North American Bird Sounds

Falconiforms thru Strigiforms

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Falconiformes (Hawks, Falcons, Eagles) | Galliformes (Fowl) | Gruiformes (Cranes)
Charadriiformes (Gulls, Terns, Shore Birds) | Columbiformes (Doves and Pigeons)
Strigiformes (Owls)
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Falconiformes - Raptors

White-tailed Kite
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Northern Goshawk
Common Black-Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Swainson's Hawk
Red-Tailed Hawk
Golden Eagle
American Kestrel
An Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)patrols a small lake on Orcas Island, Washington, and peeps his peeping "song". Ospreys feed almost entirely on fish, and it's great fun to see one swoop low over the water and snatch a trout from the surface, then position it like a torpedo under him for the flight home. (51K) Here is a recording of an adult on the nest, recorded by Jim Morgan, near Prescott, Arizona, 7/99. (60K)

The White-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus) is a common resident of Central California, where I recorded these in the Elkhorn Slough wildlife refuge, near Moss Landing, California. This sample is a pair of breeding adults. (54K) The second example illustrates their "whistle-croak" call common in this species (don't confuse their croak, immediately after the whistle, with the tree frogs also in this recording). While this was recorded, the pair of Kites was hassling a Great Egret which had apparently decided to sit too close to their chosen nesting site.(33K)(MP3, 13 sec, 39K)

Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) are "Fish Eagles". They hunt in the the riparian areas, lakes and seacoasts of North America, Impressive with their stark white heads and chocolate-brown bodies, they are also America's national emblem. This example was recorded February 8th, 2003, it is a pair of eagles (only one is calling, I believe it is the male) sitting in the Cottonwood trees over the Verde River of central Arizona, just below my house. (518K, 16.5 sec., .wav) (MP3, 126K, 43.5 sec.)

Northern Harriers (Circus cyaneus) are Winter residents of Tavasci Marsh and Peck's Lake (and everywhere else in Central Arizona). I still call them "Marsh Hawks", because that is their favorite habitat. They patrol the marsh regularly looking for rodents and small birds. This sample is of a female, resting in a dead willow tree, Nov. 17, 1997. (153K)

This Sharp-shinned Hawk was sitting in the mesquite outside my dining room. He likes to terrorize the feeders along that side of my house, and I always know when he's around, because the feeders fall silent and empty. This species is not very talkative, so I felt lucky to catch this guy when he was responding to a Western Scrub Jay who had discovered the hawk's hideout.9/29/02. (2.7 sec., 58K) The next day two adults showed up, using this quiet call (9.7 sec, 420K .WAV) (9.7 sec, 89K, MP3). They appeared to be discussing which would get to lay seige to the feeders that day. This call is used less and is quieter than the preceding one - probably used mostly for interpersonal communication.

One of my favorites, a Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) coos this soft purring sound as he leaves his perch in a dead Juniper in Sedona, Arizona. Cooper's Hawks, which prefer to eat quail-size birds, are patient observers of their territory, and will sometimes sit above a cowering quail in the brush until the prey just can't stand it any longer and bolts - so much for that quail! This powerful hawk's short wings are built for rapid acceleration and optimum maneuverability in tight quarters - they'll often follow prey in hot pursuit right into the thick brush. He's the fighter plane of the bird world! (10K) Here's an example of the nasal call of this species.

Northern Goshawks Accipiter gentilis have a distinctive call. This one was sitting in a large sycamore tree in Andrew Molero State Park, near Big Sur, California in April, 1999. He had ben chased there by a Northern Flicker! (112K)

Common Black-Hawks (Buteogallus anthracinus) are breeders in our local river galleries - it's wonderful to see them as frequently as I do! This one was recorded by Jim Morgan on May 2, 1999 near Cornville, Arizona. (112K)

Red-shouldered Hawks (Buteo lineatus) often fly as pairs in the breeding season, as this pair is near Anderson Reservoir, North of Gilroy, California, 3/25/99. Here's a longer example of their interplay, in MP3 form. (16 sec, 47K)

A pair of Swainson's Hawks (Buteo swainsoni) fly and play above Chino Valley, in central Arizona. This pair was recorded by Jim Morgan, 7/99. (162K)

Red-Tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) are the most widespread large hawks, or Buteos in the US. This is a scream you typically hear far overhead while the bird is soaring in a thermal, often with his mate and a child or two. If you hear it, look way up there! This particular sample was recorded near a Red-Tail's nest, where I was recording Warblers. The hawk was telling me I was not welcome! (94K) Here's another example of the scream with some chirping thrown in - the chirping is a youngster, I think.(103K) Here is an example of what I call the Red-tail's "mating call", because I hear it when a male and female are together and mostly during the spring to early-summer breeding season. (70K)

