North American Bird Sounds

Parulidae through Icteridae

Remember, all sound clips, text and photos are copyrighted to Doug Von Gausig and Non-commercial use is usually granted without charge, but must be in writing from the author. Commercial use is expressly forbidden without prior written consent.
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PARULIDAE (New-World Warblers)
EMBERIZIDAE (Sparrows, Towhees)
CARDINALIDAE (Grosbeaks, Buntings)
ICTERIDAE (Blackbirds, Orioles)
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PARULIDAE: New World Warblers

Orange-crowned Warbler
Lucy's Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Grace's Warbler
MacGillivray's Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Wilson's Warbler
Red-faced Warbler
Painted Redstart
Yellow-breasted Chat
Orange-crowned Warblers (Vermivora celata) are common around Arizona and California. This is the call note. (113K)

Lucy's Warblers (Vermivora luciae) sing constantly in the Spring around Peck's Lake and Tavasci Marsh. The bird is very nondescript for a warbler, but he belts his song out as loudly as any! Here is another example of their rapid trilling song. (mp3, 15 sec, 165K) These are examples of their "chip" notes, recorded outside my office 4/18/08. (MP3, 123K, 25sec) The "chipping" is three Lucy's Warblers, probably two males and the female the males are pursuing. The other birds in the recording are White-crowned Sparrows and House Finches.

Yellow Warblers (Dendroica petechia) are Spring and Fall guests in these parts, showing up in October for their Southern vacations. This one flits around a Mesquite tree at Peck's lake, October 8, 1997. (81K)

The Spring Song of the Yellow Warbler is a typical Warbler's song. Warblers like to repeat the same train of short phrases over and over. (173K)

A Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata) plays around in a Willow Tree at Tavasci Marsh in November, 1997. Ever notice how most Warblers sometimes do anything but warble? (103K)

This Yellow-rumped Warbler is interested in finding a mate, and he's advertising in the Ponderosa Pines at Grand Canyon, Arizona, 5/9/98. (91K) This one is singing in the pines South of Flagstaff, Arizona 5/28/99. (159K)

I caught this Black-throated Gray Warbler (Dendroica nigrescens) (WAV, 450K, 14.4 sec.)(MP3, 14.04 sec, 43K)singing in the lower Ponderosas and Alligator Junipers on the south end of Mingus Mountain in central Arizona May 4th, 2003. They're beautiful little guys, dressed in elegant, though conservative, blacks and grays! I've shortened the time between songs to keep the file size down, actual time averaged about 20 seconds. Notice that he is rotating through a number of "song types" - that is, different "verses" to his song.

Grace's Warblers (Dendroica graciae) like to stay up in the tall Ponderosas in the coniferous forests of Arizona and New Mexico. You get neck strain watching these guys! This is the Spring "Love Song", which is sung over and over and over ..... (198K) Demonstrating that all warbler songs are not created equal, this example of the same species was recorded 100 mi (160 KM) away on Mingus Mountain, Arizona, 6/6/99. (90K) This illustrates one of the difficult things about learning warbler songs - the same species may have several different versions - listen to the Yellow-rumped Warbler examples for other examples of this variation. I usually have to visually ID warblers.

This MacGillivray's Warbler (Oporornis tolmiei) was singing in the "willows" along Quartz Creek, above Pitkin, in Gunnison County, Colorado, July of 2001. (wav, 11.6 sec, 428K) (MP3, 11.6 sec, 69K)

This Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) was recorded at 7:00 pm in the cattails and sedges at the South end of Peck's Lake. Ididn't seen him, although he was singing only 3 or 4 meters from me. Fred Moore and Jamie Stewart both helped ID the song when this was my "Mystery Bird of the Week" that this was a Yellowthroat, so I downloaded a recording from Tony Phillips' page (see "Other People's Recordings") and compared them - It seemed to be a match - then I called Anita MacFarland, of the local Audobon Society and she confirmed that the Yellowthroat was, indeed, in the area where I recorded. Now I only had to ID this guy visually - that gave me a great quest! George Oetzel was kind enough to e-mail me the authoritative file from the Peterson CD and it was a perfect match. Thanks George! Since then I've seen many, many, but only early in the morning, when they forage at the edges of the reeds and even out in the open. They're beautiful! (28K)

