By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Every Friday, Heather Brown answers a few of our viewers’ burning questions. This week, she finds out how the first episode of a T.V. series got its unique name and why our stomachs growl. Plus, she learns a bit about birds’ winter migration habits.

Isabel from Minneapolis asks: Why are the first TV shows in a series called pilots?

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It’s similar to the idea of a “pilot” study. These shows are generally considered test runs for the network to see if it wants to pick up the show. If the pilot “flies” well, the show might make it to air.

Nancy from Menomonie asks: Why do our stomachs growl when we’re hungry?

Technically, it’s our stomach and small intestines making the noise. When we eat, the muscles in our gastrointestinal tract squeeze the food, gas and liquids to move it through, which creates the noise. And, as for why we hear something when we’re hungry, that squeezing process usually starts up again two hours after we eat. The idea is to push out that last bits of food so we’re ready to eat again.

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Diane from Plymouth has seen robins in her backyard this winter. She wants to know why.

According to Carroll Henderson, head of the DNR’s nongame wildlife program, people are planting more fruiting trees and shrubs, including viburnum, chokeberry and crabapple, in their yards. Those plants offer food to birds all year around.

Henderson says most robins leave for the winter, but some stick around as far north as Brainerd. Warmer winters have also contributed.

“Birds might stay all winter and then they’re like little nomads just travel from yard to yard looking for the trees with fruits that will sustain them through the winter months,” Henderson says.

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For more information on the birds, the DNR recommends reading Landscaping for Wildlife,
http://www.comm.media.state.mn.us/bookstore/mnbookstore.asp?page=viewbook&BookID=68196&stocknum=276
published by the DNR. It’s paid for through funds donated by Minnesota through the checkoff box on their tax forms.

Heather Brown