Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bird songs and calls

Marsh WrenSinging Marsh Wren, Forest Grove, Oregon 2 June 2011 by Greg Gillson.

 

Listen. Do you hear it?

No, because this is a photo without sound. But I hear it in my mind.

Here's a link to a sample song of Marsh Wren.

O, what a quiet world this would be without birds! Well, quiet except for human-made sounds. When we think of the sounds of nature, we usually include the calls of birds.

Many birders have trouble identifying bird songs and calls. No wonder; it takes just as much (or more) work than learning to identify birds by sight. And there isn't a workable "field guide" to bird songs and calls.

However, Nathan Pieplow, on the EarBirding blog, wrote this brief guide to
describing what you hear. He writes "How to identify bird sounds in six easy steps." Great stuff.

This gives a framework for describing bird sounds. Even playing a recording of a bird song doesn't help you remember it, if you can't describe it to yourself--if you can't hear it in your own mind when the bird is no longer singing.

Michele, at Northwest Nature Nut recently recorded 50 seconds of audio at the Ridgefield wildlife refuge, in her post:Ridgefield bird songs of May. How many different bird songs and calls can you pick out? I heard 11 species and in the post's comment field recorded the first time I heard each species and the second count of the recording when it calls, so you can compare. Try it!

47 comments:

  1. I need help identifying a bird in our yard. We live on a lake in the Pacific Northwest...the sound is like a referee's whistle....no flutuations and it is very loud. The bird is only here for short time and then I have don't hear it until next about the same time frame.

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    1. I have heard this same bird and I'm also trying to identifying it. It doesn't sound anything like the Varied Thrush calls I hear online. There is no buzz at all, and it''s much louder--a loud, clear glilsando from low to high. Very much like a referee's whistle.

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    2. I have heard a bird like this day and night in NE Seattle near Lake WA. Whoeet, whoeet, whoeet, whoeet. Always the same note, four times. It sounds just like a whistle. I have tried listening on all the birding sites.

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  2. That's a good start in describing the sound.

    A Varied Thrush sounds like a buzz superimposed on a whistle. It is usually a minor note on an even pitch. The song is made of single whistles all on different pitches.

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    1. Thank you for the identification. I have been trying to find this for a long time. I sometimes whistle back at them in the spring.

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  3. Hello there! I've got a new bird in our back-yard I'd like to request some help in identifying - I'm in Sammamish, WA. It's a very distinctive call and I've never heard it before. Quite loud, too. It starts low and ends high in three successive octave levels really quick (getting higher 1-2-3 and each series of 1-2-3). Do Do Do - Do Do Do - Do Do Do! Of course there is not really a D or O heard. I'm just not sure how to spell a bird call. LOL. It's wonderful, though. The little bird has been calling non-stop for the last 2 days so I expect he's looking for a mate?

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    1. Swainson's Thrush sings three upward spiraling whistled phrases: heario-heario-heario,

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    2. Thanks for the fast reply! :-) That is somewhat close, but the Swainson's Thrush song is more complex and "spirally", as you described. This song is more of 9 staccato notes put together. I am able to whistle it as description (although my whistle doesn't do it justice for tonal quality or volume). I can also try to get an audio recording of the bird itself. But I don't
      think I can attach an audio file here? Any other ideas of a bird I could listen to for a match?

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    3. How about White-crowned Sparrow? It sings a clear whistled tune with final trill with a pattern and inflection that may be rendered as "See me? Silly, silly me! Chee, cheer-cheer..."

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    4. ever figure this out? I am trying to ID something that sounds similar (although I'm out east)

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    5. Eurasian Collared-Dove. Got two in my neighborhood south of Lincoln City. One regularly calls with five repetitions, then the other responds with three repetitions. Your " Whoeet, whoeet, whoeet" is a pretty accurate description of its call.

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  4. I need to know what kind of bird this is. I would describe it as a small birds equivilant to an elk bugle. At first I thought it was a neighbor kid spinning one of the tubes that makes a sound when you spin it or some kind of slide whistle. I think I saw this bird one from a distance it it appreared to be very small.

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    1. The bird in question above is located in Everett, WA.

