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Escape the daily grind and immerse yourself in the natural world. Rich in imagery, sound, and information, BirdNote inspires you to notice the world around you. Join us for daily two-minute stories about birds, the environment, and more.

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    • Dec 1, 2021 LATEST EPISODE
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    Latest episodes from BirdNote

    Spark Bird: A Blackburnian Warbler's Journey

    Play Episode Listen Later Dec 1, 2021 1:46

    Justine Bowe fell in love with birds when she was a kid, on a hike with her dad when she saw the fiery colors of a Blackburnian Warbler. Justine now manages the Bird Friendly Coffee program at the Smithsonian Institute's Migratory Bird Center, working with coffee farmers to preserve habitat for birds that migrate to Central and South America. In Colombia, she got to see Blackburnian Warblers spending winter on bird-friendly farms. Learn more at

    Common Redpoll

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 30, 2021 1:46

    The tiny Common Redpoll, one of the smallest members of the finch family, weighs only as much as four pennies, yet it survives the cold and darkness of winter in the far North. Most birds depart in autumn to warmer climes. But redpolls feed on birch and alder seeds that are available throughout the winter, no matter how deep the snow. This little bird typically eats 40% of its body weight in seeds every day to keep itself alive. Redpolls are survivors. Learn more at

    Welcoming Back Winter Birds

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 29, 2021 1:35

    Although we may think of autumn as the end of the growing season, a sort of winding down in the natural world, for birds it's as much a season of renewal as the spring. In the colder months, we welcome back our winter birds — juncos, swans, and more — which spent the summer in their breeding territories to the north. Offering the right kind of food and environment in the winter months can attract these migrants to your yard! Learn more at

    Ivory Gull and Conservation

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 28, 2021 1:46

    Polar Bears symbolize the icy landscapes of the far north like no other animal. The bear's way of life — its very survival — is inseparable from the Arctic pack-ice. Less familiar is a remarkable bird that shares with the Polar Bear this vital link to ice: this Ivory Gull. The gulls feed on small fish and other marine life, but also scavenge carcasses, including those left by Polar Bears. Global warming has brought increasing change to the world of ice-dependent species such as the Ivory Gull and Polar Bear. Learn more at

    A Blizzard of Snow Geese

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 27, 2021 1:41

    An immense field appears to be covered with snow, blanketed in white. But a closer look reveals more than 10,000 Snow Geese. Snow Geese nest on Wrangel Island, in the Chukchi Sea off northern Siberia. Don't miss the amazing video by Barbara Galatti! Learn more at

    Why Birds Eat Snow

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 26, 2021 1:46

    In the depths of winter, when open water is frozen over, it can be challenging for birds to stay hydrated. Some birds eat the frozen water all around them. Cedar Waxwings catch snowflakes in mid-air. Black-capped Chickadees drink from dripping icicles. Plenty of other birds scoop up fresh, powdery snow and eat it. It could be worth the calories to melt the snow when searching for liquid water could expose them to predators. Learn more at

    How Much Do Birds Eat?

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 25, 2021 1:36

    There used to be a saying about somebody who doesn't eat much — “she eats like a bird.” But how much does a bird typically eat? As a rule of thumb, the smaller the bird, the more food it needs relative to its weight. A Cooper's Hawk, a medium-sized bird, eats around 12% of its weight per day. For a human weighing 150 pounds, that's 18 pounds of chow, or roughly six extra-large pizzas. And that perky little chickadee at your feeder eats the equivalent of 35% of its weight. You, as a 150-pound chickadee, will be munching 600 granola bars a day. And a hummingbird drinks about 100% of its body weight per day. That means you'll be sipping 17½ gallons of milk. Learn more at

    In Winter, Puffins Lead Very Different Lives

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 24, 2021 1:46

    Every summer, puffins — like this Horned Puffin — grow blazingly colorful layers over the bases of their huge beaks. But in the winter, puffins lead very different lives, and they shed their bright ornamentation. Puffins in winter are largely solitary — and silent. They spend about seven months alone at sea, before returning once again to their colonies to breed. Learn more at

    Singing Under Streetlights

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 23, 2021 1:43

    Some birds have always called nocturnally, but other species are relative newcomers to the nighttime music scene, specifically in urban areas. Birds such as American Robins often sing well into the night. Scientists are studying what environmental cues might lead to this behavior. While artificial light could be a factor, recent studies suggest that some birds may be avoiding daytime city noise by singing nocturnally. Learn more at