The American Kestrel, or Sparrow Hawk (Falco sparverius) is the smallest Falcon in the US. In this sample a male has "bounced" a Cooper's Hawk from a Cottonwood tree along the Verde River, in Central Arizona. He continued to chase and harass the Cooper's until they were out of sight! The sound is very like that of a Killdeer at a distance.(67K) Here is an example of a breeding male's "song" (102K) to his mate, recorded in the Buenos Aires NWR of southern Arizona, 3/20/01, while they were nest-building.

An avian mini-drama unfolded before my mic one January day when a Red-tailed Hawk stooped from high up onto an American Kestrel. The Kestrel noticed the hawk just moments before he became a puff of feathers and escaped. He wasn't about to let the Red-tail get away with this, though! He turned around and pursued the much larger hawk, harassing him mercilessly until he landed on top of a Saguaro cactus to wait out his punishment. The Kestrel dived and harassed for several minutes, finally leaving the Red-tail to lick his wounded pride. In this sample, the Kestrel is diving repeatedly and the Hawk responds with a scream, then a series of "barks" that I had not previously heard. - A fun bit of recording!(185K)

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Galliformes - Quail, Pheasants, Grouse, etc.

California Quail
Gambel's Quail
Domestic Rooster
California Quail Callipepla californica are the common quail of southern California. These cocks were calling in the brush around Carmel Valley Road, East of Carmel, April, 1999. (76K) This is their "just talking amongst ourselves" chatter (89K)

A cock Gambel's Quail (Lophortyx gambelii) perches in the highest tree in his territory and issues this single-note call. My Dad and I called this call the "nesting call" because we heard it continuously during the breeding and brooding season (May to July). My casual observations, though, now seem to indicate that this call is put out there by bachelor males advertising for a mate. I have not observed a cock who has a hen with him calling this way, nor have I heard a cock with young calling this note. Maybe someone out there can flesh out (or refute!) this working theory. (96K, 4.5 sec.)

A male Gambel's Quail worries over his brood, and takes flight at the last moment. The first vocalizations are common to both sexes while they're raising their kids. These sounds seem to be used to tie the family together, and to indicate to the children that they should be alert. The flight sound of this guy is well known to anyone in the Southwest US. It is a combination of wing noise and vocalization - quite startling if you don't expect it! (74K)

Here a father Gambel's Quail teaches his sons about the appropriate time to crow. The youngsters are crowing in response to another youngster a few hundred meters away, but we are too close, and the father "hushes" the adolescent enthusiasm with a harsh "cluck" just as the young one crows. He does this four times in this sample, but he did it over and over until the student stopped. Lots of fun! (66K)

Gambels quail are heard the world over in every Western movie ever made. Here is an example of their "gathering call" - the male's crowing which you all knew, just didn't know you knew! (134K, 4.3 sec.)

Gambel's Quail are some of the most vocally expressive birds. They have specific vocalizations for lots of situations you and I would recognize easily. In this sample a small covey feeds in the underbrush and discusses the neighborhood news. This clucking helps keep the covey together and appears to have some "pecking order" functions. (79K)

A Domestic Rooster crows one May afternoon at Page Springs. This one's just for fun! (43K)

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Gruiformes - Rails, Coots, Cranes, etc.

Black Rail
Clapper Rail
Virginia Rail
Common Moorhen
American Coot
The Black Rail (Laterallus jamaicensis)(152K) is perhaps the most difficult bird in North America to spot, but he can be heard, especially during the late night and early mornings of the spring breeding season. Tiny (the size of a wren), black, nocturnal for the most part, and secretive, he inhabits the dense cattails and reeds of marshlands. We are priveleged to have this bird in some of the marshes in Arizona. This one was recorded in Mittrey Lake, near Yuma, Arizona, 4/00. I have also recorded him in Tavasci Marsh, near Clarkdale. There is currently an effort being mounted to have the US Fish and Wildlife Service list this species as endangered.