Here's a second, uncharacteristic Yellowthroat song - in this sample he got distracted midway through his song and went off on a tangent! What happened here? Any ideas? At the end of this one you'll also hear the "Chack!" note which they often repeat over and over in the morning while feeding.(68K)

The sound you most commonly hear from the Yellowthroat, though, is not the distinctive song, but their persistent "chacking" while they forage in the reeds, eating spiders and insects. (72K)

In the Spring, the Yellowthroat males "sing" this rattle. Listen for the Least Bittern in this recording (and about a hundred Red-wings!). (30K)

Wilson's Warblers (Wilsonia pusilla) pass through here in the late Spring, staying a while in the Willows and Paradise Trees around Peck's Lake and Tavasci Marsh. This is their typical Spring "love song". (153K) Here are some "chip notes" (91K) from this bird, recorded 3/20/01 in Arivaca Cienega, southern Arizona.

The Red-faced Warbler (Cardellina rubrifrons) (200K) is a beautiful bird that spends his summers high in the mountains of central Arizona, along with a few spots in New Mexico and Texas. This recording was made in May, 2000 on Mingus Mountain at about 7000' (2135M) elevation.

We're blessed here in Arizona, to be the breeding ground for one of the most beautiful birds in North America! The Painted Redstart (Myioborus pictus) inhabits the canyon streams of our high country, singing this song among the Arizona Sycamores and Gambel Oaks. This one was recorded in Oak Creek Canyon, 4/10/99. (93K) Their calls are simple and fairly loud. This one was recorded in Ramsey Canyon, in the Huachuca Mountains of SE Arizona, 3/20/00. (114K)

In our area of the country, the Yellow-breasted Chat (Icteria virens) sings a loose mimicry of the sounds around him which fall within his vocal range. In the Southwest, these sounds include Orioles' chatter, Ravens and Jays, Woodpeckers and even Rattlesnakes, some of which you'll hear in this "sampler" of a Chat at Tavasci Marsh, 5/98. The Chat's songs are a series of short phrases often separated by a single punctuation note. The phrases are sometimes repeated, often not, as he goes from one sound to another in rapid succession. It can be mistaken for a Mockingbird, but the series of short, repeated phrases gives him away. (362K) Here is an extraordinary bit of mimicry by a Chat at Peck's Lake, 5/18/01. You'll hear a Bullock's Orile's song, and near the end the "whurp" of a Phainopepla - both very well-done! (WAV, 254K, 12 sec.)(MP3, 21 sec, 104K)

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Summer Tanager
Western Tanager
The rocky canyons and Cottonwood groves around Yavapai County, Arizona, play (appropriately enough) Summer host to the Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra). He is a beautiful red bird without a crest, she is yellowish, and resembles a female oriole. This is their call, their song is below.(74K) Here's another typical call of the male Summer Tanager, recorded outside my home window 9/6/98. (57K)

The Spring Song of the Summer Tanager is a beautiful, tumbling babble - sounds a lot like a Robin. This female was in a Mulberry tree at Peck's Lake, 5/22/98. (117K)

A pair of Summer Tanagers talk to each other across the Agua Fria River of Central Arizona. He's chattering, she's interjecting a sole note from time to time. (70K)

One of the most beautiful birds in the American West is the Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana). Sparkling yellow body with stark black wings and a bright red face, what a combination! This is the Spring song, sung on the breeding grounds - in this case at 7000' (2130 m) high on Mingus Mountain, in central Arizona in the Oak & Ponderosa Pine forest. It's rather like one of an American Robin's songs. (Grace's Warbler in the background). (243K) Here's the call note of a male, but the female's call is essentially the same (hard-edged, isn't it?). (60K)

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EMBERIZIDAE: Sparrows, Towhees

Green-Tailed Towhee
Spotted Towhee
Canyon Towhee
California Towhee
Abert's Towhee
Rufous-winged Sparrow
Cassin's Sparrow
Botteri's Sparrow
Rufous-crowned Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Brewer's Sparrow
Black-chinned Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Black-throated Sparrow
Lark Bunting
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
White-Crowned Sparrow
Golden-Crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Green-Tailed Towhees (Pipilo chlorurus) show up here in the Fall. They have a distinctive mewing call, a piping note, and a beautiful song. They occupy the same territory as the Abert's Towhee - stream sides, edges of watery areas, Mesquite. This is the mew. (74K)

