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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

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

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