This is a Clapper Rail (70K) - a Yuma Clapper Rail (Rallus longirostris yumanensis). Yuma Clappers are an endangered species with less than 1000 individuals left alive on the planet and their presence in Tavasci Marsh and Peck's Lake will go a long way to helping preserve this valuable wetland.If you know anything at all about Yuma Clappers or if you are well-versed in Clapper Rails in general, please contact the author immediately (e-mail at the bottom of the page) - we need all the help we can get to preserve this species, especially in Tavasci Marsh and Peck's Lake.! The following recordings were made in April, 2000 at Mittrey Lake, just north of Yuma, Arizona. They are representative of the range of sounds this bird uses to communicate in the dense cattails and reeds it calls home. Call 1 (246K, 11.5 sec.) (MP3, 19 sec, 57K)  Call 2 (258K) In both samples Virginia Rails (see below) can be heard clicking their mating calls ("Ti-Dick, Ti-Dick").

Virginia Rails (Rallus limicola) are found nearly everywhere Soras live, and Tavasci Marsh is no exception. These sounds are ones you don't often hear in commercial bird call CDs, but they are the Virginia's common "grunting" calls - they're kind of spooky when you hear them at night for the first time! (93K)

This is a very sexy sound if you're a Virginia Rail in the Springtime. It means "I'm ready, and I'm lookin' for love!" It's generally called the "ti-dick" sound. The double clicks ("ti-dick") are diagnostic of the Virginia Rail. King and Clapper Rails also click, but generally not in "doublets". (119K)

A Virgina Rail takes flight, having been "spooked" by something near him. This is one of his alarm calls. (47K)

In this sample, a Virginia Rail screams! Not in fear, I don't think, just to scream. (102K)

Here's another Virginia Rail sound - this one was a solo adult, recorded from 6 feet away. He did this, as I've often heard them do, for a solid 15 minutes, while staying in one spot. If you hear them doing this, they'll usually continue for some time. (115K)

Virginia Rails, Clapper Rails, Soras, Moorhens, Bitterns and sometimes Coots like to perform this act, which I call a synchophony. This happens fairly frequently when something disturbs the peace of the marsh and several birds call in response at once. In this sample a Great Blue Heron circles over and calls, and then a Least Bittern sounds off (the loud KAK-KAK-KAK calls), then two Soras (the high-pitched, descending trills), another Virginia Rail (the grunting, pig-like sounds) and finally another Sora (whee-ee, whee-ee) join in the "synchophony". I have recorded instances when a barking dog, an airplane, and other rails have set off the phenomenon. I'm not sure what purpose this serves, but it occupies a significant amount of my thinking time. It's most probably a general alarm in the marsh - A Great Blue, a dog and an overhead airplane might all be considered risks if you're a rail - and note that the participants are generally Rail-family birds or birds with rail-y behavior, who are used to communicating primarily vocally (they can't see each other in the marsh). Any other ideas out there? (142K)

The Sora (Porzana carolina) is a small (Robin-Sized) rail that has a wonderful, descending "whinny" which can be heard mornings and evenings around marshes. Good luck catching a glimpse of this one, though, as they're normally secretive and inhabit the thick cattails and reeds. This one was recorded in Tavasci Marsh. Though they normally walk on the reeds and weeds or in shallow water, I have seen Soras swim briefly, too.(28K)

Two of the typical calls of the Sora are the "Ker-wee" and "Wee-eer" heard here. These sounds are usually single calls, and are not heard together the way I've put them together in this sample. (33K)

This is what I call the Sora's "piping call" they'll often do this for several minutes, piping every 10 seconds or so. I've "compressed" this sample, taking some of the silence between pipes out. (54K)

Common Moorhens (Gallinula chloropus) are the marsh's most expressive vocalists, and winners of the "best dressed" category! They sing and cry and croak and peep and whistle and quack. I could easily fill an entire web page with their various vocalizations. And they're beautiful, resplendant in their basic black with white accents....and that candy corn bill! To die for! If you hear a very strange sound coming from the marsh 10 to 1 it's a Moorhen. In this sample two of them announce their presence, as every once in a while all the Moorhens in one area must "count off", one, then another, until all are accounted for. It's a circus, I tell ya. Listen to this one if you miss all the rest! (171K)

Even Coots and Common Moorhens (Gallinula chloropus) have family squabbles - this one is between siblings in a small family with the parents interceding. (62K)

American Coots (Fulica americana) are common lake and marsh birds. Like their cousin, the Moorhen, Coots make a wide range of sounds, from quacks and honks to whistles and rattles. It seems they always want everyone to know just how they feel about life. Their almost constant talking is, I believe, important "feedback" for the flock. This sample spans several individuals' different vocalizations, and gives a feel for the sounds a Coot can make. Coots and Moorhens make some sounds which are indistinguishable from each other, but Coots are generally more nasal sounding and make more "honking" sounds. (235K)(MP3 22 sec 54K)

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Charadriiformes - Gulls, Terns, etc.

