Late one winter when we lived in Colorado, a female American Kestrel had roosted for several weeks on a ledge above our neighbors’ garage.  Thinking perhaps she might consider breeding there, my husband built a nestbox for the neighbors to install.  Alas, she moved on.  But a month or so later, a pair of Northern…

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“Hey—grab the scope! What’s that bird?” I pointed to a small, dark bird with a distinctly dipping tail, sitting upright on a distant branch overhanging the river. For the Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas, we were surveying our block of pinyon/juniper, high-altitude conifers, and a short stretch of the Arkansas River in central Colorado, to document…

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When I started working at the wildlife rehabilitation center 15 years ago, I knew nothing about wildlife rehab.  But as a birder, I knew birds and their habitats. The staff knew a lot about healing birds but they weren’t birders. So when they asked me to check on a Spotted Towhee they were worried about…

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A “tall, thin tramp in a swallow-tailed coat.” A “long striped snake on two legs.” A lanky, blue and purple cartoon character with a flopping crest, constantly foiling Wile E. Coyote. What do these descriptions have in common?  They all belong to the Greater Roadrunner. A large, loping, ground-loving member of the cuckoo family, this…

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Walking past the sage-scrub open space in the pre-dawn winter twilight, I heard a number of birds singing loudly.  Some sounded like Song Sparrows improvising a different intro and jazzier closing notes—maybe a different song for winter than summer?  Others made me think of extremely musical Spotted Towhees, although Spotteds (and most songbirds) don’t sing…

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I had done my homework before releasing a Western Grebe from the wildlife rehabilitation center. “Western Grebes are incapable of walking on land,” due to how far back their legs are set on their bodies. Even the ultimate resource, the Sibley Guide to Birds, agreed. I’d need to wade a few feet into the reservoir…

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Christmas Bird Count 2018, Anstine Audubon Preserve in Vista. Our small group climbs a hill and checks for birds. Craning my neck, I mutter, “I hear Cedar Waxwings.”  We all start scanning the tops of trees, the sky, in all directions. Nowhere to be seen. As the enumerator, I could just mark down “1” and…

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When I used to monitor nestboxes, I would listen carefully as I approached a box, trying to hear what birds were in the area.  One especially bubbly, bouncing song would alert me to potential problems for the other cavity nesters in the vicinity. A 21st-century “troglodyte”—a.k.a. a House Wren—was looking to set up housekeeping.  …

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Anyone who enjoys bird song dreads summer’s end as a bit of an auditory desert. But if you live near California Thrashers, you can take heart. These songsters will actually begin ramping up their voices again in late August.   Slightly larger than a California Scrub-Jay, a California Thrasher features a long, heavy, and distinctly…

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Wildfire and wildlife—what’s the first image that comes to your mind?  I’m 7 years old, sitting in a darkened movie theater, watching the fire scene in the Disney animated classic Bambi.  Birds, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, our protagonist deer all flee through scorching embers, swirling smoke, and crashing, flaming branches.  That scene seemed to last for…

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