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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

Darwin Meets Penguins

Charles Darwin's insights during his travels on the HMS Beagle in the 1830s revolutionized the natural sciences. And his personal accounts of the journey, such as his encounters with Magellanic Penguins, tell captivating stories. As an experiment, Darwin stood between a penguin and the sea. The... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

Precious Poop

Seabird poop, known as guano, has been used to enrich soil, to make gunpowder, and believe it or not, as a skin treatment. Bird poop is a valuable commodity. South America's Pacific Coast has some of the world's largest deposits of guano, from species including the Peruvian Pelican, the Peruvian... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, humor

Happy Birthday, Roger Tory Peterson

August 28th is the birth anniversary of Roger Tory Peterson. He was born in 1908 and died in 1996. RTP, as he was known, wrote A Field Guide to the Birds. His favorite bird? The King Penguin. He explains his fascination with birds: "...They are attractive, they sound off with spirit, and they can... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

Old Abe, War Eagle

Abe Lincoln's Birthday! An infantry regiment from Wisconsin had a Bald Eagle as its mascot during the Civil War. Named "Old Abe", in honor of President Abraham Lincoln, this eagle accompanied Company C in nearly 40 battles. After the Civil War, Old Abe retired to the Wisconsin Capital, appearing... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

The Birthday of John James Audubon

April 26th is the birthday of John James Audubon, woodsman, naturalist, and painter. He included 435 birds - including this Barn Swallow - in his monumental Birds of America. In A Book of Americans, Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet wrote about Audubon: "Some men live for warlike deeds, Some for... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

Lame Duck

"Lame duck" is probably a very old term, from before there even was a Congress of the United States. In 1772, an Edinburgh newspaper reported that many people had gone broke in the London stock market (Exchange Alley), and that "Only one lame duck waddled out of the Alley." In 19th century... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, language

Lewis's Woodpecker - A Namesake

Among the marvels that Meriwether Lewis described was a bird that would later bear his name: Lewis's Woodpecker. Unlike most woodpeckers that spend most of their time with their bellies pressed against a tree trunk, Lewis's Woodpecker is an aerial artist. These woodpeckers get most of their food... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

July before Dawn - Aldo Leopold

The song of this Field Sparrow was the first bird song Aldo Leopold awoke to on his Wisconsin farm in the 1940s. Sadly, Field Sparrow populations are declining rapidly. You can learn more about "The State of the Birds" from National Audubon, and the plight of the Field Sparrow in particular. read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, reflection, vocalization

International Migratory Bird Laws

In May, we celebrate migratory birds, including this Common Yellowthroat. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 gave much needed protection to birds, especially migratory songbirds. In 1940, the US and 17 other countries throughout the Americas signed a pact to "protect and preserve - in their... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, science

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