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ecology

Northern Goshawks and Fire

Among the great firs and Ponderosa pines of Stanislaus National Forest in central California, Northern Goshawk nestlings crowd a platform nest of branches and pine needles halfway up a mature fir tree. In 2013, what’s known as the Rim Fire occurred, and some of the area burned with high intensity... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, nesting

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

Designing a Spider Web to Evade Bird Collision

One of the lesser known hazards of a bird’s life — when flitting from shrub to shrub — is collision with spiders’ webs. And when a bird flies through a web, it’s the spider’s hard work that takes the hit. It can take a spider an hour just to repair the damage and get on with the task of snaring... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, science

Red-Tailed Hawks - Adaptable Diners

Red-tailed Hawks are found year ‘round in a wide variety of natural landscapes, from meadows to forest edges, deserts, and canyons. One big reason we see Red-tailed Hawks in so many places is their remarkable adaptability as hunters. They vary their diet to what is locally abundant. So along the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology

Hummingbird Bills and Heliconia Flowers

These Purple-throated Caribs live on many of the Antillean Islands in the Caribbean. The female’s bill is long and deeply curved. The male’s is shorter and straighter. And this one species of bird has a specialized relationship with two different species of flowering Heliconia plants. When... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, evolution, science

Highways as Habitat for Hawks

In 1956, the Eisenhower Administration announced plans for the nation’s new interstate highway system. Planners foresaw 41,000 miles of superior highways, with a grassy border on either side and down the middle. The grassy areas created ribbons of wildlife habitat occupied by small mammals such... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, human interaction

Examining Owl Pellets

A roosting owl often leaves visual clues to its whereabouts — a scattering of furry, oval objects below its perch — in the form of pellets. Because owls such as this Great Horned Owl often swallow their prey whole, their digestive system has to deal with bones, fur, and feathers. The owl’s... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology

Long-Distance Migration Takes Fuel and Water

Long-distance migration can be hard on a bird’s body. For example, this Swainson’s Thrush might migrate between northern Canada and South America, twice a year. In the weeks before such a long journey and during key stopovers en route, the thrush eats like crazy to put on fat. But during the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, migration

Earthworms - A Superfood in Cold Storage

This American Robin has caterpillars and an earthworm in its beak. But which food source is the real prize? Everyday earthworms are higher in protein than beef or chicken. You’d have to eat about a pound of soybeans to equal the protein in just three ounces of earthworms. They’re also high in... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology

Screech-Owls Go Fishing

Screech-owls are opportunistic diners. In the Pacific Northwest, they’ll prey on small birds, crayfish, large ants, or earthworms. In Arizona, pocket mice and pack rats. And in Ohio, biologists who noticed a fishy smell around Eastern Screech-Owl nest boxes found the remains of dozens of shad. It... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, ornithology

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