North American Bird Sounds

Trogloditidae through Peucedramidae

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REGULIDAE (Kinglets)
SYLVIIDAE (Gnatcatchers)
TURDIDAE (Thrushes)
MIMIDAE (Thrashers, Mimic Thrushes)
STURNIDAE (Starlings, Mynas)
MOTACILLIDAE (Pipits, Wagtails)
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Cactus Wren
Rock Wren
Canyon Wren
Carolina Wren
Bewick's Wren
House Wren
Marsh Wren
The State Bird of Arizona is the Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus). This song is used extensively in movie sound tracks - you'll hear it when the scene calls for a remote desert location in the Western US. They are the largest US wren and make their home among the cacti, often nesting in a cavity in a Saguaro - they're archtypical Arizona bird! These two were recorded 30 miles North of Phoenix, Arizona, 1/17/99.(68K) Here's another example of this call, just to show how three individuals sing the "same" song differently. (27K)

Rock Wrens (Salpinctes obsoletus) call this ringing trill over and over while searching the rocks for a tasty bug. The Rock Wren's "song" is a year-round sound hereabouts. (109K)

The Spring song of the Rock Wrens is totally different from the rest of the year. They suddenly become virtuoso performers, rivalling Mockingbirds for the rapid-fire song variation award. This sample was edited from 20 minutes of recording to show that variation. The normal style is to repeat one of these phrases two or three times, then go on to the next - much like a Mocker does. I believe that a lot of the mimicry that our local Mockers perform is mimicry of Rock Wrens. The file is huge, I'm sorry to say, but please take the time to download it - it's wonderful! (492K)(MP3 31 sec 91K)

Becky & I hiked to Black Canyon Springs, in the high desert south of Cottonwood, Arizona, specifically to capture the trill of the Canyon Wren (Catherpes mexicanus). This is a sound that always brings a smile to my face and a little joy to my heart. It takes me back to those long hikes (we called them "hunting") with my Dad as a child. It's an unmistakable bit of magic from the Southwest's rocky canyons. (135K)

A second example of the Canyon Wren's trill - a slightly different tune, but just as beautiful! (181K) Another example of the song and call notes (can you have too many?)(65K) Here's another "song" in which they use their normal call notes to approximate a song. (108K) These are Canyon Wrens again. This is their alert voice which they use when they're being bothered by a wierdo who is pointing that black tube at them. (209K) Here's a youngster learning to trill the trill, recorded 8/9/98 at Tavasci Marsh. (157K)

Carolina Wrens (172K, 8.0 sec)(Thryothorus ludovicianus) are common residents of the eastern US. This recording was made as a male sang in the thick brushy creek bottom at Spring Creek Park, Garland, TX, 7/9/00. This wren's song is extremely vatiable in the particulars, but the general style is very consistent. It usually consists of four or so identical three or four-note phrases, sung rapidly and ending on a single note. Here are several examples of the same species recorded within 24 hours of each other and within a few miles, all near Garland and Plano, Texas, 7/9-10/00. Example 1 (216K, a song/response between two birds) Example 2 (127K) Example 3 (296K, another song/response) Here are some of the common calls (161K) of the species.

The Bewick's Wren (Thryomanes bewickii) is the most abundant wren around these parts. The males sing this song (49K) when they're sitting happily in a tree, and this one (61K) when they're uncomfortable with something in their area. The second sound is a "warning" sound used by lots of birds. It is a broad-spectrum call which many species will hear and respond to by becoming more alert to what's going on around them. Here is a sample from Kirkland, Washington (89K), to show the dialectic differences that manifest themselves over long distances with this species. And here is one recorded near Anderson Reservoir, north of Gilroy, CA, 3/25/99. (184K)

Another Bewick's Wren song. This one was recorded at Tavasci Marsh. It's composed of two "doublets". (179K) Here is a series of call notes - I usually get the impression that when they say this, they're talking about me! (147K)

