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Bird Songs Reflect Habitat

The Canyon Wren's eloquent song soothes the soul. Naturalist Ralph Hoffman likened it to "the spray of a waterfall in sunshine." Its close cousin, the Marsh Wren, wound up with a harsh, ratcheting song - about as musical as a tiny machine-gun barrage. Birds' songs mirror their environments. The Canyon Wren's song has ideal acoustics for bouncing off the tall rock faces, while the Marsh Wren sings in the midst of dense stands of cattails. Birding by ear is an important tool.  You may hear many birds that you don't ever see.  Check out our resources to help you learn this valuable birding skill.

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BirdNote®

Bird Songs Reflect Habitat

Written by Bob Sundstrom
 
This is BirdNote!
[Canyon Wren song]
The Canyon Wren’s eloquent song soothes the soul. Naturalist Ralph Hoffman likened it to “the spray of a waterfall in sunshine.” [Canyon Wren song]
So how is it that its close cousin, the Marsh Wren, wound up with a harsh, ratcheting song – about as musical as a tiny machine-gun barrage? [Marsh Wren song]
Birds’ songs mirror the environments in which they are sung. The Canyon Wren’s song – a series of distinct, long, higher-pitched notes – has ideal acoustics for bouncing off the tall rock faces and jumbled boulders that are the bird’s habitat. From where the wren sings atop a prominent rock face, the notes ring out over a great distance.
[Canyon Wren song]
The Marsh Wren sings in the midst of dense stands of cattails, often from a perch down within the reeds. Its rapid, choppy, lower-pitched notes carry effectively here [Marsh Wren song], whereas a Canyon Wren’s whistled tones would be quickly scattered and absorbed by dense vegetation.
Environment plays a profound selective role in the evolution of bird voices. To be heard, the song must suit the arena.
[Canyon Wren song]
 Thank you for listening!  For BirdNote, I’m Frank Corrado.
###
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Song of Canyon Wren and Marsh Wren recorded by G.A. Keller.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© Seattle Audubon 08/21/06      © 2008 Tune In to Nature.org    Rev for Aug 08

ID# 082106voiceKPLU

Reference cited: Hoffman, Ralph. Birds of the Pacific States. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1927, p. 242.


 

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