Black-necked Stilt
Greater Yellowlegs
Spotted Sandpipers
Wilson's Snipe
California Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Glaucous-Wing Gull
Forster's Tern
A Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) runs along the bank of the Verde River (which you can hear inthe background), flying at the end to safety. His name means the "Talkative Plover" and he's well-named - both sexes pipe constantly, it seems. (111K) Here is the typical trill of the Kildeer. (65K)

A pair of adolescent Killdeers make sure they aren't ignored by their parents as they feed along the mud flats at the edge of Peck's Lake. This went on for a half hour or so! (90K)

Black-necked Stilts (Himantopus mexicanus) are seldom quiet! In this sample, several males are displaying for each other, chasing each other about and generally making spectacles of themselves. (134K) (Here is a longer, MP3 version. (30 sec, 89K)

These Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) were sitting on the beach at Sweetwater NWR, Chula Vista, CA, 5/11/01. I think that this vocalization indicates nervousness at my presence - I was probably getting a bit too close for their comfort (although the sounds are typical for the species). (WAV, 122k, 7.8 sec.)(MP3, 70K, 14 sec)

Spotted Sandpipers (Actitis macularia) hang out around the streams and lakes of central Arizona in the cooler months, and breed in the cool mountain lakes at higher elevations. These recordings were made during the breeding season in early June, 2000, in the White Mountains of Eastern Arizona. (17 sec, 368K) (MP3, 17 sec, 51K)

Two Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago delicata) take flight from under my feet at Tavasci Marsh. They always squawk like this when they take off. (31K)

Sanderlings (Calidris alba) (WAV, 11 sec., 338K) are those little sandpipers that love to run back and forth just in front of the advancing and just behind the retracting waves on our coastal beaches, searching for critters thrown up by the waves. This is not a great rceording, I know, but remember that Sanderlings are almost always found in the surf - where the noise is high! (MP3, 11 sec., 33K)

Now and then a flock of Ring-billed Gulls (Larus delewarensis) stops off at Peck'a Lake during migration. This flock of 24 came by in mid-April, 1998. They were way up high when I got this recording - reeling and playing in the warm Spring sun. (129K) This recording of a flock sitting on "Twin Lakes" in Willcox, Arizona, 3/21/00, captures a bit more breeding lingo. (11 sec, 228K) (mp3, 33 sec, 98K)

California Gulls are common residents of the California coastline. These were recorded near Monterey, 3/99 (along with some very heavy surf!). (11 sec, 169K)(MP3, 15 sec, 45K)

Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus) are the most common large gull seen up and down the California Coast. These were recorded on the pier in Santa Cruz, where they sit to beg french fries from the tourists. The first two examples are the adult gull's normal "song" - a sound I loved in my youth and still do! Example 1 (66K) Example 2 (57K) This sample is a pair of adults chattering between themselves - I believe they are discussing the relative merits of McDonald's vs Burger King's fries. The last example is a group of first, second and third year juveniles competing for the attention of some kindly wharf patron.(118K)

Glaucous-Wing Gulls (Larus glaucescens) are common inhabitants of the San Juan Islands, off Northern Washington State, where I recorded their typical wake-you-up-in-the-morning calls. This sample is a call/response by two which were vacationing at Roche Harbor. (107K)

This Forster's Tern (Sterna forsteri) flew past me at the Sweetwater NWR in Chula Vista, CA. That's a CH-47 Chinook helicopter in the background - hard to get away from aviation noise in and around San Diego!. (64K)

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Columbiformes - Doves & Pigeons

Eurasian Collared Dove
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove
Inca Dove
Eurasian Collared Doves (Streptopelia decaoctoa)(230K, WAV) have been colonizing North America since the late 1970s, soon after it was introduced in the Bahama Islands in 1975. Florida was it's first "victim", and it has now spread throughout the US. In my area of central Arizona, it first appeared in about 2001, and by September of 2005 it was the most common dove in my town. Luckily, they seem to strongly prefer the city life, and they've left the natural habitats alone. Here is an example (312K, 4.7 sec, WAV) of one of their many calls - I have heard them use this as a prelude to mating.

