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Myth of the Wren

December 26th is known in the British Isles and elsewhere as Saint Stephen's Day, in honor of the first Christian martyr. Beginning in the 16th Century, local lads would go forth for a yearly wren hunt. The wren was protected the rest of the year, but the day after Christmas, the "Wren Boys"... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, myth

The Day of the Turkey

The Wild Turkey, from which the domestic variety has been bred, is native to North America. Noted as a table delicacy, the four-foot long Wild Turkey was hunted by both Native Americans and the Europeans who populated our country. Wild Turkeys are social and stay in family groups often numbering... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

How the Turkey Got Its Name

Turkeys were domesticated in Mexico long before Europeans set foot there. After early European explorers colonized Mexico, they took some of the tamed turkeys home with them. But when the bird we today call the "turkey" arrived in England in the 1500s, people got them mixed up with another big... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

National Symbol - Turkey vs. Eagle

As an old tale goes, after the eagle was chosen for national emblem, Benjamin Franklin questioned the choice. In a letter to his daughter regarding a medal created by the Society of the Cincinnati, he wrote wrily: "The Bald Eagle is too lazy to fish for himself; when the Osprey has taken a fish .... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

Storks and Babies

Storks and babies have been linked together for centuries. But how did that old legend get started? Researchers suggest that the legend goes back to pagan times, when civilizations were keen to have high birthrates. The myth of storks and babies was forged by the birds' return in spring, when... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, human interaction

State Birds

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have official birds. To become a state bird, it helped to be familiar, colorful, and have a punchy song. The Northern Cardinal perches as state bird in seven eastern states, the Western Meadowlark in six western states. Bluebirds - like this Western... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

Swainson's Birds

William John Swainson, ornithologist, author, illustrator, was born in October 1789. He settled in New Zealand, and it's quite likely that he never saw any of the birds named for him. But because of Swainson's reputation and knowledge about birds, the Swainson's Warbler, Swainson's Thrush, and... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, ornithology

What's Your State Bird?

All states have an official bird, usually one that's associated with its particular region. Many state birds are quite common, although Hawaii's chosen bird, the Nene, a type of goose, is endangered. The bird chosen by the most states — seven — is the Northern Cardinal, followed by the Western... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

Steller's Birds

In July, 1741, Georg Wilhelm Steller set foot on land later known as Alaska, the first European to do so. Steller was a German naturalist on the St. Peter, a Russian ship exploring the Bering Sea. He was shipwrecked on Bering Island for over a year, and later wrote a book about the creatures that... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

Shakespeare's Birthday

April 23 is the birthday of William Shakespeare. Shakespeare was pretty well acquainted with - among one or two other things - birds. More than forty strut, twitter, shriek, sing, and soar through his works. But the bird he knew as a Robin Redbreast is not the bird we call a "robin" in the United... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

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