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by Anders Gyllenhaal

Tree Swallows caught in midair: A rare glimpse of these aerial acrobats

Most of the time, tree swallows move so astoundingly fast it’s hard to see anything but a blur. They’re in such constant motion they rarely stop long enough to offer more than a glimpse of their deep blue-and-white plumage that looks like a tiny tuxedo. A Tree Swallow comes in ...
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Cedar Waxwings are dining their way north: Don’t miss the show

Here’s a delicious fact about Cedar Waxwings: They can strip a tree of its berries in such a rush the juice turns to wine and they get too buzzed to fly. Robert Rice, a veteran bird scientist who spent his career with the Smithsonian’s Migratory Bird Center, explained what happens: ...
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Tanagers are one big, beautiful family of birds. Except when they’re not?

For almost an hour, I decided I had a new favorite bird. It was a blend of bright yellow and black with a little yellow toupee on its head and deep blue wings. This was an Orange-bellied Euphonia, and a member of the tanager family. Orange-bellied Euphonia. Photos by Anders ...
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They unlock the Earth’s treasury of hummingbirds. Does it help or hurt the birds?

Mashpi, Ecuador We’ve spent so many hours chasing hummingbirds over the years that I was caught by surprise when one of these tiny birds turned the tables and landed on my outstretched hand. Light as a penny at about three grams, this curious little creature felt like nothing more than ...
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Pittsburgh’s National Aviary takes you around the world in birds

On our way home from traveling 15,000 miles chasing birds all across the country, we stopped at a park in downtown Pittsburgh and came across the broadest collection of birds we’d seen anywhere in one place. It was the National Aviary, which could be called the international aviary. Hundreds of ...
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“He’s close.” On the trail of a rare Hawaiian Honeycreeper

We heard the sweet, staccato song of Hawaiian Palila on and off all day as we roamed the range of this golden-yellow bird, one of the most endangered and treasured species on the islands. But the Palila always seemed to stay just out of sight, living up to its status ...
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It’s a bird-eat-bird world: Pileated Woodpeckers on the attack

Two male Pileated Woodpeckers battle for supremacy. Photos by Anders Gyllenhaal We heard the clamor from our woodpecker’s nest and instantly knew something was up. The bird’s usual call was replaced with a high-pitched, staccato screech and both the male and female birds leaped around their tree as if the ...
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Tree Swallows caught in midair: A rare glimpse of these aerial acrobats

Most of the time, tree swallows move so astoundingly fast it’s hard to see anything but a blur. They’re in such constant motion they rarely stop long enough to offer more than a glimpse of their deep blue-and-white plumage that looks like a tiny tuxedo. A Tree Swallow comes in ...
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What a show: Battle of the Hummingbirds reaches its peak

Only when we slowed the video way down and then blew it up could we see the ferocity of the encounter: The male Ruby-throated Hummingbird hovered above its competitor, then slammed bill-first into the female like a tiny gladiator. The clash sent the two tumbling into the air. (See the ...
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Can we save this globe-trotting sandpiper? Only if we can unravel its secrets

It’s tempting to take the Sanderling for granted: The tiny, speed-walking shorebirds are fixtures on beaches all over the world, easily recognized by how they run along, forever one step ahead of the waves. The Sanderling is among the smallest and most energetic of the dozens of species of sandpipers ...
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Taking off in a cloud, Snow Geese create a winter wonderland

KNOTTS ISLAND, N.C. — Suddenly the steady honking and squawking from this gaggle of Snow Geese shifts to a higher pitch, and one of nature’s great performances begins. First just a few, then dozens, and finally hundreds of the bright white birds begin to rise up from a brackish pond ...
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Wild Turkey

Flying Lessons Postcard Twitter Celebrating the Wild Turkey We take a moment this week to honor the wild turkey, a magnificent bird that is barely recognizable from its domestic cousin on our Thanksgiving Day table.  Every year in late November, we like to share a few facts about this bird ...
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Merlin’s new Sound ID is like having your own guide. You won’t want to put it down.

