In early June, millions of birds arrive on the Arctic Coastal Plain in Alaska, from all over the world. They're there to attract a mate and raise their young. One shorebird, the Pectoral Sandpiper, has a pectoral sac on its chest. It stands on the ground and inflates this sac, and then takes off on a moth-like, buoyant flight, low over the tundra. The bird emits a resonant hooting song as it circles its territory, trying to chase off other males and attract a female.
The Arctic Coastal Plain in June
Interview of Gerrit Vyn by Chris Peterson
This is BirdNote!
[Spring bird song on the Arctic Plain recorded by Gerrit Vyn]
In early June, millions of birds arrive on the Arctic Coastal Plain in Alaska, from all over the world. They’re there to attract a mate and raise their young. They’ll feed on the explosion of insect life that happens in the brief spring. Nature photographer [and bird sound recordist], Gerrit Vyn, takes us there:
So, when the shorebirds arrive, it’s an absolutely spectacular event! …as soon as they get up there, these male shorebirds of all different types begin all of these unique displays –… If you go up there on a calm, still, spring evening when the winds subside, all of these birds just lift off the ground. And the tundra can appear barren and within a few hours… you just hear thousands of birds in every direction calling and singing…
[Continue spring bird song on the Arctic Plain]
….There’s one shorebird species, the Pectoral Sandpiper, where the male has this pectoral sac at its chest that... it’ll stand on the ground for awhile and inflate this sac and then take off on these sort of moth-like, buoyant flights, low over the tundra, emitting this incredibly resonant hooting song as it’s circling its territory, trying to chase off other males and attract a female… It’s an incredible thing to see this bird floating toward you uttering this loud resonant hooting sound…
[Feature the flight display song of the Pectoral Sandpiper from 130964]
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge… Learn more at birdnote.org.
Songs and calls of the birds at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, recorded by M.J. Anderson and Gerrit Vyn. Feature of Pectoral Sandpiper by Gerrit Vyn LMS 130964.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2015 Tune In to Nature.org June 2017/2019 Narrator: Mary McCann
ID# SotB-ANWR-02-2011-06-02 (sounds from SotB-ANWR-01-2010-12-06)