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by Anders Gyllenhaal

 

In the blink of an eye, this bird reminds us how much there is to learn

Great Blue Heron Anders and I are back in Florida for the next several weeks, indulging a passion for chasing the birds. It’s our sixth birding adventure to the winter home of millions of birds – from stately herons and egrets, to sassy songbirds, opportunistic seagulls and menacing hawks. It’s ...
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How an invisible bird is saving the rainforest

In almost every interview with scientists and researchers, a question comes up about why birds are important to people. One of the most compelling answers I’ve ever heard came in an interview for a piece running in the Washington Post this week exploring the powers of bioacoustic research. A Puaiohi ...
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Hummingbirds on the move: Evolution on fast-forward

A few weeks ago, dozens of readers from around the country shared their hummingbird stories on our Facebook page after we ran a post on the growing numbers of the tiny birds that are skipping migration and staying in the U.S. for the winter. Birdwatchers from Michigan to Texas, Seattle ...
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Third major report in succession establishes a new era of bird research

We spent many hours during the last spring migration at the crest of Washington D.C.’s Rock Creek Park, hanging out with some of the area’s most experienced birders waiting to see what species would appear next. When the mornings were slow, the conversation sometimes turned to how unpredictable the migration ...
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What started 150 million years ago — and is just as fascinating today?

Osprey One of the most startling developments in all of nature occurred 150 million years ago, when a string of conditions came about that enabled a branch of the dinosaur family to lift off the ground and take flight. Scientists are still trying to explain exactly how this occurred. It ...
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Here are 5 top-flight gift ideas for your favorite birder

Finding holiday gifts for birders is relatively easy since birders tend to love all things birdy. And there are a lot of birdy gifts out there. The challenge is targeting the type of birder you’re dealing with, and then homing in on just the right choice for them. Here are ...
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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 pair of Wild Turkey hens forage in a field in Eastern Maryland. A combination of coyotes, hunters, loss of habitat, hawks, climate change and troubles in the nest is undermining the species that once competed for the title of ...
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Getting a close-up view of some beautiful birds

The inherent contradiction of birding is that we want to get as close a look as possible of subjects who want to stay as far from us as they can. CloseUps, our new feature on Flying Lessons, seeks to answer that urging with a series of photos that help you ...
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Probing a hummingbird mystery — one band at a time

Ruby-throated Hummingbird The tiny captive is a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, held firmly in fingers that are far bigger than he is. What happens next will help solve an intriguing migration mystery affecting one of the world’s most intriguing birds. Along the North Carolina coast, hummingbirds are creating a birders’ kerfuffle by ...
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How one squirrelly nuthatch can change your world view

Last in a series If it’s a crisp fall morning, with the sun highlighting the gold and orange of the still-moist leaves, it’s possible that luck could bring you a visit from a nuthatch. And if you get that chance and if you have the time, you’ll want to sit ...
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“This isn’t only a bird crisis. The birds are just the messenger.”

Part of a series John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, has spent his career talking about why people should care about birds. John Fitzpatrick This fall, that argument has shifted to include a tougher, more compelling question: Why should people care that a quarter of the bird ...
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Headed for the birding superhighway and a perfect migration pit stop

We’re on our way to the Outer Banks of North Carolina to witness something magical. By the hundreds, flocks of songbirds, ducks, swans, skimmers and other shorebirds will touch down on this chain of islands and wildlife preserves to take advantage of nature’s perfect pit stop. A Black Skimmer at ...
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10 things you can do to help stop the alarming decline in birds

Part of a series The recent study that found a quarter of the bird population has been lost in the U.S. and Canada made such a big splash that it had one unexpected consequence: Some people came away thinking things are too far gone to do anything about it. The ...
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Why 3 billion birds vanished: Understanding the startling new research

First in a series Many causes contribute to the losses. Solutions will be just as complex. Three billion birds have vanished in North America in the span of a single lifetime. They’re just gone. It’s as simple as that. But at the same time, this staggering finding from the study ...
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New research finds 30 percent of the bird population lost over 50 years

Every birder will want to tune into a study published today in the journal Science that reaches a startling conclusion: Three billion birds — or 29 percent of the total population across all species — have been lost in North America since 1970. The research is much more than a ...
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Great Egrets: Putting on a bird ballet

Our trip along the storied Montezuma wildlife drive in upstate New York had been all but devoid of birds the first hour. Then we turned the corner at the halfway mark and came upon a scene that instantly made up for the quiet start. Two dozen Great Egrets stood clustered ...
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Nature’s jewels: Ruby-throated Hummingbirds on the move

The statistics for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are almost as stunning as a close-up look at their iridescent plumage. Zeroing in on the male hummingbird Their wings can flap up to 80 times a second. They weigh about 3 grams – a wisp of a bird at a tenth of an ounce ...
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Birds in training: A couple of young Sapsuckers learning the ropes

The Sapsucker mom trying to teach her fledglings We were just finishing our morning coffee, dawdling at our campsite in update New York, when we looked up to see something precious: A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker feasting on the fluid of a birch tree not 15 feet away. As we sat still ...
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What will it take to mobilize the country’s birders?

Our long-planned visit to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, N.Y., this week began just as the White House announced plans to weaken the Endangered Species Act. The move seemed to strike at the heart of the lab’s work to protect birds in a time of accelerating declines. We ...
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Recruiting new birders at the Airstream Rally: Have I lost my mind?

