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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

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

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

Tune Up Your Ears - East

By March in the East, cardinals and other songbirds that don't migrate are already singing heartily to attract mates. Many other birds - including this Yellow Warbler - will return north from the tropics in April and May, announcing themselves in song as soon as they arrive in nesting areas. Now... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, vocalization

Turkey Calling - Real or Unreal

Preston Pittman won his first turkey-calling contest when he was only 16, and he makes the sounds with his mouth. Sadler McGraw uses the "friction" technique. He pulls a "striker" - almost like a screwdriver - across a crystal surface. It sounds for all the world like a Wild Turkey, and it won... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  humor, 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

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

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