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Europe

Birding in Norway - Summer Solstice

Finally Full-on Spring in TromsøTromsø had an unusually cold May, even for here, and the returning migrants were all a few weeks later than usual.  The birches, the dominant trees here, were largely bare still in early June, and the temperature was 5°C. Then, a wonderful period of what we... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birding

Great Bustard

A Great Bustard shows off to a group of females by inflating special neck sacs – producing what sounds like a massive sneeze followed by a Bronx cheer. He flips his wings almost upside down to reveal bright white undersides, while fanning his tail and long, white throat whiskers. Three feet tall... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display

Birding in Norway - 70 Degrees North

Wim Vader, a birder of many years, writes about the birds he's seen in Tromsø, Norway, in 2017:                    4 January — Here at 70°N, we have had almost too much weather. December was warmer than... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birding, birdwatching

The Robin's Namesake

Like the American Robin, the European Robin is a bird of yards and gardens. But it’s not much bigger than a chickadee. The robin’s likeness turns up everywhere from Mother Goose rhymes, Peter Rabbit stories, and whiskey labels to postage stamps and Christmas cards. On at least two occasions, the ... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

Who's Laughing Now? - Gull-billed Terns

During the summer of 1818, German ornithologist Wilhelm Schilling was visiting an island in the Baltic Sea. Out of nowhere came a small flock of seabirds he didn’t recognize. He captured one, but the fortunate others escaped. Schilling later told his friend and colleague, Ludwig Brehm, that the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

Alpine Swifts Fly Nonstop

How long can a bird fly without touching the earth? To find out, Swiss scientists attached sensors to Alpine Swifts. The sensors showed long periods when the swifts were gliding and not flapping their wings. Were the birds asleep? Scientists don’t know for sure. It could be that Alpine Swifts... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  flight, migration

Waxwing Nightlight

The warm colors and bright accents of the Bohemian Waxwing might make you think it glows in the dark. For the better part of two thousand years, that’s what people believed. Pliny reported that their feathers “shine like flames” in the dark forests of central Europe. The Germans allegedly used... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, human interaction, humor, ornithology

William Turner and the First Bird Book

The first printed bird book, The Principal Birds of Aristotle and Pliny, was published in 1544. Written by the English physician and naturalist William Turner, the book is noteworthy for its inclusion of Turner’s personal observations — a real innovation at a time when ancient authorities held... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

Bluethroat

One of the most remarkable singers on the European continent is the Bluethroat. Often singing while fluttering aloft, Bluethroats mix their own song elements with imitations of just about every bird within hearing distance. They'll even try their luck with crickets, tree frogs, and train whistles... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Great Tits Learn Via Social Networks

Many years ago in the United Kingdom, milk was delivered in bottles with foil caps. But birds of several species learned how to peck through the foil to get at the cream. How did they do it? To find out, investigators recently conducted a series of experiments involving Great Tits. Males were... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

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