    Aplomado Falcon

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 22, 2021 1:42

    Aplomado Falcons were once widespread residents of the American Southwest, but by the 1950s, they'd disappeared entirely from the region. Loss of habitat, loss of prey, and pesticides all played a role. But in the 1980s, a group called The Peregrine Fund began breeding captive Aplomado Falcons. Over the next 25 years, 1,500 fledglings were set free in South Texas. At the same time, conservation pacts with private landowners provided more than two million acres of habitat. Learn more at

    Birds of Prey and Nesting Territories

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 21, 2021 1:43

    Red-tailed Hawks typically have a nesting territory of about a half-mile to a full square mile, depending on how much food there is. Bald Eagles' nesting territories range from 2½ square miles to as much as 15 square miles, for the same reason. But the Gyrfalcons in Finland and Scandinavia really need their space! Learn more at

    Swans Come Calling

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 20, 2021 1:46

    Trumpeter Swans land in a plowed field to forage for remnant potatoes, grain, and other waste crops. This swan is among the largest of all waterfowl; the Tundra Swan is somewhat smaller. These swans migrate in family groups each fall from nesting sites in Canada and Alaska. Learn more about these swans, and view a map to the Skagit Flats of Washington where you can see them. When you go, please be courteous, and if you stop, pull completely off the roadway. Always respect private property. More info at Northwest Swan Conservation Association and The Trumpeter Swan Society! Learn more at

    Seabirds, Trees and Coral

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 19, 2021 1:38

    Palmyra Atoll is a ring-shaped island encircling a lagoon in the South Pacific. The atoll lost many native trees due to U.S. military activity during World War II. Conservationists have worked to restore the ecosystem. Seabirds such as Black Noddies and Red-footed Boobies nest in the island's rainforest. Their guano enriches the soil, and the soil's nutrients help support the coral ecosystem that provides fish for the birds. Learn more at

    To Mob or Not to Mob

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 18, 2021 1:46

    When a bird of prey flies over, a flock of crows may dive-bomb the predator and give it a noisy escort out of town. An Eastern Kingbird, like this one, will clamp its feet onto the back of a hawk to send it packing. How do they know which birds to chase off and which to ignore? By genetic wiring, or instinct, but also learning. By watching their parents in the act of mobbing, youngsters gain critical knowledge that may save their own skin. Learn more at

    Spark Bird: Nick Belardes and the Vermilion Flycatcher

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 17, 2021 1:46

    Author Nick Belardes was walking at a park near his home in San Luis Obispo, California, when he saw a man who seemed in tune with birds. Belardes asked him what the coolest bird around was, and the man replied Vermilion Flycatcher. Belardes and his wife soon went out looking for the ruby-like bird, finally spotting it through rain and mist. He remembers that sighting as a turning point that drew him deeper into the world of birds. Learn more at

    The Gorgeous Gadwall

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 16, 2021 1:32

    When you first glimpse a male Gadwall, you might think you're looking at a female Mallard. But take a closer look, and you'll see plumage as richly and subtly colored as an English gentleman's tweed jacket. For a closer look, click Enlarge under the photo. The Gadwall now nests all across the northern US and into Canada. You can probably see one of these handsome birds on a pond or in a marsh near you. Some may even breed in your neighborhood. Learn more at

    Catching Insects

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 15, 2021 1:46

    Birds that depend on flies for food have many creative ways of catching their prey. Swallows execute sharp turns and quick changes of speed. Bluebirds watch from a perch, pouncing when the time is right. A Chuck-will's-widow flies with its scoop-like mouth wide open, engulfing moths and other insects. A Merlin snares dragonflies in its talons. Hummingbirds dart into swarms of midges. Learn more at

    Western Hummingbirds, East

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 14, 2021 1:36

    Not long ago, the only hummingbird that someone living in the eastern United States and Canada could hope to see was the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. But things have changed. Today, more and more hummingbird species — such as this Broad-tailed Hummingbird — have been discovered beyond their “normal” ranges. Why is this colorful explosion happening now? Climate change is one possible factor. So are shifts in migration routes. Or it could just be that more people are on the lookout for these relative newcomers. Learn more at

    Habitat Defined

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 13, 2021 1:43

    When you think of habitat, think of home. For a jay that lives in the forest, the forest is its habitat – where it finds food, water, shelter, and the company of other jays. Or it might live in your back yard or the bank parking lot down the street. Some birds live in different habitats at different times of year. Many sandpipers summer on the Arctic tundra, but during the rest of the year, they live on coastal tide flats. Learn more at