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    2. If there is a catchment pond nearby, as found in many neighborhoods and around commercial strips these days, it may be the red winged blackbird. They hang around amongst the cattails and reeds. You can see them - all black with bright red patches at the shoulders, about fifty feet from each other. Yes, very elk-like.

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  5. Not enough info for me to figure it out, Alex. Need tone quality and what it sounds similar to (you did a decent job). Also pattern, pitch. Nonsense word to imitate pattern and vowel sounds.

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  6. I recorded this bird whiistle, but I don't see any way to send you an attachment.

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  7. Hi, I recently sent you two posts regarding a bird here in Battleground, WA that sounds similar to this description, but when I went online and listened to Varied Thrush calls, they sounded nothing like the bird I heard. This is a very loud , clear glissando whistle, low to high. I have a recording if this bird to help in identification, but can't figure out how to send it as an attachment.. Did these posts get lost in translation, or did you decide not to display them?

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  8. I'm hearing a single octave sound that goes da dada dah new to my oregon city location. Sounds like a flute low octive. Can you help?

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  9. Hi, Sat out early AM in Concrete WA , big cedars with lakes and rivers near by and heard "oooooo What " repeated 3-4 times. Sounded like a larger bird maybe in trees not so much on ground. Any guess...... never saw a thing. Thanks ! Diane G.

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  10. I am in a new home and I am seeing all the birds typical of the area. There is only one I haven't spotted yet. What bird sounds like it is hollering "HELP!" I know a peacock sounds like this, but I live on a reservation above the Elwha River and we hear this bird all around us. I have heard young crows beg for food and this isn't it either, although we have Ravens here. Any clue?

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  11. I just went to the Audubon site here in Seattle and checked the Raven call. That was it!! I guess I am smarter than I look!! :)

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  12. You did very well in describing the peacock call screaming for help. There's not much else like it. Raven could make similarly loud calls, but lower-pitched. Oh, you might try listening to Mountain Quail. They usually call at dawn, a loud Quark! from the clear cuts.

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  13. I have two birds I'd like identified. The first sounds quite strange to me and is low in town. It goes something like "Ka COW-cow"
    The second it quite high in tone and goes upward until it can barely be heard. it sound somewhat like "Tweedle a tweedle e tweep!"

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  14. Hello does anyone know this bird? The call sounds like Errrrrrrit'. The call rises at the end. The bird is near a wetlands. I don't remember hearing this before. It made the same call again and again.

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  15. My boyfriend and I have been trying to identify a bird that we hear outside our apartment on a regular basis... it is really hard to describe the sound it makes, as it is quite comical. we say that it sounds "like a weird crow", it makes a mid range "Hehhh" sound. any ideas?

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  16. Visiting Victoria BC. Heard bird call sounds like... short whistle followed by buenos dias... 4-5 second break... and repeat. Intermittently the call becomes a whistle followed by buenos dias dias. Any ideas? Thanks.

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    1. Amazingly, yes, I think I know your bird.
      Red-winged Blackbird has that whistled pattern:
      o-conk-a-ria
      (short whistle) buenos dias

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    2. Thanks for the speedy reply, Greg. Sorry, but I think not. I grew up in Point Pelee and Riding Mountain National Parks. You have to admit I should be quite familiar with the call of the RWB. This is a call I've never heard... it is too distinct.

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  17. I am at our cabin on Orcas Island, right on Rosario Strait. For several days in the morning, midday, evening, I hear a bird in a thicket or tree nearby (never have glimpsed it!) with a distinctive call I've never heard before. It is 3 distinct whistles: 2 are the same note, and the third is a fifth or sixth higher on a scale. Sometimes the bird only does these three whistles several times in a row, with a little break in between. Other times they are followed by a complex series of notes. I would LOVE to know this species of bird. I have searched everywhere and can not identify it. Thank you for your assistance!

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  18. Hi I am having trouble identifying a bird that I hear the morning. It makes a high pitch "tee tee" sound. Always twice with the same pitch/tone. it pauses for a couple seconds then does the same tone again. like "tee tee...tee tee...tee tee...". I'm in the south seattle area. any ideas? thanks!!