This is one of the Green-tailed Towhees' songs. I have been trying to get this song for quite a while, and it wasn't easy to get one to sing in October! When I finally did get it, I couldn't see it, but the process of elimination led me to this guy! I posted it as a "Mystery Bird of the Day" and Roger Radd and Tim Price confirmed my suspician. (210K)

This male Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus) was sitting in a tree in Sedona, Arizona, just singing his little heart out! He let me sit 6 feet from him while he sang these two variations. The first notes are a jay-like call, or mew, which he repeated for several minutes (this often indicates his perception of danger, no doubt a reaction to my proximity), then he started his beautiful short song. The spectrogram shows his frequencies to exceed 11 KHz! (52K) Here is a call in response to a male Sharp-shinned Hawk sitting in a tree about 10 yards from the Towhee. Note how he intersperses the sharp CHIP! with his normal whines. (.wav, 8.2 sec, 266K)

A second Spotted Towhee sits in a Juniper in Sedona. I'm including this one to show you how the same species in the same area can sing slightly different tunes.(26K)

Spotted Towhees have distinct reagional dialects - the following examples are from the central coast of California, and illustrate how a single species can sound completely different from area to area. Listen to these and to the examples above, from central Arizona, only 500 miles away. Mewing Call (114K) Another buzzing call (75K)

A Canyon Towhee (Pipilo fuscus) gives us a lesson in Towhee talk. The first notes you hear are the piping common to most towhees, and then he launches into a series of squeaks and "talking" that identify this species. (111K) Here is the song this species uses most in central Arizona. (6.2 sec, 142K)

A second Canyon Towhee pipes his call, sounding very similar to a Cardinal. He was recorded using my new parabolic mic. This call is heard every morning in the Summer around Sedona, Arizona, where I found this one. (31K)

California Towhees (Pipilo crissalis) fly together in a "courtship flight" in the spring - the ratttle at the beginning of this sample is the two birds' wings hitting together. (77K) This is their normal piping call. (111K)

You'll hear the piping of an Abert's Towhee (Pipilo aberti) long before you see him. This one hangs around Tavasci Marsh with his friends in a weed and Mesquite patch. (64K)

The Spring song of an Abert's Towhee is a beautiful combination of wren and robin, and is pretty much reserved for the mating season. This one was recorded 3/22/98 at Peck's Lake, as he hid in the deep mesquite brush. I know this bird like the back of my hand, and this was the first time I'd heard his Spring song - Jack Holloway helped me ID it. (108K)

This is an Abert's Towhee doing what I call "Towhee Talk". This is a type of call that all species of Towhees that I'm familiar with sing. I noticed while looking at the spectrogram of this call that it is in all probability two towhees singing together (sometimes called "duetting"). I do notice that they sing this song when there are several together in one bush. This one was recorded at Peck's Lake, Nov. 4, 1997. (27K) Here is a spectrogram of the central part of this sample - see if you think it's two birds, too. (Remember to press "back" after viewing the image) (142K JPEG) Here is another example of Towhee Talk" which triggered a Common Moorhen's call at Tavasci Marsh, 3/99. (136K)

Two Abert's Towhees fly by engaged in a mock battle in this sample - the rattle at the beginning of the sample is probably vocalization, but could be wing noise - the jury's still out. They came by so close & quickly that I couldn't get the mic gain turned down, hence the distortion in their chip notes. (110K)

This Rufous-winged Sparrow (Aimophila carpalis) sat in a mesquite tree in the Buenos Aires NWR, Arizona and sang and sang! (3/20/01) (13.9 sec., 434K)

A small group of Cassin's Sparrows (Aimophila cassinii) sings for us between Interstate 10 south of Tucson and Madera Canyon, in Southeast Arizona, 3/22/01. (MP3, 18.7 sec, 111K)

Jim Morgan recorded this Botteri's Sparrow (Aimophila botterii) near Madera Canyon, Arizona, 7/99. (120K) The bouncing song t the end can be confused with the Black-chinned Sparrow (Spizella atrogularis, see below), which often occurs in the same habitat.

