BirdNote

Sunday at 8:35 a.m.

Listen and learn about the intriguing ways of birds with BirdNote, a weeky feature airing mornings on VPR.  From New England to the tropics, migration patterns to mating rituals, BirdNote brings you into the world of nature.  You'll also hear the featured bird each week, so don't be surprised if your cat runs for the radio on Saturday mornings!

Copyright Joanne Kamo

During spring migration, hummingbirds like this Ruby-throat rely on the nectar of flowering plants. But flowers blooming earlier because of warming temperatures could affect them severely. To better understand and protect these marvelous birds, Audubon has launched a new citizen-science initiative: Hummingbirds at Home. The project will help scientists understand how climate change, flowering patterns, and feeding by people are affecting hummingbirds. Your reports could make a difference!
 

Broadcast on Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 8:58 a.m.

Copyright Duane Bryce/Vitaliy-Khushtochka / Timeflies

The sapsucker is a type of woodpecker that notches rows of small holes in trees, causing sap to well out. The birds eat the sugary liquid flowing from these sapwells. Now tree sap is similar in sugar content to the nectar hummingbirds take from flowers. And it is no coincidence that just as the Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers get their sapwells flowing in spring, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds come migrating north.

Copyright Jean-Sebastien Guenette / pbase.com

Birding is often best in the least likely places. At sewage treatment plants, watch for ducks and gulls - and raptors keeping watch over them all. Another place might be your local landfill or dump. The Brownsville, Texas dump was, for years, the only place in the US you could find this Tamaulipas Crow. For a more sedate birding adventure, visit a cemetery. Especially in rural areas and in the Midwest, cemeteries are often repositories of native plants, and thus magnets for migratory birds, which find food - and cover - in those green oases.

Copyright Paul Bannick

It's spring! And for many birds, a time to look their best to attract a new mate. This American Goldfinch has recently molted. Its old, worn-down feathers have fallen out, and new ones have grown in. When goldfinches molt in the fall, they lose these brightly colored feathers. Their winter camouflage helps them blend in with the drab background of the season.
 

Broadcast on Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 8:58 a.m.

Learn more about BirdNote.

Copyright Terence Faircloth / Flickr

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 Meadowlark, picked by six. Connecticut, Michigan, and Wisconsin chose the American Robin. The California Gull saved the Mormons' first harvest in Utah and is commemorated by this monument in Salt Lake City.

Copyright Greg Lavaty

Visit a shallow wetland in summer, and you might see this slender, black-and-white shorebird with outrageous red legs. The Black-necked Stilt uses its long legs for wading as it feeds on tiny insects and crustaceans on the surface of the water. Stilts are sensitive to drought, which has increased with global climate change. But they readily move to new breeding areas and respond quickly when new wetlands are created.

Learn more about BirdNote.
 

Copyright by Tom Robbins (left)/Paul Bannick (right)

A raucous call and a bold flash of blue at your feeder means a jay has arrived. East of the Rockies, your visitor is quite likely a Blue Jay (left). Out west, you're probably seeing a Steller's Jay. These daring blue dandies sound the alarm, announcing the approach of a predator. Often the loud call sends the predator packing. If not, a family of jays may gang up and mob the intruder. And, if that doesn't work, the jay may mimic the call of a Bald Eagle or Red-tailed Hawk -- birds at the very top of the pecking order -- to dissuade the invader.

Copyright Jeri Means / flickr

It's mid-winter, and a passing flock of robins suddenly drops out of the sky. A moment ago, the yard was empty of birds, but now it's full. They settle in a bush laden with fruits. When the robins pass over a fruiting shrub, those red berries signal like a neon sign on a restaurant. Time to stop for a meal!

Learn more about BirdNote.
 

Broadcast on Saturday, March 8, 2014 at 8:57 a.m.

Dan Kaiser / Flickr

With a graceful leap, wings outstretched, Sandhill Cranes welcome the longer days. The stately cranes are courting, renewing an annual dance they perform in earnest as the days lengthen into spring. Sandhill Crane pairs remain together for life, and their spirited dance plays an essential role in reaffirming this bond. Watch a video of their courtship dance.

Learn more about Sandhill Cranes.
 

Broadcast on Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 8:58 a.m.

Copyright by S&K Mfg. Co.

It won’t be long before North America’s largest swallows, Purple Martins, will be looking for places to nest. They’ll be arriving from as far away as Venezuela and Brazil. In eastern North America, where most martins breed, they nest almost exclusively in human-made houses - like the one pictured here. In the West, they also raise their young in natural cavities and woodpecker holes. Providing housing is important because Purple Martins are decreasing significantly in some regions.