Drab in appearance, but a great singer, the House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) is one of the most wide-spread species in the New World. You'll find him from Canada to Tierra del Fuego. House Wrens also occupy a very broad range of habitats - I see them in the high conifers and the desert scrub. This one makes his Winter home around Peck's Lake, and he's foraging and chattering in a patch of low scrub brush in this sample. The full recording lasts 5 minutes or so, with the song changing constantly. (160K) Here's a recording of baby House Wrens in a nest high in a Ponderosa Pine(82K) and here is their parents' reaction to our presence in the area! (98K)

Here are two more samples of the House Wren's repertoire. These are various "buzzes". 3 Sounds (135K) 3 More (107K)

Ever hear a House Wren swear? Well, I'm not sure what this guy is saying as I disturb his peace and quiet, but I don't think his mother would approve! (104K)

This Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris) talks up a storm as he forages through the weeds at the South edge of Peck's Lake. I walked along side him for twenty minutes, and he never stopped talking! He was joined later by two others in his family. This sample is large, I know, at 379K, but it's still only 17 seconds from several minutes' vocalization. You'll love it!(MP3 17.5 sec 52K)

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Not here yet - maybe this Spring?
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Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Golden-crowned Kinglets (Regulus satrapa) breed amongst the Douglas Firs and Aspens high in the mountains of Arizona. During the spring season their high-pitched calls can be heard everywhere, it seems. They often breed in the same area as Ruby-crowned Kinglets (below), so it is a nice opportunity to observe the differences between these two similar birds. This bird's song is so high that many birders cannot hear it at all - up there (6500-8500Hz) in the same range as the Brown Creeper's song (4500-7500Hz), and since both nest in the same habitat you could mistake one for the other, especially if you have some hearing loss at these high ranges. These very high frequencies also do not carry far in a forest environment, so if you hear one, he's close and usually way up in the tops! (4.5 sec, 192K)(MP3, 15.5 sec, 91K)

Ruby-crowned Kinglets (Regulus calendula) invade the hardwoods around Peck's lake in the Fall. This sample is of a small flock in October, 1997. Listen for the funny little "talk" at the beginning - it's not heard as often as the chattering later. (129K)

The Spring Songs of Ruby-Crowned Kinglets are much more melodic and variable than at other times of the year. In this sample a male flits and flys around an admiring female at Tavasci Marsh, March 16, 1998. (147K) This is a sample of two Kinglets engaged in love talk. (49K) Here is the breeding song, recorded on their nesting grounds high in the mountains of Eastern Arizona, 6/00. (12.6 sec, 394K) (MP3, 12.6 sec, 63K)

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SYLVIIDAE: Gnatcatchers

Blue Gray Gnatcatcher
Black-Tailed Gnatcatcher
Blue Gray Gnatcatchers (Polioptila caerulea) flit around in the Palo Verde and Mesquite scrub North of Phoenix. Their sounds are very quiet and unmusical, but they apparently do the job. (115K)

The Black-Tailed Gnatcatcher (Polioptila melanura) is also a common inhabitant of the desert scrub - you'll find them where you find the Verdin and Black-throated sparrows, both of which were present when I recorded these! (87K)

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TURDIDAE: Thrushes

Western Bluebird
Mountain Bluebird
Townsend's Solitaire
Swainson's Thrush
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Western Bluebirds (Sialia mexicana) are Winter residents around Central Arizona. They can usually be heard singing their "flight song" as in this sample while they're flying in small flocks overhead. (129K) During the Spring breeding season you may hear one singing this churring song.(45K)

Mountain Bluebirds (Sialia currucoides) are uncommon visitors to Tavasci Marsh, as they generally hang out in higher elevations, but this flock of about 250 showed up in mid-January, 1999. They're more beautiful than Western Bluebirds, I think. The flight song is pretty much the same. (92K)

