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vocalization

The Marsh Wren

Some bird-lovers have tagged the Marsh Wren the "Heinz 57 variety" bird, because scientists have recorded 57 different variations of its song. And nightfall doesn't faze these birds. A male may sing straight through the night. Marsh Wrens usually forage out of view, hopping up only for brief... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Rare Sounds Saved by Macaulay Library

The tranquil song of the Kaua'i O'o graced the high, dense forests of Kaua'i until 1987, when it was heard no more. The voice of only one member of this family of birds, now all extinct, remains immortalized on tape. The Macaulay Library maintains the largest collection of bird sounds in the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  sound, vocalization

How Young Birds Learn Songs

Within two weeks of hatching, a young male Bewick's Wren is already out of the nest, skulking in the shrubbery. Over the next couple of weeks, the fledgling will learn at least 15 different song variations his father sings. After he wanders off to find his own territory, about a mile from his... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Spring Birds Arrive in the Eastern Forest

May in an Eastern hardwood forest, and the chorus of spring birdsong is nearing its peak. The Carolina Wren, a year-round resident, has been singing since the end of winter. The resounding notes of this Ovenbird let us know it has returned safely from Belize, after a long flight across the Gulf... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, vocalization

American Woodcock - Timberdoodle

As the sun sets on a northern Midwest forest, an American Woodcock walks slowly from the cover of the forest to a nearby clearing. Then, the woodcock takes off on a courtship flight. At the apex of its flight, the woodcock circles, then descends in a slow spiral, putt-putting like a tiny car... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display, vocalization

Song Sparrows Learn to Sing

Young male Song Sparrows learn about 10 songs from adult tutors - sometimes from their fathers, but not always. And they learn in stages: 1) "subsong," when the birds babble in a quiet and unstructured way; 2) the "plastic" stage, which contains recognizable adult syllables but is still wobbly,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science, vocalization

Aldo Leopold and the Field Sparrows

The Field Sparrow was the first bird song Aldo Leopold awoke to on his farm in the 1940s. In his Sand County Almanac, a classic of conservation and nature writing, Leopold brought to life scenes of nature, a month at a time. Field Sparrows aren't as common today as they were in Aldo Leopold's day... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Night Singers

A bird like the Whip-poor-will is a true night bird – feeding, and mating, and nesting in the dark. But for about a week each spring, male Yellow-breasted Chats also sing in the darkness as they call out to the arriving females — their potential mates. read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

American Bittern - Thunder-Pumper

American Bitterns nest in marshes across the northern half of the United States and throughout much of Canada, and they winter along both US coasts south into Central America. But in some places, bitterns are in serious trouble. Much of the extensive, shallow marshland they once bred in has been... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

How Much Birds Sing

A typical songbird belts out its song between 1,000 and 2,500 times per day. Even though most bird songs last only a few seconds, that's a lot of warbling! A Yellowhammer, a European bunting, may sing over 3,000 times a day. But the Yellowhammer doesn't even come close to the North American... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

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