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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

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

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

Wood-Wrens - A Tropical Duet

Gray-breasted Wood-Wrens sing a duet. Each sings a different phrase, yet the phrases are so closely linked, it sounds like one song. Such singing is called antiphonal song. The pairs use song to stake out and hold breeding territories. Dueting is most typical of birds that live in dense habitats;... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display, vocalization

The Lowly Starling

Much maligned as a pest and cursed by many as an "invasive species," the European Starling has had many fans, too. Eugene Schieffelin introduced about 50 pairs into the United States in the 1890s. And Rachel Carson noted that the starling carries "more than 100 loads of destructive insects per... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  music, vocalization

Great Horned Owl Duet

The 22-inch Great Horned Owl has two tufts of feathers that stick up from the top of its head. This owl is difficult to see, but it's often heard during dark winter evenings and pre-dawn mornings. A pair of owls may call back and forth or overlap their hoots. The male's call is slightly lower in... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Dawn Song, Spring Equinox

As the first rays of sunlight fill the trees on a spring morning, a symphony of birdsong erupts. As early morning light extinguishes the stars, male birds begin to belt out their songs. One of the magical gifts of observing birds is to hear the dawn song in spring. Early in the morning, warblers,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  reflection, vocalization

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