North American Bird Sounds

Caprimulgiformes thru Piciformes

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Caprimulgiformes (Nightjars) | Apodiformes (Swifts and Hummingbirds) | Coraciiformes (Kingfishers)
Piciformes (Woodpeckers) | Back to The Bird Orders Page | Bottom of This Page

Caprimulgiformes - Nightjars and Goatsuckers

Lesser Nighthawk
Common Nighthawk
Common Poorwill
Lesser Nighthawks (Chordeiles acutipennis) sit on the ground of the chaparral hilltops and trill this toad-like trill on the summer nights around central Arizona. This one was at Peck's Lake May 20th, 1999. The sound is very hard to localize, since it is so low, quiet and "generic" (high-pitched sounds are much easier to find), and they are generally closer to you than they seem to be. (72K) This species gets together in a kind of lek - several calling at once, and occasionally flying up in a fluttering courtship display while singing this strange song. (106K) Here's a different "finish" to the regular trill for those of you who enjoy Nighthawk talk. (115K)

Common Nighthawks (Chordeiles minor) "sing" this monotone "song" while they swoop around catching bugs in the evenings. This one was recorded near Paulden, Arizona, 7/21/00. (188K)

In the summer Common Poorwills call from the hillsides in the southwest US. They are best spotted by driving slowly along the dirt roads in their territory at night, since they like to sit on roads for some reason - they flutter up in front of the lights when you get too close. This one was on the slopes above Peck's lake, 5/19/99, just after sunset. This is a sound that I loved as a child growing up outside Prescott, Arizona - sounds like a summer night to me! (33K)

This Whip-poor-will (Caprimulgus vociferus) was recorded during a camping trip in Western Maryland in May of 2006 by Lowery Robert Royden Jr., who owns the copyright. Please contact me if you'd like permission to use this sound.(31K, 4 sec.)

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Apodiformes - Hummingbirds and Swifts

Broad-billed Hummingbird
Black-Chinned Hummingbird
Anna's Hummingbird
Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird
A male Broad-billed Hummingbird (Cynanthus latirostris) rattles his spitting little chatter as he feeds and fends off the black-chins around my feeders, 4/11/2010. Broad-bills are exceeding rare this far north in Arizona, so we're fortunate to have this one visit us! The chirping birds in the background are Lesser Goldfinches. (wav, 712K, 16.5 sec.)

Three female Black-Chinned Hummingbirds (Archilochus alexandri) "argue" over who gets to use which station at the feeder. Recorded 6/14/97 in my back yard. For more about hummers, visit Lanny Chambers' excellent site. (60K) The male Black-chin has a very high-energy courtship display wherein he drives the female into a bush, then "dances" in front of her, swaying back and forth rapidly over about a 12" shallow arc. It makes this sound. (7.2 sec, 224K) This is usually followed by the high arc display - he swoops up into the air maybe 50 feet, then dives down and completes the arc upward again - he'll sometimes do this 6-8 times, and it sounds like this.(4.3 sec., 184K)

A male Black-Chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri) vocalizes as he feeds. Note the sound of the "hum" from his wings. Analysis of this hum indicates his wingbeat frequency is 51 beats per second! Write to me for more info on wingbeat analysis using Cool Edit. (111K)

This male Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) (384K, 9.1 sec., WAV) (MP3, 9.1 sec., 44K) "sings" while perched in a mesquite in Village of Oak Creek, near Sedona, Arizona. This is a song which is very difficult to record and edit, since it is very low volume and tends to get lost in whatever background noise there is. I wonder sometimes why he sings so quietly, and what he's saying. The vocalization is highly modulated and sounds quite like distant human speech, quite unlike any other hummer. One must be right under the bird to catch his squeaky, scratchy, croaky sound. While Anna's feeds, he chips this characteristic call during his meal. (63K)

The wingbeat of the Anna's is slower than most, which is logical, since they're one of the largest hummers normally north of Mexico. This one measures only 45 BPS! (17K) This is the sound of the Anna's male's tail! He has specialized retrices (tail feathers) whose job it is to emit a loud screech (2.5 sec., 78K) at the bottom of his dive. This is a sound that the admiring nearby female finds very sexy!

The Broad-tailed Hummingbirds (Selasphorus platycercus ) arrive at my altitude (3500ft, 1065M) in mid August. Until now they've stayed up in the mountains which surround our Verde Valley, preferring the cool pines to the mesquite scrub in the hottest parts of the Summer. In this sample you hear a male's characteristic (and identifying) wing trill, which sounds like a coach's whistle. He's also vocalizing, which you'll hear as "cheeps" amid the wing noise. His wingbeat, by the way, averages 45 bps while feeding, 51 bps while being chased from the feeder by "Rambo-Rufous", and is easy to count on a spectrogram.(53K)

Listen carefully for the wing trill of this male Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus). It's an identifying feature, as is his constant chatter while he feeds. Wingbeat analysis indicates a wingbeat of 62-65 bps in this sample. (68K)