Copyright by Paul Higgins

Elegant Black Terns breed in summer on secluded wetlands across the northern states and Canada. Because of major losses of wetlands in their breeding range -- especially in Canada's prairie provinces -- Black Tern numbers have dropped dramatically since the 1960s. The future of this beautiful bird depends on protecting and restoring high-quality wetlands. Recent research shows that artificial nest platforms can enhance the terns' breeding success.

Learn more at BirdNote's website.
 

David C. Walker

The Bald Eagle stands proud as our national bird, spreads its wings on our national emblem, and serves as mascot of countless sports teams. So prominent is this iconic bird in our culture that we sometimes overlook a second, equally majestic eagle: the Golden Eagle. While Bald Eagles are confined to North America, Golden Eagles are native to Europe and Asia as well. Long before the Bald Eagle adorned envelopes at the post office, the Golden Eagle flew the cosmos as personal messenger to Zeus, the ancient Greek overlord.

Paul Bannick

In some years, great numbers of Snowy Owls come south from the Arctic to reside in fields, farmlands, and shorelines.

In the past, it was believed that population crashes of lemmings on the breeding grounds caused many owls to come south but their movements are more complex and unpredictable than that.

The years that we see many Snowy Owls actually seem to be the result of an abundance of lemmings on the breeding grounds and thus, throngs of hungry young owls.

Copyright Eugene Beckes

In the Pacific Northwest, you might see both Black-capped and Chestnut-backed Chickadees at your birdfeeder.

The Chestnut-back (seen here) has a black head with a large white cheek patch, but its back and sides are a rich chestnut brown. And the birds sound different, too! The call of the Black-capped Chickadee follows the familiar “Chick-a-dee, dee, dee” pattern. But the call of the Chestnut-back is higher pitched, faster, and has a buzzy quality. While we delight in their music, the birds are engaged in more serious business – they’re keeping their flock together.

Copyright Disney

Today, we celebrate Donald Fauntleroy Duck, first sighted in Hollywood in 1934. Despite nearly 80 years on the big screen and more than 150 films and countless comic books to his credit, Donald's plumage has never changed. Donald doesn't migrate, but resides year round in Duckburg. To our knowledge, longtime sweetheart Daisy has never made Donald a father. But he does show a strong paternal instinct for a trio of unruly nephews. While he means well, he tends to get in over his head, but he somehow overcomes the odds.

Copyright Greg Lavaty

Sooty Terns have long been called "wide-awakes" because of their calls. But it may describe their sleeping habits, too. When young terns leave their breeding grounds, they don't return for several years. They do not rest on the water, and only rarely land on floating objects. They feed while aloft, grabbing prey from the ocean's surface. On the fly, they also capture fish that have been chased out of the water by predators. In other words, Sooty Terns live in the air for years at a time.
 

Learn more about BirdNote.

Copyright Tom Grey

A Merlin – like this one – hunts boldly from a high perch. A Peregrine Falcon dives on a hapless pigeon, with an air speed approaching 200 miles per hour. The Gyrfalcon can fly down even the fastest waterfowl in a direct sprint. A Prairie Falcon blends in with its background. And the smallest North American falcon of all, the American Kestrel, hovers a field, watching for a mouse or large insect. You can find out where to find these birds at Cornell's All About Birds.
 

Broadcast on Saturday, January 4, 2014 at 8:58 a.m.

Copyright Michael Woodruff

Snow Buntings begin their lives amid the harsh conditions of the high Arctic. They're prized winter visitors to the northern tier of states. Look for them along shorelines, in farmland, and open country - landscapes that mirror the Arctic tundra where they fledge their young. Snow Buntings face the prospect of a shrinking nesting range, as global climate change transforms far northern habitats. Learn what you can do to help these birds from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Broadcast on Saturday, December 28, 2013 at 9:57 a.m.
 

Copyright Ralph Hocken

Long-tailed Ducks are back for the winter from the north, where they nested on tundra ponds and marshes. These diving ducks spend the winter in deep salt water, often in sheltered bays. Long-tailed Ducks are far more vocal than most ducks, a feature that has earned them a host of charming nicknames, including "John Connally," "My Aunt Huldy," and, from the Cree language, "Ha-hah-way."
 

Broadcast on Saturday, December 21, 2013 at 9:57 a.m.

Learn more about BirdNote.
 

Copyright Mike Hamilton

Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 8:58 a.m. Have you ever watched ducks walking around in freezing temperatures and wondered why their feet don't freeze? And how do birds, including this Northern Flicker, sit on metal perches with no problem? Birds' feet have a miraculous adaptation that keeps them from freezing. Rete mirabile - Latin for "wonderful net" - is a fine, netlike pattern of arteries that interweaves warm blood from a bird's heart with the veins carrying cold blood from its feet and legs.

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