Rufous-crowned Sparrows (Aimophila ruficeps) sing this Spring song when they're looking for love around Peck's lake. This one was in the creosote scrub which grows on the steep hillsides around the lake. (91K) Here is a second example of the song (131K). This is a call of this species, recorded by Jim Morgan, 7/99. It sounds uncannily like a Western Kingbird, doesn't it? (38K) Here is another song type, recorded at Peck's Lake 5/14/01. (256K)

Chipping Sparrows (Spizella passerina) gather in small flocks and sing these wispy songs in the Springtime. Like the Brewer's, above, they sing very quickly and very quietly, making it difficult to pinpoint just which individual is singing. (155K) Here's their "namesake" call - the "Chip" (122K), which is what you'll often hear when the bird is in flight.

Here is the Spring Song of the Chipping Sparrow, recorded 5/9/98 at Grand Canyon, Arizona. (148K)

These are Brewer's Sparrows (Spizella breweri) singing their hyped-up Spring songs. These guys are the winners of the "fast talking sparrow" award in these parts! The songs are sung at low volume, however, so recording them is a challenge. (169K) Here's a long MP3 sample of a bird near Tavasci Marsh, 5/99. (28 sec, 82K)

Black-chinned Sparrows (Spizella atrogularis) can be identified by the "bouncing ball" finish to their songs. Here are two examples, sung alternately by the same bird who was in the Scrub Oak/Chaparral near Wilhoit, Arizona, 7/20/98. (156K)

Vesper Sparrows (Pooecetes gramineus) spend their winters all around me in the grasslands and weedy fields of Central Arizona, but I have to go to the higher elevations of Northern and Eastern Arizona to hear them sing in the spring. And it's worth it! A male will perch himself up on anything that extends above the grass tops - a large stone, a clump of weeds or a fence - and sing his heart out. During their performance they are nearly oblivious to anything else around them, which make getting good recordings a snap! I notice that every individual that I have recorded in this species sings his own, individual variation of the song. You can still tell it is a Vesper Sparrow singing, but each has it's own style. The sample here is of three different individuals, all within a few miles of each other. (11.5 sec, 356K) (MP3, 11.5 sec, 35K)

A Lark Sparrow (Chondestes grammacus) sings high in an old Pecan near Pinal Air Park, Arizona. Notice the rambling series of disjointed phrases that typify this bird's song, at times he almost seems to be mimicking. (9.5 sec, 147K) (MP3, 32 sec, 123K) Here is how their calls sound, almost Corvid-like, not much like a sparrow! These were at my home feeders. (174K, 5.6 sec.)

The beautiful Black-throated Sparrow (Amphispiza bilineata) loves the Arizona deserts! Their calls are very quiet and very high-pitched (7500+Hz), making them difficult for some observers to hear. They have two songs: one is a delightful twinkling ramble, also sung very quietly. Both the calls and the song are on this sample, recorded 1/17/99 north of Phoenix, with the Telinga mic from only 20 feet. (230K) The second song is the spring breeding song. This one was recorded near Sedona, Arizona, 5/22/99 (7.9 sec, 170K) (MP3, 21 sec, 83K)

Lark Buntings (94K) crowd the grasslands of Southeastern Arizona in the winter and spring - these are their calls. Their flocks normally reach into the hundreds, and they tend to associate (due to habitat considerations) with Brewer's sparrows. It's sometimes difficult to record Lark Buntings without Brewer's Sparrows singing in the background. Here are samples of the song (188K), not wonderful recordings, made in high wind and traffic, but enough to give you the idea. (I'll do better next trip!).

"Slate-colored" Fox Sparrows (Passerella iliaca schistacea) breed in the higher mountain streams of central Colorado. This male was singing his beautiful song in the "willows" along Quartz Creek, just above Pitkin, in Gunnison County. (WAV, 614K, 19.7 sec.)(MP3, 19.7 sec, 97K)

The song bird's songbird! A Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) flew right up to me as I was sitting on my ladder at Tavasci Marsh, sang a quick song and left - as though he was auditioning! Then, remarkably enough, another did the same thing 30 minutes later. The two songs are totally different in pitch and content. The first three phrases are the first bird, the last phrase is from the second. It is noteworthy that the second sparrow sang the same phrase over and over, whereas the first one sang different phrases each time. Curious! It was difficult to keep this sample small, since the song sparrow uses such high tones (the higher the notes, the less they can be downsampled to get the file size smaller)(263K) Here is an example of what I consider an especially talented Song Sparrow (MP3, 383K, 49 sec.) - this one was singing in the Arivaca Cienega, extreme southern Arizona, 3/20/01.

