — the earliest ancestors of birds emerged around 50 million years ago. Against that yardstick, the length of time humans have been living in cities is a blip. But that blip has resulted in huge changes for urban birds, crows in particular, as John Marzluff explores in... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  human interaction

The Lark Ascending

In “The Lark Ascending,” composer Ralph Vaughan Williams conjures up a bucolic vision of pastoral England. Small fields, hedgerows, an early summer’s morning. And the display flight of a Eurasian Skylark: Alauda arvensis. The lark — not much bigger than a swallow — has been severely affected by... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display, music

The Golden Eagles of Ireland

Golden Eagles were once revered as a symbol of wisdom and power by the ancient druids in Ireland. But the Golden Eagle’s voice was not heard in Ireland for most of the Twentieth Century. In the spring of 2007, a Golden Eagle pair hatched a chick for the first time since 1912, in Glenveagh... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  myth

Traveling over 1,500 miles to experience "One Square Inch"

A BirdNote listener in Texas heard the story about Gordon Hempton’s One Square Inch of Silence, located in the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park. Known as the quietest place in the United States, the site is emblematic of the need to protect natural wilderness areas from human noise. She... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  reflection

Shifts in Habitat = Shifts in Species

We asked David Sibley, creator and illustrator of The Sibley Guide to Birds, how changes in the environment are affecting birds such as this Brown Thrasher. He says, “A shift of habitat has caused a shift in the species” he's observed in the Northeastern US. For example, Wild Turkeys, Pileated... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  environmental champion

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