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vocalization

The Music of Long-tailed Ducks

Long-tailed Ducks are back for the winter from the north, where they nested on tundra ponds and marshes. These diving ducks spend the winter in deep salt water, often in sheltered bays. Long-tailed Ducks are far more vocal than most ducks, a feature that has earned them a host of charming... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

July before Dawn - Aldo Leopold

The song of this Field Sparrow was the first bird song Aldo Leopold awoke to on his Wisconsin farm in the 1940s. Sadly, Field Sparrow populations are declining rapidly. You can learn more about "The State of the Birds" from National Audubon, and the plight of the Field Sparrow in particular. read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, reflection, vocalization

Tropical Wake-up Call

If you lived along the forest's edge in Central America, every morning might begin with a cacophony of rhythmic guffaws, whistles, screeches, and screams. Plain Chachalacas and Great Kiskadees — like this one — join in the chorus. View a series of photos of the Plain Chachalaca taken by Texan... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Great Horned Owls Calling

A fledgling Great Horned Owl calls to be fed. Judging from the young bird's persistence, the parents seem to be responding only with calls, not with food. These entreaties can go on for weeks. Both parents let the fledgling know that it's time for him to feed himself. They've been bringing voles... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Learning to Listen - Patterns in Songs of the Song Sparrow

Heidi Hoelting, a musician, listens carefully to the songs of birds. In her piano studio at her home in the woods, she wrote down several variations of the different sounds a Song Sparrow makes. In this BirdNote, Nancy Rumbel plays some of those variations on a bamboo whistle. Listen to all... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  music, vocalization

Spooky Shearwaters

Some early sailors, visiting remote Pacific islands, surely feared that the ungodly wailing on shore meant they had been tricked to the gates of Hell itself. In truth, they stood among courting pairs of seabirds called Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. These birds nest on islands in the tropical Pacific... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Hermit Thrush: Ethereal Singer

High in the mountains of the West and North, where the long summer days stay cool, the song of the Hermit Thrush stands out. The song has been described as "ethereal," "serene," or "flutelike." Writer Ralph Hoffman writes about the song of the Hermit Thrush: "It is the opening note that gives the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

The Call of the Gull

As we ponder the wonders of bird sounds, how many of us think of gulls? Are gulls underrated as singers? We may be more inclined to prize gulls for their ability to catch French fries in mid-air along the waterfront. But they are actually quite accomplished vocalists. The Glaucous-winged Gull's ... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display, vocalization

Urban Birds Change Their Tune

The soft whistles of this Great Tit, a common European bird, can be hard to hear over city noises. So these birds now sing at a higher pitch and faster than normal. This song carries better over the traffic noise of the city. A bird singing at a higher range is better able to declare its... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science, vocalization

Bird Songs Go to Hollywood

Movie-makers love to add bird sounds to a film, to evoke a mood or set a scene. For all the attention to some details though, nature's details often get a little mixed up... like an Australian Laughing Kookaburra guffawing in the depths of the Florida Everglades? For a jungle sound, it's hard to... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  Hollywood, humor, vocalization

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