For the Song Sparrow afficianados out there - this is a large, but worthwhile file of the Song Sparrow "talking". He's hidden in the thick weeds at the marsh's edge while he chatters, creaks, sings, peeps and whistles in a tour de force of rapid vocalization. This bird has a lot to say, and not much time to say it! I have several minutes of this type song if you'd like to hear more. (438K)

Another Song Sparrow sample - this one is two birds "whispering" to each other in the Sedges at Tavasci Marsh. The first two notes you'll hear are this species' chracteristic notes - you'll hear these nasal chirps any time there are Song Sparrows in the neighborhood. The last part is the whispering - much amplified - you would not hear this from more than 20 feet away! (128K)

I'm a glutton, I know! But when a Song Sparrow gives me a song like this one, I just have to take it! It's his gift to me, mine to you, and I feel quite sure he would be offended if I didn't post it for all the world to hear! (114K) Here is another example from Monterey County, CA. (63K)

Here are two examples of another subspecies of Song Sparrow - these are the California Coastal Song Sparrows (M.m.cooperi), which are very dark. These were recorded 5/11/01 at the Sweetwater NWR, Chula Vista, CA. (These are edited to shorten the span between songs.)(WAV,384K, 18 sec.) (MP3, 88K, 18 sec.) Here's another M.m.cooperi, singing in the "Wilderness Viewing Area" on the north edge of Ventura, CA, 3/21/03. (3.5 sec., 110K, WAV) He sang only this one song type, over and over that morning.

One of the places that Lincoln's Sparrows (Melospiza lincolnii) breed is around the mountain streams in Colorado. This one was recorded just outside Pitkin, in Gunnison County, Colorado, 6/22/01. You can hear the rushing of Quartz Creek in the background. (MP3, 16.4 sec., 113K)

I love the song of the White-Crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelli). It's a Fall and Winter sound in Central Arizona, so it comes with cooler weather. This male was outside my office, 10/8/02. His first few sharp "CHIP" notes are a warning call to his flock that there is a Greater Roadrunner sitting beneath the cover bushes, just waiting for a tasty snack like an unaware sparrow! (MP3, 189K, 13.5 sec.) Just for fun, here is the song segment of that last recording, slowed to half-speed (6.0 sec, 92K) - sounds a lot like something a Catharus thrush woudld do doesn't it? Here is a second sample, a young male from 50 mi (80 Km) south of the last. (49K) White-crowned Sparrows also have a rich vocabulaty of "utilitarian" calls - here is their typical "squabbling" sound at my feeders. (200K, 6.1 sec)

A very close relative of the White-crowned Sparrow is the Golden-Crowned Sparrow, (Zonotrichia atricapilla ). This male was recorded from my motel room in Pacific Grove, near Monterey, California. The noisy recording is due to the surf and traffic noise in the vicinity. The song is quite like a White-throated, and I thought it was a regional variant until a sharp-eared reader pointed out my error! (165K) (MP3, 10.5 sec, 32K)

Dark-eyed Juncos (Junco hyemalis) are regular winter visitors to Arizona. They sing here during their breeding cycle up in the mountains. Here's what they sound like - this is a "Gray-headed" form in the Central Arizona mountains, 2/28/99 (105K). These are their call and flight notes are commonly heard. We used to call them "snow birds" when I was young - that was before the phrase meant people from Minnesota! (80K) Here's a another example of a Gray-headed male singing atop Mingus Mountain, central Arizona, 5/99. Notice how "buzzy" it is when compared to the 2/28 example, taken on the same mountain. (106K) This species' songs are as varied as their appearance, and there is considerable local and regional variation. This trill was recorded in the scrub near Anderson Reservoir, No. of Gilroy, CA, 3/25/99. (93K) This song is a local Central Arizona variant - sounds a lot like a Bewick's Wren or Spotted Towhee, doesn't it? (115K). Here is another, recorded in the same tree as the last, a few days later (4/30/00) - both are the "Gray-headed" form, possibly the same bird. (194K)

In the spring I often hear our local, migratory Juncos engaging in "subsong" - a kind of interpersonal and "intimate" chatter that is seldom heard, and rendered very quietly. These were recorded along Oak Creek, in central Arizona, 2/27/03. (MP3, 43K, 8.7 sec.)

