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!

Thunderbird

Feb 2, 2013
2008 Lloyd Guenther

Bird myths are common in Native American folklore and history. In most, the species, or at least the family, of birds can be identified. But there is one myth ndash; that of a huge bird called the "Thunderbird" whose origins remain a mystery.

Thunderbird was revered by many tribes throughout the West. According to the myth, Thunderbird was so large and flew so high, it carried the rain on its back and created lightning and thunder.

Blame The Crow

Jan 26, 2013
Margaret Holland

Crows and their cousins - Ravens, Magpies, Jackdaws, Rooks, Jays and others - are among the cleverest birds in the world. Some even use tools, including a lit cigarette!

A Rook, like the one pictured, allegedly set fire to the thatched roof of Anne Hathaway's historic cottage in England. And all because it had an itch...

Find out more on BirdNote just before the 9 o'clock news on Saturday morning on VPR!

Hawaii's Birds

Jan 19, 2013
2010 Erik VanderWerf

American Bird Conservancy and other organizations are working to make Hawaiian birds a top national priority for conservation.

Of all the endangered bird species in the United States, more than one-third are found only in Hawaii.

Biologists on Hawaii's Big Island are working to restore the Palila, an endangered bird found only on the forested slopes of the Mauna Kea volcano.

Learn more on BirdNote just before the 9 o'clock news on Saturday mornings on VPR.

Crossbills

Jan 12, 2013

A close look at this Red Crossbill reveals a curious adaptation.

The long tips of the upper and lower bill don't meet, but instead cross over each other.

The bills of young birds are not crossed at hatching, but cross as they grow.

The Red Crossbill bites between the scales of a pine cone and pries them apart by opening its bill, then dislodges the seed with its tongue.

A Year's Worth Of Birds

Jan 5, 2013
Copyright Paul Bannick

Phoebe Snetsinger saw more than 8,400 species of birds in her lifetime! You don't have to keep a list to enjoy birds, but the variety you see in your own yard might surprise you. Start a list now, and keep track of a year's worth of birds.

If you're lucky, perhaps you'll see a Snowy Owl, like this one. For a checklist of all North American birds, visit AOU.org, the American Ornithologists' Union. In this show, you can hear the Swainson's Thrush and the American Robin.

Gyrfalcon

Dec 29, 2012
2005: George Vlahakis

Winter brings wondrous birds. Among these is the majestic Gyrfalcon, a regal visitor from the Arctic where it nests.

Gyrs are among the largest falcons in the world, with the female - the larger of the sexes - outranking even a Red-tailed Hawk in size.

With a name that derives from an Old Norse word for spear, the Gyrfalcon was a medieva lfalconer's prize, reserved for royalty.

Eagle

Dec 22, 2012
Copyright Paul Bannick, 2005

A stiff December breeze blowing down the Columbia River delivers an exhilarating chill.

A stretch of river near Bridgeport, in north-central Washington, is held tightly by a series of dams, creating massive lakes.

In winter, these lakes harbor thousands of water-birds.

High on an overlook, a Bald Eagle watches a flock of birds - coots, ducks, and more- on the water below.

Bird's Diet

Dec 15, 2012
2010 Ram Papish

In recent decades, the number of Marbled Murrelets, a seabird of the Pacific coast, has declined.

Scientists in Canada and the US have analyzed the chemical composition of Murrelet feathers - some from birds carefully preserved since 1894 by the Burke Museum in Seattle.

The analysis shows that the diet of the Murrelets has changed dramatically in the last 40 years, to smaller and smaller prey items, which take longer to find.

This means that adult Murrelets are away from their nests longer, leaving the young birds unprotected.

The Dodo

Dec 8, 2012
Eduard Poppig

Nearly 400 years ago, Portuguese explorers were the first Europeans to lay eyes on the Dodo, on the island of Mauritius.

By the early 1600s, Dutch sailors were provisioning their ships there, slaughtering Dodos asfast as they could find them.

Hunting, along with the introduction of pigs and monkeys to the island, meant the Dodo's days were numbered. By 1690, the Dodo was extinct.

Discover which birds are endangered at here and learn more at BirdNote.

Suet

Dec 1, 2012
2010 Mike Hamilton

At this time of year, birds love fat in the form of beef suet--a high-energy food critical for bird's survival in the colder months.

With few insects available in winter, suet is an especially strong magnet for birds that eat a lot of bugs in the warmer months. It's also great for birds with bills that are not adapted to opening seeds.

Bird feeding suppliers now offer a wide array of processed suet cakes, some studded with berries or seeds.

For more on suet feeders, visit BirdNote.org.

Owl's Ears

Nov 17, 2012
Copyright Paul Bannick, 2005

The eyes of this Great Gray Owl are set in a broad, dish-shaped face.

Ridges of tiny hair-like feathers rim the owl's face, creating facial disks.

Just below the margins of the facial disks, concealed by feathers, are the openings to the owl's ears.

The facial disk acts as a sound collector - like an old-fashioned ear trumpet - and guides sound to asymmetrically placed ears.

Learn more about owls' ears at BirdNote.

Feeder Watch

Nov 10, 2012
Copywright: Mike Hamilton

Through Project FeederWatch, scientists are able to track the movements of birds and learn whether their numbers are increasing or decreasing.

FeederWatch has collected and organized data, by state, since 1988.

You can be part of this citizen-science by counting birds at your own feeder.

FeederWatch runs from mid-November to early April, and you can start any time during the watch season. Register on-line or via US mail.

There's a small fee to participate, which helps pay for materials.

Find more details at BirdNote.org

Peregrines and Pigeon Plumages

Oct 27, 2012
Copywright: Ben Mealer 2007

Urban Peregrine Falcons rely on Rock Pigeons for much of their diet, however some pigeons appear harder to catch than others.

Pigeons with white rumps evade pursuing falcons more often than those with dark rumps. When scientists took dark-rumped pigeons and colored their rumps white, their survival rate improved.

The white rump, contrasting sharply with dark wings, may deceive the pursuing falcon, perhaps just long enough to give the pursuer the slip.

Swallows

Oct 20, 2012
Copywright: Maggie Smith

Through all of spring and summer, swallows dart and sail overhead; their airborne grace a wonder to behold.

By October, the skies seem empty.

Most swallows have flown south, in search of insects. The eight species of swallows that nest in the United States, including this Cliff Swallow, pictured, left--migrate south to Central or even South America.

Watch for them again next spring and find out about Cliff Swallows and so many other birds at BirdNote!

October Planting

Oct 13, 2012
Copywright: Tom Grey

October is the perfect time to plant for the benefit of next year's birds, including this Cedar Waxwing (shown, left).

Your new plants will put their resources into their roots rather than leaves or flowers. And the season's reliable rain will reduce the need to water.

To attract the greatest variety of birds to your landscape, plant native shrubs that produce fruits and berries and provide a safe refuge for winged visitors.

Learn what to plant in your yard at Audubon.org.

Black-footed Albatross

Oct 6, 2012
2011 Tom Grey

Just a couple dozen miles off the Northwest coast, immense dark birds with long, saber-shaped wings glide without effort above the waves.

These graceful giants are Black-footed Albatrosses, flying by the thousands near the edge of the continental shelf.

Black-footed Albatrosses do not breed until they are at least five years old, and after the young leave their breeding colony, they spend their first three years at sea.

Learn more about these fascinating birds here.

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