With only a few days to go until our “Beginner’s Guide to Birding” seminar at the 62nd International Airstream Rally, I still couldn’t figure out what to say. When Anders and I volunteered to do the talk months before, the mission seemed simple: Persuade our fellow campers to try their ...
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Birders love exotic species, but it’s everyday birds that get people talking

When we post photos on Facebook, as we try to do every couple of days, we learn all kinds of things from the thousands of readers following our Flying Lessons page. Some tell birding stories. Others share photos. Together, they let us know which species they like best. Raptors are ...
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One magical night: A chance encounter with three baby owls

Trying out an owlish stare. They were just weeks from leaving the nest for the last time, still learning to fly, but the trio of fledgling Eastern Screech Owls seemed ready to conquer the woods. Every night at dusk, they’d materialize around our campsite in the hills of Virginia and ...
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What’s this bird? How a drab little guy stumped the experts

When you upload a bird photo to the terrific Facebook group called “What’s This Bird?” you tend to get an identification back in a matter of seconds. A few nights ago, however, something was wrong. I like to count how long it takes for my mystery bird to be pegged, ...
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Audubon honors magnificent bird photography worthy of a museum

The grand prize winner was taken by Kathrin Swoboda of Vienna, Va. See the gallery below for photo details. The grand prize winner of the 2019 Audubon Photography Awards captures a Red-winged Blackbird in a scene that would be at home on the wall of an art museum. The most ...
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A ray of sunshine, the Goldfinch takes center stage

The American Goldfinch is a symbol of summer. Impossibly yellow in May, June and July, they stand out like flashes of sunlight flitting across meadows, farmlands and treetops. Then as the summer ends, the intriguing cycle of nature begins. Like a debutante with a closet full of clothes, the Goldfinch ...
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The hidden miracle of summer: Here comes a new feathered generation

Early one morning on a bird walk in Cape May, N.J., our guide was excited to show us something exquisite: A tiny and all but hidden nest of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Ruby-throated Hummingbird sitting on a nest woven into a tree branch We walked in utter silence, single file, through ...
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How a Waxwing woos a mate: A story with a surprise ending

Two Cedar Waxwings materialized above the wildlife park in Northern Virginia and pirouetted into an aerial ballet. They rose and fell, circled high above the lake, then swooped down close to the ground. They pulled all this off in precise formation like two tiny jets on military maneuvers. And then ...
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The day I learned birding etiquette: Or how to mind your manners on the trail

In our early days on the trail, it took a while to realize that birding has its own, largely un-communicated set of dos and don’ts. I’ll never forget the morning we pulled into a nature preserve parking lot alongside a group of folks wearing khaki vests and putting away cannon-sized ...
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Magnificent photography fuels a campaign to save the Earth’s rarest eagle

Toward the end of the full-length documentary “Bird of Prey” about the quest to save the Great Philippine Eagle, a chick followed from birth to adulthood takes off for its first flight and slowly soars high above the jungle. A Philippine Eagle soars over the jungle. Photo by Neil Rettig ...
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Spoonbills flee South Florida’s troubles. But what about the others?

One of the biggest questions hanging over the birding world is what will the rapid changes in the environment mean for various species. In a piece in The Miami Herald running this weekend, we return to a topic from a few months ago and try to go much deeper into ...
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One of nature’s great performers: An Osprey puts on a show

It’s one of nature’s greatest shows: The Osprey dives from hundreds of feet in the air, slowly brings it talons forward, splashes into the water, grabs a fish and then hoists itself back into the air and flies away. It’s such a compelling performance that a small crowd stood on ...
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Listen up: This Bird of the Week is the Life of the Party

A birder walks into a clearing, and there’s a Song Sparrow singing its heart out. In chimes a Robin, followed by a Grosbeak and a Tanager, a Wood Thrush and a Warbler, all chirping at the same time. Sounds like a bunch of songbirds out having a party. But it’s ...
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Love is in the Air: As the migration slows, the woods are heating up

When I was in the fifth grade in my little hometown in Pennsylvania, the school put on dancing lessons. At the start of each session, the boys and girls would line up on either side of the auditorium and then race toward each other in a chaotic rush to find ...
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The feeding frenzy that powers the migration

Much about the spring and fall migrations are cloaked in mystery, from how birds know when to leave to what helps them determine exactly where they’re going. But there’s no question about one element of their twice-a-year extreme feats of travel: the moment the birds stop for breaks, they go ...
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It’s World Migratory Bird Day — and there’s a lot we can do

As photos of migrating birds popped up on a big screen last night, a couple dozen birders from the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia sat in a conference room at the National Wildlife Federation headquarters taking careful notes. Saturday is World Migratory Bird Day, and these folks were getting their ...
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Early birders: Researchers often get hooked as kids

Andrew Farnsworth was just 5 years old when he first started birding. As he grew up, this pastime and the science behind it became so captivating he started thinking about how to find a career that would somehow involve birds. Today, Farnsworth, now 46, is one of the research associates ...
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A Little More Freedom: Letting go of your worries on the birding trail

Saturday is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “Global Big Day,” a highlight of the spring migration when birders around the world count as many species they can find in 24 hours. My birding bag and I were both getting ready. This post started out as a way to tell you ...
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How he stole my heart: Cocky, reckless and drunk with love

Love can be dangerous. We know it. And yet, there are times when this most elemental of emotions pushes you beyond all reason. Why else would an otherwise elusive, tiny yellow bird end up walking down the middle of the road in broad daylight? It was a gorgeous spring day, ...
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Washington Post story explores the success of world’s leading citizen science project

Around the world, all sorts of efforts are in the works to protect the many bird species now in decline. This week, in an article for the Washington Post, we take a deep look at one of them: the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird project and its innovative way of ...
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Why now is the best time to jump on the birding bandwagon

The buzz was as loud as a flock of hungry seagulls when four birding groups gathered to celebrate a new guidebook by the Smithsonian’s Bruce Beehler last week in Washington, D.C. For many of them, after five months of winter, this was the first chance they’d had to talk about ...
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