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CARDINALIDAE: Cardinals, Grosbeaks, Buntings

Northern Cardinal
Black-Headed Grosbeak
Blue Grosbeak
Lazuli Bunting
Indigo Bunting
Here's one of the most beautiful birds in the world! A male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) - I recorded him at noon in a patch of Paradise Trees near Clarkdale, Central Arizona, June 1997. I thought it was one of the grosbeaks, or maybe a mockingbird imitating a Cardinal. I never saw him, so I didn't know. Then yesterday (June 21, 1997, my Dad's birthday) I recorded a verified male Cardinal and analyzed the two calls. This guy is definitely a Cardinal. To be sure I sent the file to Tom Lorenzin, who operates another bird call page, and he agreed. Be sure to visit Tom's page for more calls. (98K)

A magnificent Cardinal sings his "pretty, pretty, pretty.." for us as if we hadn't noticed. Cardinals are one of the most beautiful grosbeaks. (139K)

The first, and often only, sounds you'll hear from Cardinals are their piping notes. The birds don't seem to be able to go anywhere without piping. This sample is of a male. (63K)

This female Cardinal gives us some of her vocalizations - some are surprising for a Cardinal! Recorded 10/21/97 at Peck's lake. (138K)

This recording of a Pyrrhuloxia (Cardinalis sinuatus ) was made by Jim Morgan near Madeira Canyon, Arizona, 7/99. These were the only vocalizations of the bird on that day. (52K)

A Pair of Black-Headed Grosbeaks (Pheucticus melanocephalus) feed around the Piņon pines and Junipers in Sedona, Arizona, late in July. This is a song too sweet and too atypical to miss! The same individual is piping and singing, and I've "compressed" the time betweeen pipes and songs for the sake of file size. He often piped several times between songs. It's a large file, but it's worth the wait. (132K)

This is the more typical Spring "love song" of the Black-headed Grosbeak, recorded at Peck's Lake 5/22/98. (113K) Here is an extraordinarily skilled performer - he was so good, in fact, that several other males were actually sitting in the trees around him and listening! His song is polished and innovative - truly a master of the trade! Recorded on Mingus Mountain, central Arizona, 5/21/01. (WAV, 340K, 16 sec)(MP3, 272K, 39.7 sec.)

Nesting pairs of Blue Grosbeaks (Guiraca caerulea) inhabit the brushy West end of Tavasci Marsh, just East of Peck's Lake. This area is a rare marshy wetland and is host to numerous species not found elsewhere in the vicinity. This sample was made with the Telinga parabolic mic. The chinking "notes" between songs are characteristic of this bird, and are sometimes all you hear from them. (196K) Here is another of the Blue Grosbeak's calls - it's seldom heard, but very distinctive. (180K, 5.7 sec.)

A second recording of Blue Grosbeak male, about 1.5 KM away from the first, again at the edge of a marshy area at the South end of Peck's Lake. I first mistook this guy for a House Finch, then for an Indigo Bunting! He sings two slightly different tunes here. Recorded with the parabolic. (94K)

This Lazuli Bunting (Passerina amoena) was singing to me from atop a Netleaf Hackberry tree along the Verde River near Clarkdale, Arizona, 4/30/01. (WAV, 344K) (MP3, 41.3 sec, 205K) Here is a second, more complex example (368K) from probably the same bird, a week later. Here are a few "chip" notes (104K) from him (that's a Rock Wren and a Say's Phoebe singing in the background).

