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Shows With Contributions by Rick Wright

Cetti's Warbler

It took centuries to match the Cetti’s Warbler, a secretive singer, to its disembodied song. In 1819 Italian naturalist Alberto della Marmora was walking along the River Var, in France, when he heard a song he thought he recognized. One well-aimed shotgun blast later, and he knew for sure. He... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, vocalization

The Descent of Birdlore

How did Theodore Roosevelt develop his interest in birds? The chain of events may surprise you. As a budding birdwatcher, Roosevelt was influenced by John Bell, a New York City taxidermist. It turns out that Bell started watching birds 50 years earlier on a trip up the Missouri River with John... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, ornithology, reflection

House Sparrows' Dance

In 1559, Duke August of Saxony ordered that the House Sparrows of Dresden be excommunicated. The birds were slipping into Holy Cross Church, where they interrupted the sermon with exuberant chirping and “endless unchaste behavior” before the altar. Now their manic chirping and courtship displays... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display, history

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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Golden-crowned Sparrows in the Klondike

Words help us identify birds by vocalizations. Like the towhee's "Drink your tea,” or the Great Horned Owl’s “Who’s awake? Me, too…” Then there are the sweet, clear whistles of the Golden-crowned Sparrow. In the late 1890s, the gold prospectors of the Yukon may have imagined they were singing: ... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

City Ravens

Once common on the Atlantic Coast, Common Ravens became rare, as human activity grew more obtrusive through the 1900s. But something changed around the dawn of the 21st century. The ravens came back. Ravens now patrol parking lots in New Jersey to seize the choicest trash, dodge speeding cars on... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

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

Decoy - Shrike Trickery

Northern Shrikes are unapologetically cool, with their black masks, elegant gray plumage, and predatory lifestyle. But these little raptors, although technically songbirds, sometimes sound less than appealing. Two species of shrike — the Loggerhead and the Northern — are widespread in North... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

New Sam Peabody

In late winter, White-throated Sparrows erupt into song, easily set to human words: “Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody.” Or “Oh, sweet Canada, Canada, Canada.” But something changed since those classic memory aids were coined. Sixty years later, the bird sings a simpler, shorter song. Bird song,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

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
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