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  19. Keri SilbernagelMay 24, 2015 at 8:36 PM

    I am hearing a bird this evening that sounds similar to a human whistling for a dog. It now has stopped, but it seems like it was two consecutive whistles. Like I said, whistling for a dog. It sounds human enough that it made me uneasy at first. Lol. Oh, I am Spanaway/Graham area.

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    1. I hear this same sound at night in my woods. I live near big basin. It does sound exactly like a human whistle. Did you ever find out what it is Keri?

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    2. I hear this same sound at night in my woods. I live near big basin. It does sound exactly like a human whistle. Did you ever find out what it is Keri?

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    3. I wish I knew. I'm searching online for a whistle sound that I heard this evening that sounded human. I also felt uneasy and thought for sure it must be human. The "whistle" was right outside my 2nd floor window and I couldn't see any humans around. Heard it 3 times. That's it. In my search for help online, I ended up with your post. I'm in Vancouver BC.

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    4. I'm hearing a very human sounding whistle with two or three notes, very clear, quite loud. Very much like someone whistling for a dog, but a little too random for human, I think. Seems to be coming from tree tops in various parts of yard. Live near Lake Michigan, in southwest Michigan.

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  20. Hi, I am coming from Monmouth, Oregon (nearby salem) and there is a bird that I hear every morning outside my window but I never see it. It makes a sound like, "ooh-ooh" always twice. The second ooh is slightly higher in pitch. I love this sound and wish I knew what it was. It sings the same two tones repeatedly without hardly any variation.

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  21. I have this bird outside my window in the morning that I can't see cause I think it lives in my neighbors yard. I am in Monmouth, Oregon. This bird makes two different sound one is, "ooh-rrroo-ooh" repeated sequence and the middle sound is highest. The second sound is just two, "ooh-ooh" the first sound is higher. Both these phrases get repeated and are used interchangeable.

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  22. I live in Sudden Valley at Lake Whatcom (Bellingham). I have been hearing a song that goes on and on such as a mockingbird. I have listened to the sound of northern mockingbird but that is too harsh. Brown thrasher is closer. The phrases are usually repeated 2-3 times and the entire aria always ends with one repetition of a human "wolf whistle". Any ideas? I saw the bird fly from one fir to another but it was sihouetted

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  23. I live in Western WA (Sammamish) and every spring is harolded by some bird who long before dawn, will start giving out a long drawn out high pitched whistle followed by a long drawn out low pitched whistle. This seems to be his only call and goes on for several hours (4:30am - 7:30am) and lasts until late spring (I'm assuming a mating call). Any idea what this bird could be?

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  24. If there is a wooded area near you it might be an eastern wood pee wee

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  25. I am so glad I found this site! Since I was little, I have been wondering what bird makes this call (I finally caught the bugger in action last night and uploaded a video to YouTube below). It shows up around late February, and is gone, well, I'm not sure when, mid-summer? But since I was a kid, I called this the Spring Bird since it's sound reminds me of glorious evenings spent outside when the weather finally gets nice here in the PNW. I have never actually seen the bird itself, even though it sounds so close. If you could help with identification, I would be forever indebted to you! -Cora Reuter, Federal Way WA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcsAq3cNeY8

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    1. Cora,

      Thank you for the song upload. Believe it or not, this is the song of the American Robin: a caroling "cheeriup, cheerio, cheerily,..." Yes, indeed, one of the characteristic sounds of sunny spring days. Most male songbirds sing to attract a mate and defend a territory. So singing starts in the spring and tails off sharply after the eggs hatch and parental duties take precedence. American Robins migrate from Alaska to California, but local birds may remain all year. But the singing starts in February as you note.

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  26. Wondering of a bird sound every morning i hear...washing state near spokane wa...its 2 tone whistle...as my wife mimicks it as hiiiii....lowwww...any suggestions.thanks

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  27. I heard a bird whistle this morning that has me stumped....wondering which bird it is. It whistled a 'do do sol'. Anyone have an idea?

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  28. Help! Need help identifying a bird. I live in Portland,OR. Pitch is a combo of high and low whistle...and an up and down, I would describe it as a "twirling" sound that we ended up calling the birds "twirlers." It's like proooh-oh-oh...proooh-oh-oh...proooo-oh-oh with a dip and a roll...Always three times. I hear them early morning and evening. Would love to get to know these birds a little more.

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