The app’s home screen I’m just addicted to the Merlin app’s new Sound ID feature. Whenever I’m outside, walking my daily 10,000 steps or sitting on the porch with a cup of coffee, I hit the green button to see who’s out there singing. I’ve struggled for years just to ...
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Tree Swallows caught in midair: A rare glimpse of these aerial acrobats

Most of the time, tree swallows move so astoundingly fast it’s hard to see anything but a blur. They’re in such constant motion they rarely stop long enough to offer more than a glimpse of their deep blue-and-white plumage that looks like a tiny tuxedo. A Tree Swallow comes in ...
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Birds and Flowers: More than just a pretty picture

Maybe it was because we’d been cooped up for much of the past year, but traveling the country this summer, we were swept away whenever we spotted birds and flowers together. It was like we were seeing them for the first time. Birds and flowers have a longstanding relationship – ...
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Catching up with the California Condor: A comeback story in the making

One of the birds we most hoped to see in our travels in the West was the California Condor, the continent’s largest bird with an inspiring comeback story. The condor is majestic and also kind of odd, with a wingspan of almost 10 feet and a huge body covered with ...
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Our 10,000-mile update: Traveling the U.S. and writing a book

Greetings from Yellowstone National Park, where Anders and I have just passed the 10,000-mile mark on a cross-country birding safari we started almost six months ago. Our quest to find some of the most fascinating birds in the hemisphere has taken us across bayous and rice fields in Louisiana; to ...
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What’s that tune? New, improved Merlin app has the answers.

One of the most useful skills for birders is learning to recognize birdsongs by ear. Just when you think you’ve heard a Robin, a bright red bird shows up instead. It’s a Summer Tanager, often described as a Robin with a sore throat. And what about those cute little nuthatches? ...
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“He’s close.” On the trail of a rare Hawaiian Honeycreeper

We heard the sweet, staccato song of Hawaiian Palila on and off all day as we roamed the range of this golden-yellow bird, one of the most endangered and treasured species on the islands. But the Palila always seemed to stay just out of sight, living up to its status ...
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The lion’s impressive, but don’t miss these visiting birds at one of the world’s great zoos.

The most memorable encounter we had on a recent visit to the San Diego Zoo wasn’t the Golden Eagle, Andean Condor or even the African Lion that delivered a ferocious roar just as we walked up. It was a Hooded Oriole that hung around us singing throughout our lunch stop ...
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Going fishing: The Reddish Egret shows off its dancing moves

If you see a Reddish Egret in the shallows of a marsh, just pause for a bit because you’re about to witness an exotic performance. With wings arched over its head, the bird leaps into the air then rushes sideways through the water. The choreography of crisscrossing feet is worthy ...
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The perfect gift: A wild warbler party on the gulf coast of Texas

Prothonotary Warbler Beverly’s favorite birds have always been warblers — the feisty, colorful world travelers that are among the hardest species to find. They’re shy, skittish and can move so quickly they’re often gone before you get a good look. Last week was Beverly’s birthday, which just happened to fall ...
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There’s no better time to take a birdsong ID app along with you. We tested them all and found a winner.

With migration in full swing and the birds at their loudest, this is the time of year you’re most likely to run into an unfamiliar song. We’ve pulled out our most popular post of the year as a guide to the slew of birdsong ID apps on the market. For ...
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Heading West: A long-awaited trip gets started at last

Finally, we’re heading out on a trip that’s been years in the making. After spending a couple of months in our favorite winter camping spot, an Airstream park in Central Florida, the time has come to hitch up the Flying Cloud once again and move west. Over the next four ...
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It’s a bird-eat-bird world: Pileated Woodpeckers Part 2

Two male Pileated Woodpeckers battle for supremacy. Photos by Anders Gyllenhaal We heard the clamor from our woodpecker’s nest and instantly knew something was up. The bird’s usual call was replaced with a high-pitched, staccato screech and both the male and female birds leaped around their tree as if the ...
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It’s springtime — and these Pileated Woodpeckers get down to business

We’ve always been drawn to Pileated Woodpeckers. Who can resist these magnificent birds, with their striking yodel, two-foot wingspan and bright red crests set against more than a foot of jet-black plumage? The male Pileated outside its nest. Photos by Anders Gyllenhaal. So when two of these woodpeckers showed up ...
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Keeping up with the Jays: Half a century of research is slowly paying off

