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vocalization

Vernal Equinox - West

Ahhh, the first day of spring . . . at last! And the birds know somethin' is up. Both science and folklore tie Spring to the renewal of nature, as the world awakens from the long cold winter. Here's a Virginia Rail, usually unseen but hardly unheard, ringing in the new season. Spring has sprung.... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, vocalization

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

White-Crowned Sparrow

The White-crowned Sparrow pours out its song over and over on spring and summer days-and even on moonlit nights-often up to 15 times a minute. Now here's a curious thing: Just as people in different regions may have different dialects, White-crowns have different songs, according to where they... 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

A Long Story in a Short Song

What we hear as a blur of sound, a 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 much information in a short sound. Winter Wrens are found most... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Jay's Whisper Song

It's hard to imagine that the boisterous Steller's Jay could possibly have a softer aspect to its blustery behavior. But it does. It's called the "whisper song." Male jays use this whisper song during courtship, and it also emanates from solitary birds for no apparent reason. Quietly, the bird... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Swainson's Thrushes - Reassured by their Return

Swainson's Thrushes return each spring, having made long journeys from Central and South America. They've flown over mountains, cities, and miles of water. Their safe arrival is in no way assured. Listen in late May and early June for their exploratory call, a bright "whit!" Later, in the summer,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, vocalization

Dawn in the Marsh

It's dawn in a western marsh in mid-summer, and man! Those birds are singin'! The males of more than a dozen species are staking out their territories and attracting mates. One of the noisiest of all is the Red-winged Blackbird. He sings not to attract just one mate, but to gather a whole harem!... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Three Brown Thrushes

The Swainson's Thrush, the Hermit Thrush, and the Veery are small, brown birds, but their songs clearly distinguish them. The Swainson's Thrush announces its presence in early spring with subtle, limpid "whit" or "wink" sounds. Many rate it among the finest singers. A Veery's phrases... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching by ear, sound, vocalization

Swan Song

The idea of the "swan song" recurs from Aesop to Ovid to Plato to Tennyson. Ovid described it, "There, she poured out her words of grief, tearfully, in faint tones, in harmony with sadness, just as the swan sings once, in dying, its own funeral song." But it's based on a sweet fallacy - that a... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  myth, vocalization

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