    A Pocket Guide to Pigeon Watching

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 12, 2021 3:03

    Illustrator and science writer Rosemary Mosco is the author of the new book, A Pocket Guide to Pigeon Watching. The book explores humanity's long relationship with pigeons, from domestication thousands of years ago to fancy pigeon breeding in recent centuries. Rosemary's book not only breaks down the variations to look for in feral city pigeons, but also some of the most bizarre fancy breeds. Learn more at

    How Terns Read the Water

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 11, 2021 1:37

    Like an expert angler, a tern can read the surface of the water to find where to catch its next fish. Scientists piloted a drone to track the flight paths of terns on the hunt. The terns sought out turbulent water. A vortex formed by colliding currents traps fish near the surface, where terns can snap them up. Terns fly toward bubbly upwellings to see if the rising water brings prey animals along with it. Learn more at

    Starling Mimicry

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 10, 2021 1:42

    The searing cry of a Red-tailed Hawk pierces the air. The distinctive scream is coming from a tree nearby. But when you scan the tree for the form of a hawk, you see only a small, speckled, black bird. You've been fooled. It's a starling giving voice to the hawk's cry. The European Starling — the continent's most abundant non-native bird — is an accomplished mimic. Starlings are especially astute imitators of bird sounds that have a whistled feel — like the sound of a Killdeer or quail. They can duplicate a car alarm or phone ring, too.  Learn more at

    Bird Brains in a New Light

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 9, 2021 1:46

    Many birds are remarkably clever. New findings help reveal how they can be so smart. In mammals, intelligence is seated in the neocortex, which has neurons arranged in layers and columns. Birds lack a neocortex and were thought to have a forebrain composed of simple clusters of neurons. Recent research indicates that a part of the bird forebrain, the dorsal ventricular ridge, has neurons layed out similarly to those in the mammalian neocortex. Learn more at

    Birds in the Winter Garden

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 8, 2021 1:40

    Put your winter garden to work as a haven for birds. Leaves and brush left to compost provide foraging and roosting places, smother this year's weeds, and feed next spring's plant growth. Watch for juncos and towhees in the leaf litter, and wrens in the brush. Maybe even a Song Sparrow, like this one! With a little planning, your garden can be a haven for birds year round. Learn more at

    Fancy Fruit-doves in the South Pacific

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 7, 2021 1:46

    Fruit-doves are forest-dwelling doves of the South Pacific found on island groups like the Philippines and New Guinea. There are 54 species of fruit-doves, most about the size of a Mourning Dove or smaller, and they do indeed eat fruit. The combinations of bold colors in fruit-doves are unmatched by any other group of birds. Learn more at

    Common Mergansers Pushed by the Ice

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 6, 2021 1:45

    Around this time of year, Common Mergansers cross the US-Canadian border on their way to wintering grounds in the Lower 48. But how do they know when to go? Ducks are well insulated against frigid winter temperatures, but mergansers can find their fishy prey only by diving below the surface of open water. So they're doing just fine, resting and feeding in southern Canada, until a thin veneer of ice forms on their lake, signaling the time has arrived to head south! Learn more at

    Spark Bird: Walter and Patch

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 5, 2021 3:35

    Sculptor and musician Walter Kitundu first became enraptured by birds in 2005 when a Red-tailed Hawk flew four feet above his head. He named the bird Patch, after the white patch on the back of her head, and kept returning to the park to see her. Patch became used to Walter, accepting him as part of the landscape. He documented her transition from juvenile to adult, learning her quirks and mannerisms. Learn more at

    The Music of Black Scoters

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 4, 2021 1:41

    Black Scoters are sea ducks that spend the winter on saltwater bays. They are large, strong ducks and buoyant swimmers with a habit of cocking their tails upward. Black Scoters nest each summer on freshwater tundra ponds. Each fall, they can be found on bays all across the Northern Hemisphere. An unmistakable clue to their presence? - their mysterious, musical wail. Learn more at

    The Heart of a Bird

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 3, 2021 1:46

    Birds' four-chambered hearts run larger than those of mammals, relative to body size, and they are coupled with extremely efficient cardiovascular systems. The energy demands of flight require these adaptations. An exercising human has a heart rate around 150 beats per minute. In contrast, an active hummingbird's heart pumps at 1200 beats per minute; a flying pigeon's heart beats at 600. Learn more at

    How Long Does a Robin Live?