A young male Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) has established a territory at my feeders. (151K) He announces that he's "taken over" by continually chattering this one-note warning. When another hummer of any species enters his airspace, he "bounces" them by rushing at them and emitting the high-pitched warning beeps you hear near the end of this sample! If they ignore that, he gets more aggressive and challenges them with a severe tongue lashing (40K)! This routine is so effective that after a few days, virtually no other hummers come into his area and all he needs to do to maintain it is sing his one-note samba. Rufous hummers are both aggresive and intolerant of other species at the feeder. His wingbeat (which you'll hear clearly in the second sample) measures a fairly fast 60 bps. Attentive listeners will hear an American Robin in the distance on the first sample. In this recording (360K, 8.4 sec) I'll try to demonstrate that the "chatter" that many hummers use is really much more complex and rich than first meets the ear! This is a male Rufous Hummingbird "defending" his territory at one of my feeders against the resident Black-chins. The first part of the recording is regular speed, and it's followed by a segment that has been slowed down by 250% and "resampled" - this allows us to hear the real richness of the vocalization. To sse a sonogram of the slowed portion of this sample, click here. The photo, by the way, is an adult female.

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Coraciiformes - Kingfishers

The Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon) is one of my personal favorites. His rattle-y call is heard almost anywhere in the US there is enough water to supply him with his fishy meals. Your first peek at him will usually be when you look up to see who just called that call. This one was recorded sitting above the Verde River in central Arizona - possibly above his nesting cavity in the river's bank. (96K)

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Piciformes - Woodpeckers

Acorn Woodpecker
Gila Woodpecker
Red-naped Sapsucker
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpeckers (Melanerpes formicivorus) inhabit our Ponderosa Pine/Oak forest here in the Western US. They eat many insects and nuts, but show a particular fondness for ants (his name means ant-eater) and acorns (apparently the two go well together). This sample is of a pair talking to one another while foraging around a tall Pine in Big Sur State Park, California. (115K, 10.7 sec) (MP3, 10.7 sec, 32K)

The Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis) is our most common local woodpecker. They hang out in the Cottonwood trees all along the Verde River, and this is their most common call. (129K)

In the Spring the Gila Woodpeckers "whinny" as do many woodpeckers. This sound says I'm ready for love! (145K) Gilas rarely (in my experience) drum, and when they do, it is done softly. Here is an example, recorded just a few feet from the bird. (3 sec., 128K)

Red-naped Sapsuckers (Sphyrapicus nuchalis) breed in the Ponderosas of Northern Arizona. This male was recorded during breeding season near the top of Oak Creek Canyon, 4/10/99. (36K) "Who's that tapping? In this case it's a male Red-Naped Sapsucker pecking away at a Salt Cedar at the edge of Peck's Lake. He worked the tree for 20 minutes or so while I was recording Coots. When I learned this guy, many years ago, he was a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, now this Western bird has earned his own species designation. Congrats to the Red-Naped Sapsucker (but his name's not such fun!) (46K) Here's an example of some chatter by a central California bird.

Ladder-backed Woodpeckers (Picoides scalaris) are another of our local woodpeckers. We're fortunate in Arizona to be the home to so many species! This one is pecking around a large Willow tree at Peck's Lake. I later saw him in a bush of Winterfat, low to the ground, and flushed him unexpectedly like a quail. (50K)

If you're a male Ladderback and you want to impress your intended in the Spring, you'll want to show her just how fast you can hammer. This males displays for a female sitting just above him in a willow tree at Tavasci Marsh, 3/20/98. (8K)

In the Spring both the male and female Ladder-backs use this squeaky introduction to their normal whinny. Sometimes the female uses just the squeaks as a kind of "purr" without the whinny call following. (158K)

Hairy Woodpeckers (Picoides villosus) PEEK a lot like the Ladderbacks, just a bit more insistently. This one was atop Mingus Mountain, 2/22/99. (116K) here's the Hairy's "song" (if you can call it that)(8.5 sec, 180K)(MP3, 8.5 sec, 34K). This male is drumming (58K) in a Gambel Oak in the spring

A Pair of Northern (Red Shafted) Flickers (Colaptes oratus) "dance" with each other in a dead hackberry tree between Tavasci Marsh and Peck's Lake. They were joined by an adolescent later. The male Flicker gives us the loud call, and his wife purrs and coos between calls. (95K)

Possibly the only recording of a terrified Flicker you'll ever hear is this one. This Flicker was being chased by a male Merlin which was visiting our area on October 11th, 1997. The Merlin was just inches behind the twisting and turning Flicker, but the Flicker prevailed. The Merlin tried a few more times over a 15 minute period to get a Flicker, but never succeeded. Recorded at Tavasci Marsh 10/10/97. (75K)

In the Spring, the male Flickers are heard calling these long, drawn-out "whinnies" from the tops of trees. This was recorded 4/16/98 at Tavasci Marsh. (103K) Here's an example of the male's drumming and whinny - this one in Oak Creek Canyon, 4/10/99. (129K)(MP3, 12 sec, 36K) This whinny is a central California bird, slightly different from the Arizona call.

The largest woodpecker in North America is the Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus), if you accept that all Ivory Bills have gone to that great hardwood forest in the sky. This pair were recorded near Roche Harbor on San Juan Island, Washington, in September, 1997. The drumming is on a dead Douglas Fir and was not associated with feeding - just makin' noise! The most difficult thing about Pileateds is knowing how to pronounce the name - it's pill-ee-ated, or pie-lee-ated, either one. (218K)

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