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vocalization

What the Pacific Wren Hears

What does the Pacific Wren hear in a song? It's a long story. What we hear as a blur of sound, the bird hears as a precise sequence of sounds, the visual equivalent of seeing a movie as a series of still pictures. That birds can hear the fine structure of song so acutely allows them to convey... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Shakespeare's Lark and Nightingale with Rod Molzahn

Birds play important roles in many of Shakespeare’s plays. In Romeo and Juliet, the Lark sings at dawn and the Nightingale’s song fills the evening. At a moment of great peril, the Lark warns the lovers their time is short. Both the Skylark and the Nightingale are nondescript birds – but their... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  language, vocalization

Three Buntings - Indigo, Lazuli, and Painted

Each spring and summer, Indigo Buntings sing their buzzy, jumbled songs from brushy edges throughout the Eastern US. West of the Rockies, a different bunting sings his song. Named for the gemstone lapis lazuli, a male Lazuli Bunting shimmers an iridescent azure. He looks as if he might have been... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  plumage, vocalization

Songs and Calls - They're Not the Same

To our ear, the haunting song of this Hermit Thrush is musical, even ethereal. To another Hermit Thrush, the song signals that a male is laying claim to a territory and seeking a mate. These thrushes, like other songbirds, broadcast a variety of calls. Call notes can signal many things – alarm at... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Swainson's Warbler

On a fine May morning in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a song issues from within a rhododendron thicket. It's a Swainson's Warbler — one of North America's shyest birds. These birds forage quietly on the ground, flipping over leaves to expose and capture insects. They scurry away, calling... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Bird Songs Reflect the Environment

Different sounds travel better in different environments. The explosive notes of a Marsh Wren carry well through thick vegetation. A Common Yellowthroat's choppy, repetitive song rattles right through a stand of cattails. An Olive-sided Flycatcher sings from atop a tall tree, its song carrying at... read more »

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Winter Wren, Champion Songster

Bubbling, cascading, penetrating - the song of the Pacific Wren bursts from deep within huckleberry bushes and floats beneath tall, cool evergreens. Pound for pound, the Winter Wren of the East and its close cousin, the Pacific Wren of the West, have ten times the sound power of a crowing rooster... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Vernal Equinox - East

This Carolina Wren doesn't know the precise instant of the vernal equinox of course. But the wren senses the growing hours of daylight through a surge of hormones, which tell it it's time to sing. Both science and folklore tie Spring to the renewal of nature, as the world awakens from the long,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, vocalization

The Savvy Wren

Because many birds are largely silent in winter, it may seem that they have left us. But many remain, and even the shy and secretive sometimes reveal themselves. A Winter Wren may dart from hiding to grab a meal. The Winter Wren of the East and the Pacific Wren of the West are tiny woodland birds... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching, reflection, vocalization

Silly Willow Ptarmigan

Some bird songs leave us in admiration of their beauty, some with a sense of wonder at their complexity—and others are downright comical. As a maker of silly sounds, the male Willow Ptarmigan beats the Three Stooges hands down. But these sounds are no laughing matter. Where it nests in the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  humor, vocalization

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