Lansing Wild Birds Unlimited

Some birds are born with the ability to sing. Others learn to sing while they're young — just like humans, who must learn to speak.

It turns out that vocal learning in songbirds and humans may have more in common than anyone suspected. Recent DNA research reveals that songbirds and humans share a set of roughly 50 genes that appear crucial to vocal learning.

And it's possible that because scientists now understand the genetic similarities between speech and birdsong learning, they can use that insight to study human speech acquisition in new ways.  

BirdNote: An Avian Big Bang

Mar 2, 2015
Johnx1 -

Many scientists believe that the demise of the dinosaurs began when an asteroid struck the earth 66 million years ago. Some dinosaurs survived, and among them were the early ancestors of birds.

Recently an international research team sequenced the genomes of 45 birds of diverse lineages. The results revealed a surprising discovery: the common ancestor of today’s birds — among them warblers, parrots, woodpeckers, falcons, and owls — was a top-of-the-food-chain carnivore!

This "bird," however, is a flight of fancy, courtesy of  

Greg Lavaty

The small, nondescript Pied-billed Grebe has an astonishing talent. The grebe is the master of its own buoyancy.

It can squeeze out both the air trapped in its feathers and in its internal air-sacs and sink effortlessly. Learn more about the amazing, sinking Pied-billed Grebe at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. 

Tom Grey

Tall and prehistoric-looking, the Great Blue Heron is the largest heron in North America. Great Blue Herons are often seen flying high overhead with slow wing-beats.

When foraging, they stand silently along riverbanks, on lake shores, or in wet meadows. Quickly then, they stab at their prey.

Although usually found in or near water, Great Blue Herons nest high in trees, with several nests in a colony. Learn more about this bird at Cornell's AllAboutBirds.  

Mark Hoover

Ravens are seen as tricksters in many traditions. But Common Ravens have a softer side. During courtship, a pair will often sit side by side, sometimes preening each other's feathers. And during that ritual, one or both may make soft warbling sounds.

Raven nestlings sometimes make this same sound after they've been fed. Compared to the usual raucous raven calls, this one is soothing. It's called a comfort sound. You can hear more raven songs at

Mike Hamilton

In winter, a foraging flock might include several species of birds: chickadees, kinglets, and even a Downy Woodpecker. Many bird species eat alone, so you might wonder why these birds have chosen to dine together.

Different species flocking together to find food enhances the success of all. One species assists the foraging of others. Find out how to attract birds to your back yard at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. Join your local Audubon chapter and learn how to help save habitat for birds.  

Francesco Veronesi

Today, winter still holds sway over much of North America. But in Argentina, it’s summer, and birds are in full voice. Argentina’s national bird, the Rufous Hornero, belts out a rapid trill while the Rufous-bellied Thrush sings its lovely song.

In the tropical forests of northeastern Argentina, a male Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, like the one pictured here, booms out its display calls. And the cheerful, bubbly notes of an Ultramarine Grosbeak remind us that spring in North America — and the arrival of birds like the Rose-breasted Grosbeak — isn’t too far off.   

Geoff Coe

Wood Storks nest in trees, often in big colonies, and only when conditions are just right for them. Because of their feeding technique, they thrive in the early part of the dry season, when receding floodwaters concentrate fish in small pools. But this method of feeding is effective only when the rainy season is normal.

In some years, increased droughts brought about by global climate change prevent Wood Storks from breeding at all. Learn more about Wood Stork conservation. Have you ever seen a Wood Stork? Find us on Facebook and share your story.  

Chris Campbell

Look for the stories birds tell with their tracks in the snow. A crow swaggers, leaving right-and-left steps much as a walking human would.

Juncos under a birdfeeder leave a hopping pattern of tiny footprints in side-by-side pairs. Look for beak marks, where a bird picked up a choice morsel or probed the ground. Tell-tale signs sometimes tell stories of life and death.

You might see mouse tracks end suddenly, just where you find the imprint of an owl's wings. Find out more about animal tracking at the Wilderness Awareness School. And learn more in Bird Tracks and Sign: A Guide to North American Species, a book by Mark Elbroch.  

Gerrit Vyn

In some years, great numbers of Snowy Owls come south from the Arctic to reside in fields, farmlands, and shorelines. In the past, it was believed that population crashes of lemmings on the breeding grounds caused many owls to come south.

But their movements are more complex and unpredictable than that. The years that we see many Snowy Owls actually seem to be the result of an abundance of lemmings on the breeding grounds and thus, throngs of hungry young owls. Be sure to watch the video by Gerrit Vyn.  

BirdNote: BirdNote At 10

Feb 21, 2015

To celebrate BirdNote's 10-year anniversary, we asked BirdNote founder Chris Peterson how she came up with the idea for the show. The StarDate public radio program provided inspiration.

“I had this idea grab me around the neck,” Chris recalls. “Why don’t we do for birds what StarDate does for stars?” She gathered a team, and the first BirdNote broadcast, “Bald Eagle – National Symbol,” aired on KPLU 88.5 FM Seattle/Tacoma on February 21, 2005. Since then, more than 1200 shows have aired.

We thank stations and listeners for all their support along the way.  

BirdNote: American Kestrel

Feb 20, 2015
Paul Bannick

The American Kestrel is the smallest, most numerous, and most widespread North American falcon. This bird is built for speed, its long pointed wings often bent back at the tip.

While hunting, kestrels hover above an open field. These days, the lack of suitable nesting cavities, which limits American Kestrel populations in some areas, has lead to public interest in installing wooden nest boxes.  

Richard Bowdler Sharpe

In the world of birds, you’ll find King Penguins, King Vultures, King Eiders, 89 species of kingfishers, 11 species of kingbirds, and three species tiny kinglets. But of the 10,000 species of birds around the globe, there are no “queens.”

Once upon a time, there was a species of bird-of-paradise named Queen Carola’s Parotia (illustrated here). Carola was the wife of King Albert the 1st of Saxony, who also had a bird named for him, the King of Saxony Bird-of-Paradise. Alas, the queen’s bird had its name trimmed to the more tidy “Carola’s Parotia.”   

Gerrit Vyn

Imagine carrying heavy battery-operated equipment - along with all your camping gear - across the tundra. That's what recordist Gerrit Vyn did on assignment for Cornell's Lab of Ornithology.

His mission? To record the calls of this Yellow-billed Loon. You can learn more about the lab and about The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds - see Related Resources below.

BirdNote is grateful to all the radio stations that carry the show. And thanks, too, to recordists, photographers, donors, and especially the listeners!  

Jack Jeffrey

'Alala, also known as Hawaiian Crows (although they're more like ravens), were once common on the Big Island of Hawaii. But the birds suffered from persecution by humans, degraded habitat, and disease, and by 2002, no 'Alala were left in the wild.

Today, captive breeding is under way in Hawaii, and 2011 was the best year ever for the program. The total 'Alala population now stands at 95 birds. While a previous attempt to return 'Alala to the wild came up short, we await the day when conditions are right to bring the sacred raven back to its forest.

Learn more at