On the Trail of the Great Tinamou

Three years ago, I spent a while in the rainforest of Panama, for a story. It’s one of those swashbuckling freelancer stories, except—like so many of those—it’s not all that swashbuckling when you get down to the details. I was an hour’s drive (on good roads) from an international airport. I was staying in a […]

Down the chimney

Tomorrow, I’m driving to Oregon for a friend’s wedding. While I’m there, I may get a chance to witness what has been described as an “avian tornado”: thousands of Vaux’s swifts dive-bombing a chimney at a Portland elementary school. A Vaux’s swift is a petite, grayish bird with sharp swooping wings and a stubby tail. […]

The macabre habits of the butcher bird

The remains of a horned lizard killed by a shrike. Wandering around New York’s American Museum of Natural History one day in May, I noticed a bird called the fiscal shrike. The small stuffed specimen, black with dashes of white on its wings, was perched on a shrub in a diorama of Kenya’s Kedong Valley. […]

Science Meets Bird, Bird Meets Science

Late last year, during a reporting trip in Cambodia, I shared a car for a couple of days with Simon Mahood, a British ornithologist who works for the Wildlife Conservation Society in Phnom Penh. Mahood, a devoted birdwatcher since childhood, was full of stories about the rare birds and remote places of Southeast Asia. But […]

Birds in a Blender

Imagine for a second that the country of Mexico was a long funnel, with the Pacific and Atlantic Coasts as the sides of the funnel. And imagine you were to roll a marble down the Pacific side, all the way from San Diego, down Sonora, passed Mazatlan, Jalisco (though it takes a little hop over […]

Murmuration. The poetry of the morning walk.

This morning I awoke to the kind of day that offers an easy excuse to skip the walk. The temperature gauge read -3F (-19C) when I crawled out of bed, and by the time I’d finished the tea and hot porridge my husband had prepared, it was still only -1F. But the dogs were eager, the […]

On Turkey Legs

This story is so kooky that I must lead with the video: This slow-motion film stars turkeys of different ages, from hatchlings to adults, and yes, they’re furiously climbing a steep wooden ramp. The video comes from a study published earlier this month. But let me start at the beginning.