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vocalization

Voices and Vocabularies - Songs Long and Short

When a Sage Thrasher, perched on a clump of sagebrush, tips its head back to sing, the notes rush forth. They often sing non-stop for at least two minutes. In stark comparison, the song of this Brewer’s Blackbird lasts barely a second. And the Henslow’s Sparrow values brevity even more. But... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Singer's Brain Changes with the Seasons

In higher animals, the brain is like a Lamborghini — amazing engineering, but expensive to run. In a human, the brain uses about 10 times more energy than other organs. A bird's system is exquisitely attuned to this expense. Several species, including Black-capped Chickadees, have adapted in... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science, vocalization

Speech and Birdsong - The Genetics of Vocal Learning

Some birds are born with the ability to sing. Others learn to sing while they're young — just like humans, who must learn to speak. It turns out that vocal learning in songbirds and humans may have more in common than anyone suspected. Recent DNA research reveals that songbirds and humans share a... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science, vocalization

Birds That Whistle

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... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching by ear, vocalization

Nighttime Flights of Songbirds

Some cloudless night in September, when the air is clear, you may see birds flying across the yellow face of the moon! September is peak migration time for millions of songbirds heading south from North America to more tropical latitudes. Nocturnal migrants of the same species, such as orioles,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, vocalization

Night Voices of Summer

At the close of a summer day, the songbirds go silent. As if on cue, the birds of the night make their voices known. In an Eastern woodland, the eerie trills and whinnies of an Eastern Screech-Owl are among the first sounds of the night. Meanwhile, as night falls west of the Rockies, the Western... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching by ear, sound, vocalization

The Meadowlark and Water Ouzel - featuring Gordon Hempton

Gordon Hempton, the Soundtracker, likens the joy he feels after a day of recording Western Meadowlarks (their eastern cousin is seen here on the left...) to the experience of John Muir, who knew individual American Dippers (also known as Water Ouzels; seen here on the right) by their songs.... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  recording, reflection, sound, vocalization

Tweets 'n' Squawks: Learn How to Identify Birds by Song

Nothing signals spring quite like singing birds. As the length of days increase, male birds begin to sing to protect their territories from neighboring males and advertise their presence to nearby females. In spring, those males are vibrantly colored and may be easy to see, because they... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching by ear, sound, vocalization

The Mockingbird - A Virtuoso of Variety

This aptly named Northern Mockingbird might imitate, in succession, birds as different as a bobwhite quail, a chat, a sandpiper — even a cardinal — then cap it off with the meow of a cat and a few phrases of car alarm. In spring, a male mockingbird sings all day, with hundreds of variations ... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  sound, species account, vocalization

Comparing Chickadee Calls

In the Pacific Northwest, you might see both Black-capped and Chestnut-backed Chickadees at your birdfeeder. The Chestnut-back (seen here) sounds different from the Black-capped Chickadee. The call of the Black-capped follows the familiar “Chick-a-dee, dee, dee” pattern. But the call of the... read more »

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