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vocalization

Early Spring Songs (Washington State)

In March, we welcome the lengthening days and the renewal of bird song. Among the earliest spring singers in the Northwest is this House Finch, whose sweet, jumbled song carries along city blocks and rocky canyons. And spring songs are breaking out all over the country. Listen to the song of the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, vocalization

Spring Brings New Bird Songs

All winter long, our neighborhood House Finches--like this one--have called to one another with their distinctive, sweet cheeps. And our resident Song Sparrows, with calls that sound like a tiny barking dog. But as the days grow longer in late winter, the lengthening light helps trigger a bird's... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, vocalization

How Birds Produce Sound

Nearly all birds produce sound through an organ unique to birds, the syrinx. In many songbirds, the syrinx is not much bigger than a raindrop. Extremely efficient, it uses nearly all the air that passes through it. By contrast, a human creates sound using only 2% of the air exhaled through the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science, vocalization

Bird Songs Reflect Habitat

The Canyon Wren's eloquent song soothes the soul. Naturalist Ralph Hoffman likened it to "the spray of a waterfall in sunshine." Its close cousin, the Marsh Wren, wound up with a harsh, ratcheting song - about as musical as a tiny machine-gun barrage. Birds' songs mirror their environments. The... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Strange Sounds

What an amazing array of sounds birds have to offer! The call of a male Yellow Rail sounds like someone tapping two small stones together. And Turkey Vultures hissing at one another over a carcass sound like a snarling lion. The duet between the male and female Barred Owls seen here is especially... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  sound, vocalization

Sooty Tern

Sooty Terns have long been called "wide-awakes" because of their calls. But it may describe their sleeping habits, too. When young terns leave their breeding grounds, they don't return for several years. They do not rest on the water, and only rarely land on floating objects. They feed while... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Bird Sound Types and Qualities Part III

When it's just too hard to see the bird you hear, let your ears take over! Listen for the qualities of the sound as well as the pattern. A flute-like and upward-spiraling sound is characteristic of this Swainson's Thrush. Quite a contrast to the plaintively whistled notes of a Black-capped... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Birds Return with the Light

Winter's weak light is finally beginning to strengthen, and some birds, long absent, have begun their journeys north. Tree Swallows, such as this one, phoebes, bluebirds, and more return with the light. So be of good cheer, the birds and spring are coming back. You can learn more about this... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, vocalization

The Marsh Wren

Some bird-lovers have tagged the Marsh Wren the "Heinz 57 variety" bird, because scientists have recorded 57 different variations of its song. And nightfall doesn't faze these birds. A male may sing straight through the night. Marsh Wrens usually forage out of view, hopping up only for brief... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Rare Sounds Saved by Macaulay Library

The tranquil song of the Kaua'i O'o graced the high, dense forests of Kaua'i until 1987, when it was heard no more. The voice of only one member of this family of birds, now all extinct, remains immortalized on tape. The Macaulay Library maintains the largest collection of bird sounds in the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  sound, vocalization

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