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 2, 2021 1:43

    If a young American Robin survives its first winter, its chances of survival go up. But robins still don't live very long. The oldest robins in your yard might be about three years old (although thanks to banding, we know of one bird that lived to be almost 14). Learn more at

    A Hawk That Hunts in Packs

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 1, 2021 1:42

    Most raptors are solitary birds, but Harris's Hawks of the southwestern U.S. live and hunt in groups of two to six. After spotting a prey animal, the hawks swoop in from various directions to catch the confused creature. If they miss and their prey takes cover, some of the birds try to flush it out while others lie in ambush. Their teamwork may help them safely pursue bigger animals or capture well-hidden prey. Learn more at

    The Amazing, Head-turning Owl

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 31, 2021 1:42

    An owl's seeming ability to rotate its head in a complete circle is downright eerie. An owl's apparent head rotation is part illusion, part structural design. Because its eyes are fixed in their sockets, it must rotate its neck to look around. It can actually rotate its head about 270 degrees – a marvelous anatomical feat. You can learn more about this Eastern Screech-Owl at Cornell's AllAboutBirds.

    The Crows' Night Roost

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 30, 2021 1:46

    Crow experts think big communal roosts provide warmth, protection from predators, shared knowledge about food sources, and a chance to find a mate. Follow crows to their roost some autumn evening, if you can, and watch these avian acrobats wheel in for the night. Learn more at

    Migrations: Watching Migration from the Empire State Building

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 29, 2021 1:46

    As the sun sets over New York City, author Helen Macdonald takes in the wonders of spring migration from the top of the Empire State Building. She watches a long procession of songbirds pass overhead, but her joy is dampened when she notices some of the birds circling endlessly around the building's brilliant beacon. Turning off the blaring lights of city skylines — and even suburban homes — can help protect migratory birds at night. Learn more at

    Clean Nestboxes in October

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 28, 2021 1:46

    It's a wistful moment when your backyard birds — like these Black-capped Chickadees — depart their nestboxes. By October, it's time for one last duty as nestbox landlord: to clean it out. Cleaning will reduce the incidence of parasites in the box and make it more inviting to next spring's tenants. It will also help you know for sure if it gets used again. Learn more at

    To Breathe Like a Bird

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 27, 2021 1:40

    Birds have a highly efficient breathing anatomy that powers the exertion of flight. It is driven by large, thin-walled air sacs located throughout the body cavity that operate like bellows. This parabronchial system for extracting oxygen from the air has a far greater surface area than the lungs of a mammal, making sustained flight possible. Learn more at

    A World of Parrots

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 26, 2021 1:46

    Parrots have strong, hooked beaks that are great for cracking tough seeds. Their feet allow them to climb and to hold on to objects, like food. Parrots are known for their legendary intelligence and ability to talk. And they come in almost every color of the rainbow! This Buff-faced Pygmy-Parrot is native to New Britain and New Guinea. Learn more at

    Migrations: Molt Migration

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 25, 2021 0:15

    At the end of summer, the once-bright feathers of a male American Goldfinch look ragged. Growing new flight feathers in a process called molting makes him more vulnerable to predators. Before migrating to wintering grounds, many songbirds stop at a secondary location to undergo the indignities of molting. It's called molt migration. The places birds go to molt could be important targets for conservation efforts. Learn more at

    What the Pacific Wren Hears

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 24, 2021 1:46

    What does the Pacific Wren hear in a song? It's a long story. What we hear as a blur of sound, the bird hears as a precise sequence of sounds, the visual equivalent of seeing a movie as a series of still pictures. That birds can hear the fine structure of song so acutely allows them to convey much information in a short sound. Pacific Wrens are found most often in closed-canopy conifer forests, nesting in cavities, usually within six feet of the ground. Learn more at

    Shorebirds Aren't Always on the Shore

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 23, 2021 1:41

    Shorebirds' lives take them to many places other than the shore. Most of the shorebirds we see along our coasts migrate to the Arctic in summer. Here, many nest on the tundra, some along rushing streams, and others on rocky mountainsides. Long-billed Curlews winter on the Florida, Gulf, and Pacific coasts. But this one was seen in a field near Creston, BC, Canada, nearly 500 miles from the coast and 1/2 mile from the nearest body of water, the Kootenay River! Learn more at

    Spark Bird: The First Robin of Spring

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 22, 2021 1:46

    Rasheena Fountain studied environmental science and worked at her local Audubon Society. Now she writes about nature and diversity in the outdoors. And what got her interested in the first place? It all started in kindergarten, with a teacher named Miss Beak and the first robin of spring. Learn more at

    Spark Bird: Birding from the Bus

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 21, 2021 1:46

    Kelsen Caldwell drives a bus in and around Seattle for King County Metro. As a bus driver, sometimes there's downtime if your bus is moving too fast. What do you do with all that extra time? If you're Kelsen, you fall in love with birds. Learn more at

