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Songbirds: The Large and Small of It

The size range of songbirds is amazing!

The group of birds called “songbirds” — the perching birds — is incredibly broad. Half the world’s 10,000 birds are in the songbird group, and their range of body sizes is mind-boggling. One of the smallest songbirds in North America is the Golden-crowned Kinglet, barely larger than a hummingbird. The largest is the Common Raven, which is almost two feet long and weighs around three pounds.

Today's show brought to you by the Bobolink Foundation.

Full Transcript



Songbirds: The Large and Small of It

Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote.

Which is the heftiest of all songbirds on the continent? What about the tiniest?
Okay, first, what is a “songbird?” Songbirds make up a broad and seemingly informal category, from swallows and robins to crows, sparrows, and many more. They aren’t all fine singers by any stretch, but “songbirds” sticks as a name.
Their full size range is mind-boggling.
[Golden-crowned Kinglet song]

You’re hearing the high whistles of a Golden-crowned Kinglet, one of our smallest songbirds. Golden-crowned Kinglets are a chubby three-and-a-half inches long, hummingbird sized, and weigh about as much as 6 shelled peanuts.
[Common Raven call]

A gruff voice announces the biggest songbird, the Common Raven, almost two feet in length and weighing around three pounds. Not just North America’s largest songbird, the Common Raven ranks as the world’s largest songbird.
In a wrestling match, the raven would have an undeniable size advantage. But the kinglet, with its lighter-than-air hovering flight, could literally fly circles around the raven.
Half the world’s 10,000 birds are in the songbird group. Some days on a bird walk, especially in the northern states, you might see the continent’s tiniest and most massive songbirds in the same tree.  

[Common Raven call]

For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. ML44839 GCKI G Keller; ML108875041 CORA D Donnecke; ML137574 CORA G Vyn.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Managing Producer: Jason Saul
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
© 2018 Tune In to   October 2018   Narrator: Michael Stein
ID#  songbird-01-2018-10-22   songbird-01

Reference:  the world’s largest passerine

Sights & Sounds

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