The Florida Scrub-Jays have come to recognize the white Ford pickup that bumps along the sandy roads headed their way. They’ve long since become accustomed to the familiar figure that jumps out of the cab and starts walking along the roadway. The birds are zipping his way at full speed ...
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High hopes for a nearly extinct sparrow as mating season begins

It’s almost mating season for the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow, a spring ritual dating back thousands of years on the Florida prairie. But this may be the year that determines whether a rescue mission can turn things around for the country’s most endangered bird. A year-old grasshopper sparrow just before its ...
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A visit to this exotic bird park is the perfect medicine for the winter blues

Blue-crowned Pigeon SCOTLAND NECK, N.C. — It was well into winter, and after weeks of grim headlines and overcast skies, I decided the only cure for a badly bruised equilibrium was a flock of flying things with amazing feathers. The drab sparrows and robins outside our windows just weren’t doing ...
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Love Birds: What’s it take to make her his Valentine?

Flying Lessons Postcard Facebook-f He has the key to her heart There’s no Valentine’s Day in birdland, but we thought this was a nice view into the courting ritual of another species. We caught up with these two Cedar Waxwings in Northern Virginia early in the mating season. They circled ...
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Taking off in a cloud, Snow Geese create a winter wonderland

KNOTTS ISLAND, N.C. — Suddenly the steady honking and squawking from this gaggle of Snow Geese shifts to a higher pitch, and one of nature’s great performances begins. First just a few, then dozens, and finally hundreds of the bright white birds begin to rise up from a brackish pond ...
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Gucci discovers birding, and it’s never been more fashionable. You don’t want to miss this!

It’s official. Birding’s cool factor is off the charts. And a certain bird nerd, one who has endured an abundance of ridicule and eye rolling from her offspring, is feeling fairly smug. Birding’s coolness is nothing short of a miracle, and here’s how it happened: In March national headlines started ...
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This small wooden box may hold the future of hi-tech birding

The future of hi-tech birding arrived in a small FedEx package the other day. It was a delivery we’d been looking forward to for months, so we went right to work. The Haikubox, which stands about a foot tall, records songs and calls and immediately identifies the bird species. Within ...
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Looking for resolutions? Here are 10 ways to sharpen your birding skills

It’s not the best time to go birding in many places, but it is the perfect time to plan how we can become betters birders in the year ahead. Over the last year, as thousands of newcomers found their way to birding amid the pandemic, we developed a series of ...
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What a show: Battle of the Hummingbirds reaches its peak

We’re winding up the year sharing the most popular — and we hope most compelling — Flying Lesson stories from 2020. Most of the posts are profiles of bird encounters, including this story, photos and video of the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds we spent time with this summer. Only when we slowed ...
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A Pileated Woodpecker in holiday mode

Flying Lessons Postcard Facebook-f A favorite woodpecker in holiday pose We saved our best yuletide photo for the height of the holidays. We’ve always wanted to make a Christmas card with this scene of a magnificent Pileated Woodpecker picking bright red berries, as if gathering them for a wreath. We ...
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Which is the best birdsong ID app? We tested them all and have a winner.

After years of yearning for a technology that can identify birds by their songs, birders are now awash in apps and services that promise to tell you what species you just heard. And in fact, the best of more than a half dozen smartphone apps do a pretty good job ...
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A Prothonotary Warbler comes calling on a visit like no other

We’re winding up the year sharing the most popular — and we hope most compelling — Flying Lesson stories from 2020. Most of the posts are profiles of bird encounters, including this story of a Prothonotary Warbler we crossed paths with for a visit we still treasure. We’re posting one ...
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A Summer Tanager shows off its yuletide plumage

The reddest bird of all The Summer Tanager stands out for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that the male is the only completely red bird in North America. This time of year, that earns him a place in this yuletide gallery devoted to our favorite holiday ...
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How on earth? Great White Pelican shows up on the other side of the world

We’re winding up the year sharing the most popular — and we hope most compelling — Flying Lesson stories from 2020. Most of the posts are profiles of bird encounters, including this story of a Great White Pelican that transfixed north Florida birders early this year when the species usually ...
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