This male Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea) was singing in almost the same spot as the above Lazuli Bunting had a few days before - they enjoy the same habitat. (340K)

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ICTERIDAE: Blackbirds, Orioles

Red-Winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Western Meadlowlark
Yellow-Headed Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
Great-Tailed Grackle
Brown-Headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Hooded Oriole
Bullock's Oriole
Scott's Oriole
Red-Winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) inhabit the marshes around Peck's lake along with their cousins, the Yellow-Headed Blackbirds. They have several vocalizations, three of which are represented in this sample. (58K)

Here's that gurgling song that everyone associates with wetlands. The sound of Redwings always soothes my soul! This one is in Peck's Lake in mid-March, staking his claim on a prime piece of marshy real estate. Listen for his "chacks" and whistles between the loud calls.(227K) In this sample a young male seems to "stutter" when he calls - recorded near Pinal Air Park, southern Arizona, 4/99. (109K)

And here are "Four and Twenty" Blackbirds (Red-Winged) all singing at once - delightful! (91K)

This unusual "piping" by a male Red-winged Blackbird was directed at an interloping male. The calls were actually about 5 seconds apart, but I took out some silence in the interest of bandwidth here. I'd not heard this call used to warn another male before, but the intruder got the point and soon left the area. (36K)

Here's another group songfest - this time from a "Lek" of 25 or so Red-wings in the morning. I'm not sure this is a true Lek, but the ingredients are all there - lots of males (2/3 of those in attendance are male) singing with lots of females listening, and since it's in the Spring (2/16/99) and in the morning, it seems like Lek behavior. If you know about Leks and Red-wings, let me know! Note the silence midway through the sample - sudden and almost orchestrated - something distracted them for a moment. (120K)

The Red-wing's "alert call" is used to alert others in the habitat that something may be amiss. You'll often hear a single bird using this to tell others that you have invaded his space. I call it the "CHYERT" call. (200K, 6.4 sec.)

Eastern Meadowlarks (Sturnella magna) live in the prairies around central Arizona. Their song here, which is at the Western limit of their range, is a bit different than their more typical Eastern relatives. (187K) Here (64K) is a sample of their call and buzzing notes, recorded at Arivaca Cienega in extreme southern Arizona, 3/20/01. This is a second example of the song recorded at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Refuge in SE Arizona, 3/21/00. (166K) Here is an example of their "subsong" (MP3, 197K, 25.5 sec) - this bird was just rambling one spring day in the Buenos Aires NWR, in southern Arizona.

Western Meadlowlarks (Sturnella neglecta) spend the Winter around here, as do Eastern Meadowlarks. The only reliable way to tell them apart is by their song. In fact, it was because their songs are so different that they were considered a different species! The Eastern Meadlowlark's song is composed of high pitched whistles, and sounds nothing like this gurgly guy, who was recorded in May 1999 near the Salinas River of Central California. (174K, 8 sec) (MP3, 67K, 23 sec) The next two examples are from about 50 miles apart in Central Arizona. (1) (14K) (2) (81K) In this example a bird mutters to himself in a "whisper song" that bears little relation to the other sounds this species makes - sung from atop a power pole near Cornville, Arizona, 5/99 (is there a bit of mimicry going on here, too?). (192K) Here is their rattling flight call, recorded at Sweetwater NWR, Chula Vista, CA, 5/11/01. (50K) Here (WAV, 5 sec., 162K) (MP3, 5 sec, 61K) is a seldom-heard call that they use around my house in the winter. I recorded this one on January 4th, 2003 in my back yard. At first I thought I was hearing a House Finch with a head cold!

Yellow-Headed Blackbirds (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus) are a beautiful addition to the Marsh scene, with their striking yellow cowls contrasted with their black bodies. These were recorded at the Sweetwater Treatment Plant in Tucson, AZ, 4/99. Their "song" can't really be called beautiful, but it is interesting and unmistakable. Here are two examples: First (109K) Second (116K) Here is a recording from my yard feeders at 6am. Now, I like birds, but this sound is not the most gentle alarm clock! (162K, 26 sec., MP3)

Brewer's Blackbirds (Euphagus cyanocephalus) are the common "parking lot" blackbirds around here. They like to hang out around human gatherings with Brown-headed Cowbirds, and seem to have a special affection for Wal-Mart parking lots. They roost with the other blackbirds in the marsh, though. (71K)

This Great-Tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) gave me a little concert in my front yard. Grackles have an extremely wide range of vocalizations, many are quite human in sound. The recording I offer here indicates the range of their vocal frequencies, but by no means demonstrates all they can do! (271K, 12.6 sec., and worth the wait!)