    Migrations: Watching Seabirds Summer at the Lake

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 20, 2021 1:46

    Many oceanic species like grebes, loons, pelicans, and gulls migrate far inland to raise their young near freshwater lakes. Ring-billed Gulls, for example, breed throughout the northern U.S. Forster's Terns can be found catching fish in the upper Midwest in the summer. In northern Canada, you may even catch a glimpse of a Surf Scoter as it dives below the glassy surface of the lake. These species return to the coasts for the winter. Learn more at

    Black-crowned Night-Heron

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 19, 2021 1:44

    Black-crowned Night-Herons feed primarily on fish, but they will consume everything from earthworms to clams to eggs of nesting birds and refuse at landfills! Because they are high on the food chain, found throughout much of the world, and nest in colonies, Black-crowned Night-Herons can tell us a lot about the health of our environment. Learn more at

    Migrations: The Triumphant Comeback of the Aleutian Cackling Goose

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 18, 2021 1:46

    Aleutian Cackling Geese, which have a slighter build and shorter beak than Canada Geese, build their nests on a chain of islands off the western coast of Alaska. In the 1700s, fur traders introduced foxes to the islands, nearly wiping out the geese. For decades, they were believed to be extinct. But in the 1960s, a biologist discovered about 300 birds nesting on Buldir Island. Habitat protections have allowed their populations to recover. Learn more at

    Bird-friendly Planting in Fall - With Joanna Buehler

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 17, 2021 1:44

    The landscape around Joanna Buehler's home on Lake Sammamish was once completely barren. But today, it provides food, water, and refuge for many species of birds. You can create a bird sanctuary in your own yard by selecting native plants adapted for your area. If you're lucky, nature will do some planting for you! That's what happened in Joanna's landscape: the cottonwood trees that seeded themselves are a safe place for birds like this male Belted Kingfisher to perch.Joanna says lots of resources are available online if you search for “native plants” and the name of your state or region. Learn more at

    Ring-necked Pheasants in the Wild

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 16, 2021 1:46

    The Ring-necked Pheasant is likely the best-known bird in North America that isn't native to the continent. Indigenous to Asia, Ring-necked Pheasants were introduced to Oregon in 1881. The birds thrived in rural landscapes for many years, but modern industrial farming practices have diminished pheasant habitat. In some areas, however, wildlife agencies are working with private landowners to create favorable habitats for pheasants, giving the birds the cover they need for feeding, nesting, and roosting through the seasons. Learn more at

    Migration Takes Guts — Until It Doesn't

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 15, 2021 1:41

    This Bar-tailed Godwit makes one of the longest migrations of any animal — a 7,200-mile non-stop flight each autumn from western Alaska to New Zealand. In his book A World on the Wing, Scott Weidensaul explores the remarkable transformation godwits undergo to make this migration possible. Their digestive organs shrink as their weight more than doubles in stored fats and muscle mass. Learn more at

    Swainson's Hawks Migrate South

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 14, 2021 1:46

    In autumn, hundreds of thousands of Swainson's Hawks migrate to South America. With the help of a satellite tracking device, let's follow an individual male. On September 14, he leaves his breeding territory near Hanna, Alberta; reaches southwest Saskatchewan by September 23; passes through Nebraska, October 1; Tamaulipas, Mexico, on October 7; Honduras, October 14; and on the 7th of November, this Swainson's Hawk arrives at Marcos Juarez, Argentina - a migration of more than 6,000 miles. The American Bird Conservancy has Swainson's Hawk on their watchlist at  Learn more about hawk migration at the Hawkwatch International website.

    Yellow-eyed Juncos - Bright Eyes

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 13, 2021 1:42

    The Dark-eyed Junco is one of the most abundant backyard birds in North America. But it's not our only junco. In the Southwest, the Yellow-eyed Junco lives in cool mountain forests from Arizona and New Mexico, through Mexico into Guatemala. Ornithologist Francis Sumichrast was in Veracruz, Mexico, in the 1860s. He reported that the locals believed Yellow-eyed Juncos were phosphorescent, collecting light during the day and releasing it at night. One look at the bird's golden-yellow eyes, and you might almost believe it yourself. Learn more at

    Life Improved for Penguins in Argentina

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 12, 2021 1:46

    Professor Dee Boersma, working with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Province of Chubut, has been studying the Magellanic Penguins of Argentina. "In 1983, we realized that oil pollution was really a huge problem for these birds. We were seeing birds coming ashore, covered in oil. We started bringing this to the government's attention. And in 1997, they moved the tanker lanes further offshore. Some years we get no penguins dead on the beach covered in oil." To learn more visit the Center for Ecosystem Sentinels website.

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