The White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica) is another of those species that seems to be moving North. 30 years ago they were unheard of at this latitude and altitude. Now they're commonplace, even resident, in the Verde Valley of Central Arizona. This is the normal "sittin' around in a tree telling the neighbors I'm alive" call. Excuse the noise - it's from "downsampling". (88K)

A Mourning Dove (Zenaidura macroura) mourns in the creek bed of the Agua Fria "River" near Bloody Basin in Central Yavapai County, Arizona. It's such a wonderful, mournful sound, somehow sad and joyous at the same time. Very calming! (71K) Here's another style, sung by a bird near Peck's lake, 7/99 (that's a Yellow-breasted Chat in the background). (164K)

The wing sounds of the Mourning Dove are well known, and are as identifying as his song! (62K)

An Inca Dove (Scardafella inca) sings his "Oh No" in a residential area of Clarkdale. The neat thing about these guys is that this is a resident population which is 100 miles north of their normal range. You see lots of them in the lower deserts, but almost never see them up here (3500 ft/1067 meters elevation). This flock contains 10 or so individuals, and has lived up here for the last 10 years, maybe more. They're one of those species, like the White Wing Dove and the Javelina which may indicate a gentle warming of the globe. (36K)

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Cuculiformes - Cuckoos and Roadrunners

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo
Greater Roadrunner
A Yellow-Billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) clucks to Becky and I as we walk down the Agua Fria River at Bloody Basin, in Central Arizona. The Agua Fria is another of Arizona's treasures, a desert riparian habitat that attracts a diverse range of species. Our Western population of this species is now (6/00) being considered for endangered species status, and you can read more about it on this USFWS page about the listing. As is nearly always the case, the disappearance of this beautiful bird is due primarilry to destruction of its riparian habitat. (120K)

The Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) is one of the most fascinating birds in the Southwestern US. Members of the Cuckoo order, they're beautiful in their own way, very intelligent (by human standards), and have endearing habits and courtship rituals. They are also excellent parents, meticulously teaching their young the ways of the chapparal . They eat lizards and snakes, insects, bird's eggs and occasional rodents. A male Roadrunner can often be seen in the Spring carrying a lizard as a love offering to his intended! They make three distinct sounds, one is a bill clatter (3.5 sec, 112K), or rattle. The second sound is usually heard during the breeding season, and is a cooing sound (6 sec., 132K), very much like a dove's. These were both recorded at my home on March 20, 2002 - they are "José", our resident Roadrunner.

The third song is almost never heard, so recording this sample was a treat! It was sung from very high places on 3/10/99 in the early afternoon - as the bird sat atop a building, then on high brush and trees in the area. He was answered in like fashion by another about ˝ mile away. This is a rare recording of this song. Although there are two quick examples of the song in this file, they were actually sung about a minute apart. (134K)

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Strigiformes - Owls

Common Barn Owl
Great Horned Owl
Northern Pygmy Owl
Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
Elf Owl
If you love owls, there is a wonderful Owl Page maintained by Deane Lewis - check it out!

I recorded these two Common Barn Owls (Tyto alba) in mid-August at Peck's Lake. They were sitting about a mile apart at opposite ends of the lake. Is it my imagination, or does the second sound female and the first male? They both called every 20 seconds, like clockwork, for more than two hours. (119K) This second example of a completely different call, was recorded at Elkhorn Slough in Central California, where a pair had taken up residence in (you guessed it!) a barn! (63K) Here's another typical scream - this one recorded by Jim Morgan near Prescott, Arizona. (103K)

Two Great Horned Owls (Bubo virginianus) talk to each other on a mid-march night at Peck's Lake. They're sitting about 150 meters apart, and a third was calling about a half mile away. These owls nest in the steep rocky cliffs around the lake and hunt in the flatlands surrounding the lake and marsh. I have "compressed" this file, the actual time between calls is about 15 seconds, but the time between the query and response is accurate. (183K)

This Northern Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium gnoma) was recorded just east of Monterrey, California late one spring afternoon. He was in thick understory at the edge of the Carmel River. (52K)

The Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium brasilianum cactorum) is an endangered subspecies of the Ferruginous Pygmy Owl whose name is much larger than the bird itself! This little guy is only about 6˝" (165mm) tall, weighing in at 2 ounces (57 gm.), yet he's been known to take birds as large as a Mourning Dove! His primary diet is reptiles, with an admixture of birds and insects. He's endangered due to loss of habitat in Arizona, mostly because of over development of his home range for human housing. If you are in Southern Arizona and you hear this guy's monotonous tooting (he can sometimes start at midnight and continue, virtually nonstop, until 8am and will sometimes toot more than 100 toots in a row, for months!) please call the Arizona State Game and Fish Commission or drop me a note. To learn more about this endangered species, check out The Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy Owl Page. (98K)

This Elf Owl (Micrathene whitneyi) was receorded by Jim Morgan 7/99 near Tucson, Arizona. He thought that the bird's calls were a response to his presence. (141K)

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