"Teenage" Great-Tails hassle their parents in this 89K clip. Adolescent birds of many species make similar attention-getting noise while with their parents. These sounds probably serve to keep them connected to their parents and at the same time they get to practice the "squeaky wheel" theory of who gets what. The similarity between teenage bird and human behaviour is not lost on me. Adolescence is a time when we need parental care, but hate parental control - whether we're grackles or humans!

Like all blackbirds, Great-Tailed Grackles need to tell everyone everything that happened during their day when the first meet at the night's roosting spot. Here are a few seconds of what goes on for 10-15 minutes every evening. Turn your speakers down! (172K)

The ubiquitous Brown-Headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) has several sounds, here are most of them, performed by one male in the Spring of 1999. The first is his gurgling, well...gurgle, the second is his high pitched single note, and the third is a trill, often used as a flight/alarm call. (169K) Cowbirds gather in the evening, like many Icterids, to roost and tell each other what happened during the day. This is what it sounds like (quite nice!) (205K) MP3 (10 sec, 39K) A single male sat outside my office and serenaded on 5/17/08, and as I listened, I grew more fascinated by the subtle differences in his "songs" and his whistles. Here is the recording of his entire performance (MP3, 510K, 2:10 min). It really got interesting when I slowed his "song" portions down by 3X, and removed the silence between songs. Here is that recording. (MP3, 133K, 1:08 min) I also slowed the "whistles" from his performance down by 3X and removed the silences. Here is that one. (MP3, 106K, 27 sec.) In this recording (MP3, 58 sec, 284K), several male Cowbirds are vying for the attention of the females in the area. As they puff up, spread their wings and rock forward, they also sing an abbreviated song and "rattle". The rattle is normally an alert, but in this case it seems to be used to attract attention, or possibly agonistically toward the other male.

An Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius) sings in the mesquite scrub around Peck's Lake, Clarkdale, Arizona. This sample is large since I couldn't "downsample" it because it contains significant elements above 10Khz, but it's worth the wait - very complex and highly modulated! (126K) Click here for a screen shot of the spectral analysis (99K).

Hooded Orioles (Icterus cucullatus) are one of the mimics of the Oriole world. Thier song consists of rapidly-sung short phrases which often include mimicry. In this sample listen for snippets of Gila Woodpecker, Western Kingbird, House Finch, Phainopepla, Verdin, American Kestrel and Northern Rough-winged Swallow. (9 sec, 187K) (MP3, 25 sec, 73K) This male Hooded Oriole flew from branch to branch in a large Silver Maple in Sedona. He sang this note over and over. (55K) Here is another call note - more of a "chack". (38K)

A more agitated response to my presence in my own back yard from a male Hooded Oriole in April, 1998. He wanted to come down out of the Mulberry and feed at my hummer feeders, but didn't feel comfortable with me there. (161K)

A Bullock's Oriole (Icterus bullockii) chats in the paradise tree above my hummer feeders. This one brought his whole family, which I appreciated! (91K) This is a normal call (5 sec, 110K) for this species in my area. This call always sounds like a Western Bluebird's flight call the first time I hear it in the spring.

In the Spring, the Bullock's males compete for their brides by singing this song, often in trees right next to each other! (191K) Here are some unusual male calls, recorded in the Gila Box Nat'l Riparian Conservation Area in SE Arizona, 3/99. This song is uncharacteristic - it is the only instance I've heard of this particular song - it was sung by a single mature male outside my house on 5/20/00 (198K, 9.3 sec.) (MP3, 9.3 sec, 27K) Here is yet another example (WAV, truncated, 19 sec, 412K)(MP3,1:02, 401K) of a different song type for this species, recorded 4/25/01 near Clarkdale, Arizona, along the Verde River. This species apparently has several different song types, and I am interesting in hearing from anyone who has recordings of the "normal" song type for their area.

When the breeding season heats up in mid to late Spring, the Bullock's use this social/sexual chatter (146K, 4.2 sec.).

The Spring Song of the male Scott's Oriole (Icterus parisorum) is sweet and melodic, compared to other Orioles. In fact it is rather like an American Robin's song. This guy was singing in a Cottonwood grove ear Tavasci Marsh, 4/16/98. (75K) This Oriole often uses this soft call, it seems mostly when there are several of them around (5/6/02). (2.2 sec. 68K)

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