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by Anders Gyllenhaal

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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The free Merlin app puts the magic into bird identification

For a beginning birder, learning to use the Merlin Bird ID smartphone app is a bit like a child learning to ride a bike. There’s the fear of falling right before a delicious rush of adrenaline kicks in. You may be wobbling along, but there’s this faith that with practice, ...
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A glimpse of a rare Vermillion Flycatcher

Flying Lessons Postcard Facebook-f A gift of the brightest red We were traveling just after the holidays a few years ago when we stopped at St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge in the Florida Panhandle. The 68,000-acre preserve is one of the oldest in the country, created in 1931 for a ...
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Quarantined with an Owl Nextdoor: But will we ever find him?

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 neighborhood owl who turned out to be far more wily than we were. Along with ...
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Northern Cardinal strikes a holiday pose

Flying Lessons Postcard Facebook A bird made for the holidays This Northern Cardinal kicks off our holiday photo series this week, celebrating the season with some of our favorite scenes. Unlike about 40 percent of the species that abandon us for warmer climates this time of year, the cardinal sticks ...
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Help is on the way for the nation’s most endangered bird

The Florida Grasshopper Sparrow, the nation’s most endangered species, is suddenly getting the kind of support that could turn things around for a bird that a year ago seemed destined for extinction. A newly released Florida Grasshopper Sparrow steps from its cage. Top photo of sparrow singing by Tory Hartley-Cox ...
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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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Can the Wild Turkey survive? Thanksgiving is the least of its troubles.

Something is after the Wild Turkey. Actually, almost everything is. A Wild Turkey in Northern Virginia. A combination of coyotes, loss of habitat, hawks, hunters, climate change and troubles in the nest is undermining the species that once competed for the title of national bird. In parts of the country, ...
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Petrels and Shearwaters: The coolest birds you never see

A Black-capped Petrel shoots along the surface. The bird above is a Great Shearwater. Photos by Anders Gyllenhaal The first Black-capped Petrel appeared nearly two hours into the trip, well off the bow of the boat, zipping along the ocean’s surface like a missile. It was mostly a blur, but ...
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Two tanagers talk up a storm: So what are they saying?

The male Summer Tanager. Photos by Anders Gyllenhaal It takes some time and luck to spot the Summer Tanager, since these birds spend much of their time hidden away from view, at the very top of the canopy. But when you do get to see one, even if it’s just ...
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Lessons in generosity: Birds benefit when we’re all welcoming on the trail

Smack in the middle of bustling Washington, D.C., near the highest elevation of the city’s Rock Creek Park, lies a clearing that’s proven to be a prime spot to see migratory birds. At dawn every spring morning, some of the country’s best birders sit here, along a stone wall, sharing ...
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How is a warbler like an apple-glazed donut? Both are impossible to resist.

There’s a spot on the boardwalk next to the Town Hall in Duck, N.C., that everyone knows is famous for doughnuts. This morning dozens of customers wait in line for up to half an hour, and the fall menu boasts flavors like Pumpkin Streusel, Pumpkin Roll and Maple Bacon. A.Chestnut-sided ...
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Ode to a Red-tailed Hawk: Electrifying, grace and power wrapped in feathers

Every bird in flight is beautiful in its own way. But to me, there’s nothing as electrifying as the sight of a hawk spreading its powerful wings, soaring through the air, and once in a lucky while, passing close enough to show the edges of its feathers ripple in the ...
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Fledglings take flight: Good news for the nation’s most endangered bird

The wildlife managers who bred more than 200 Florida Grasshopper Sparrows in a laboratory setting over the past two years knew they faced a tricky question when it came to releasing the birds into the wild this spring: A Florida Grasshopper Sparrow about to be released Would they know how ...
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Spring migration helped save our sanity; can the fall migration finish the job?

Last spring, in the midst of the monotonous stay-at-home months, the spring migration not only saved the sanity of many but it helped launch a wave of new birders who discovered the wonders of the avian world just outside their windows. As the fall migration gets started, it’s time to ...
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You’ve started down the path to becoming a birder. What next?

Let’s say you started birding in the pandemic, bought binoculars, and now you’re hooked. You can identify the songbirds and woodpeckers in your neighborhood. So what happens next? A Chestnut-sided Warbler we found in Massachusetts this summer. Photos by Anders Gyllenhaal I’ve been thinking a lot about that question while ...
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