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Birds That Whistle

Simple songs we can imitate

Many bird songs are rich and complex, difficult to remember, and nearly impossible to imitate. Some species' songs, however, sound as if they could have been whistled by a human. These simpler, pure-noted songs are some of the most familiar and easy to remember. These songs -- including the "pee-a-wee" of this Eastern Wood-Pewee -- are a great place to start building your knowledge of birding by ear!

Full Transcript



Birds That Whistle

Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote. 

[Olive-sided Flycatcher,, 0.10-11]

Some of the most familiar and easy to remember bird songs are those that sound like they could have been whistled by a human. Their quality and simplicity remind us of the sounds that we can make, even with our modest human whistling apparatus. [Olive-sided Flycatcher,, 0.10-11]

The Olive-sided Flycatcher has one of the most distinctive and catchy songs on the continent [, 0.10-11]. And many birders learn early on to pick out its sharply inflected three-note song, and to imitate it. [Narrator’s imitation of whistle]. 

The Eastern Wood-Pewee has a catchy tune too… [, 0.36-42] …pretty much whistling out its name, pee-a-wee. A bit harder to imitate, though [narrator imitate].

But it’s not only little songbirds that whistle. [Northern Saw-whet Owl song,, 0.14 – 20 - quieter rec around 2.40 in]. This night-time whistler's a Northern Saw-whet Owl [, 0.14 – 20]. We like to think that owls only hoot, but these sound a lot like human whistles and are easy to copy. 

Finally, here’s a bird that whistles its heart out. [from Bird Songs of the Pacific Northwest, Pigeon Guillemot, 0.37-.45]. These shrill notes belong to a little seabird, the Pigeon Guillemot [GILL-uh-mot]. Cousin to the puffins, whistling over the waves along the Pacific Coast. [repeat Keller and Vyn recording]


Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Olive-sided Flycatcher [95787] recorded by Bob McGuire; Eastern Wood-Pewee [191222] recorded by Wilbur L Hershberger; Northern Saw-whet Owl [130470] recorded by Gregory F Budney; Pigeon Guillemot recorded by Geoffrey A Keller and Gerrit Vyn, featured on the CD 'Bird Songs of the Pacific Northwest' Disk 2 Track 53, Macaulay Library, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. 
Surf sound '#23 Surf Moderate' from Nature SFX, recorded by Gordon Hempton, of
BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Dominic Black

© 2015 Tune In to    January 2017   Narrator: Michael Stein

ID#             sound-21-2015-01-12 sound-21

Sights & Sounds

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