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!

66 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.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    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.

      Delete
    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.

      Delete
    3. What you are hearing might be the red winged blackbird? It sounds a lot like a whistle.
      http://birdweb.org/birdweb/bird/red-winged_blackbird

      Delete
    4. What you might be hearing is the red winged blackbird? It sounds a lot like a whistle.
      http://birdweb.org/birdweb/bird/red-winged_blackbird

      Delete
  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.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    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.

      Delete
  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?

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

      Delete
    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?

      Delete
    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..."

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

      Delete
    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.

      Delete
    6. I am trying to identify the bird described by the person in this exchange (Steven Jensen?) as "do-do-do, do-do-do, do-do-do". I have listened to all the suggestions, and the Swainson's Thrush is close, but not quite it, I don't think. Any other suggestions? Friends and I have been trying to figure this out for a long time! Perhaps this blog is not active any more, as Greg has moved to San Diego?

      Delete
    7. Very infrequently check in, Lisa. This blog is inactive, as far as new posts. My new blog is "Greg In San Diego" http://sandiegogreg.blogspot.com/

      Your description accurately gives cadence and pattern, but more is needed.
      Here is something that might help communicate the song a bit further:

      "Here are the first questions to ask when you hear a bird call or song. First, how many syllables do you hear? What is the relative pitch of the call? Is it a level pitch or does it drop or rise? What is its quality—Whistled? Chirping? Rough? Trilled? Musical?"

      Delete
  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.

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

      Delete
    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.

      Delete
  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.

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

    ReplyDelete
  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?

    ReplyDelete
  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?

    ReplyDelete
  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.

    ReplyDelete
  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?

    ReplyDelete
  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!! :)

    ReplyDelete
  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.

    ReplyDelete
  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!"

    ReplyDelete
  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.

    ReplyDelete
  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?

    ReplyDelete
  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.

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

      Delete
    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.

      Delete
  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!

    ReplyDelete
  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!!

    ReplyDelete
  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.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    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?

      Delete
    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?

      Delete
    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.

      Delete
    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.

      Delete
  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.

    ReplyDelete
  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.

    ReplyDelete
  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

    ReplyDelete
  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?

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

    ReplyDelete
  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

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    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.

      Delete
  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

    ReplyDelete
  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?

    ReplyDelete
  28. HELP! Need to identify a bird. I live in Portland, OR. Bird sounds like a high and mid tone pitch whistle which I can describe like a "twirling" sound. Like proooh-oh, proooh-oh, proo-oh (always 3 times) with a dip and a roll.

    ReplyDelete
  29. 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.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Twirling is a good description, Bryan, of the song of Swainson's Thrush--three repeated spiraling phrases, each higher in pitch, "heer-ee-o, heer-ee-o, heer-ee-o."

      Delete
  30. Hello! I have been trying to identify a bird call that we are hearing now that it is Spring in Portland. It sounds like three whistles and then a pause. Side note, I've noticed that it is very much like Wallander's phone ringtone in the BBC's TV series "Wallander." Any insights would be appreciated!

    ReplyDelete
  31. We live in sedro woolley wa, on 5 wooded acres. We recently got a new visitor up in our tree's, he's driving us crazy!! lol. does not shut up all night long, and sometimes part of the days! I have a video but not sure where to upload it at??
    The birdie makes sorta like an ooh ooh ooh sound(not an owl), can get higher pitched at times. It's continuous, sometimes the lil bugger takes a quick breath every 4th or 5th sound..my kids say it's kinda like a beeping.. guess I'm lost lol, where can I send the video?

    ReplyDelete
  32. Looking to identify a bird that comes to Southern Oregon briefly the fist half of April, then nothing until the first or second week of May. Then all quite on hot days but sings in the rain. It's call is an amusing cartoon sounding whistle, the kind you can slide to change the pitch. Also reminds me of a whoopee cushion. Very comical.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Upload the video to YouTube and then post the link here. I did that a few months back and got an answer on my mystery bird!

    ReplyDelete
  34. Need help identifying black and white bird with a very loud squawk. I've seen this bird here all year long. they are mostly black with white spots on wings and white on the face and chest. Don't seem to be too frightened of folks either. Live in Spokane Valley. I've looked at many pictures of bird familiar to my area and can't find what type of bird it is.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe a magpie? Sometimes called a cow bird.

      Delete
  35. Hello all - During the summer months, there is a bird call or song that is very common out my back door, but I cannot seem to identify. We live near a mixed coniferous area offering small ponds and streams on the eastern side of the Olympic Peninsula of WA State. This birds call or song is a regular occurrence in the evening just after sundown. It starts with mid-range notes and then trills or spirals upward until it ends with a high note fading away. Then it will start again. There are many of these birds nearby and seem to be situated fairly high in trees but as it is getting dark, it is hard to find them visually. Can anyone help with a few ideas about how to identify this bird, or suggestions as to what it might be? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Swainson's Thrush is the Western late spring and summer singer that has three rising spirals in a flute-like ethereal song. Sing dawn and dusk from damp broadleafed tangles (10-20 year old clearcuts with heavy alder/maple regrowth).

      Delete
    2. Thanks, Greg! I happened on the song on an Audubon site as well. Your reference is right on and very much appreciated!

      Delete
  36. Looking to ID a bird in the Princeton BC area. Seems to have a one syllable, one note call. Almost sounds like 2 sticks rubbed together, or "eh". Haven't seen it yet, but I keep looking :)

    ReplyDelete
  37. I live in Everett Marysville area. During the day I hear a bird that sounds like a child playing the recorder badly. At first I thought it was indeed the family behind us. It's a bit annoying as it doesn't carry a pleasant tune but does follow a repeated pattern of short calls. Anyone know what it could be??

    ReplyDelete
  38. Please help me figure out this bird. I hear it in the morning OCCASIONALLY. It's really weird and sounds like no bird I've ever heard. It makes one single "cack" sound then it sounds like a human impression of how we describe a bomb dropping from the sky. (Cack-whooooooooo). It's not back to back.... it's a spaced call like it waits 5-10 seconds before it does it again. It's in the tree but I can never see it! Help! It's not a black-bird by the way.

    ReplyDelete
  39. https://youtu.be/bcDdlXoN3Ok

    Please help me identify this bird!! Please!

    ReplyDelete