Townsend's Solitaires (Myadestes townsendi) like the brushy canyons of Central Arizona in the Winter, especially. They call this call note from the top of a handy juniper or mesquite. (67K) Their song (MP3, 16.2 sec, 191K) is typically thrushy - burbling and fluid, mixed with a certain Thrasher-like quality. This one was way up high in the Rockies above Pitkin, Colorado, July, 2001. This one was recorded in Central Arizona by Jim Morgan (MP3, 11 sec, 33K)

The Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus) sings a beautiful song typical of the Catharus thrushes. Note that it rises in tone, whereas the Veery's falls. This individual was singing in the willows along Gold Creek in Gunnison County, Colorado. They are difficult to record in this habitat, as they like to be right next to a beautiful, but noisy, mountain stream. (Wav, 13.7 sec, 519K) (MP3, 13.7 sec, 216K) Here are a few examples of typical calls, also recorded in the willows of southern Colorado, 7/02. (wav, 4.2 sec., 98K)

Hermit Thrushes (Catharus guttatus) sing one of the most beautiful songs in North America in the springtime. The song is a bit unearthly, and you'll never forget it! This recording was made on Mingus Mountain, near Jerome, Arizona, 5/31/99 (15 sec, 230K) (MP3, 15 sec, 44K) The main call of this bird is nothing like the song, in fact it a bit harsh - rather like a Spotted Towhee's mew (that's a warbling vireo in the background). (30K) Here is another call - the "chip" call. (58K) You'll notice that this bird's song is made up of similar short phrases, raised and lowered in pitch with each iteration. In this demonstration I have taken the first note of 22 consecutive phrases and put them together to hear the pitch change sequence - very interesting! Is there information in this sequence? (89K)

An American Robin (Turdus migratorius) sings an overture of Spring vocalizations in this mid-March, 1998 recording. Just about every voice and call a Robin can make, he makes in this sample. The session lasted over 20 minutes, so I've compressed this to demonstrate all the different sounds he uses. If this performance doesn't get him a girl, none will! (315K - large, but worth it) Here is the Robin's typical call. (248K)

Here's a short sample of what a Robin convention sounds like. This gathering was held at Red Tank Draw, in Central Arizona, 12/26/98. There were over 1000 American Robins there that day, all eating Juniper flowers and bathing in the red rock creek. (137K)

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The Wrentit (Chamaea fasciata) is the sole North American representative of its family, and is restricted to the extreme West coast of the US. They are secretive and hard to spot, occupying dense understory and chaparral, but easier to hear! This one was recorded unseen on the hillsides above the Big Sur River in Central California. Kevin Colver, who recently wrote the Stokes Field Guide to Birds Songs, Western Region helped me ID it.(25K)

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MIMIDAE: Thrashers, Mimic Thrushes

Northern Mockingbird
Sage Thrasher
Bendire's Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher
Crissal Thrasher
A Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) marks his Summer territory in the mesquite near Peck's Lake (100K). His scientific name means "Many-Throated Imitator" - and that he is! In this 10-second sample, he sings 8 distinct songs, that's an average of a song every second and a half or so. The entire recording lasts more than 90 seconds, and he never repeats! Many of the snippets he sings are easily recognizable as the Cardinal, Cactus Wren, and various orioles. This MP3 is of a different bird, featured on my Tavasci Marsh CD. (MP3 24 sec 71K)

Here's a direct comparison between a Cardinal and a Mocker. The first three notes are the Cardinal, the second three are the Mocker imitating a Cardinal. The Mocker's version is nearly perfect! (27K)

Here's a treat! This is a Mockingbird's "whisper song", sung in mid October. Mockers and other songbirds sometimes sing these "whisper songs", which can only be heard a short distance away (50 feet or less) in the latter parts of the year. This recording is from only 10 feet with a very sensitive shotgun mic. Female mockers are known to do this, but the reasons are not clear. If you have a theory, let me know! (251K)

This is a song phrase I find particularly interesting (86K) because I don't recognize it as mimicry of another bird's song, but it is very structured - maybe a mechanical sound he heard somewhere? Let me know what you think!

Sage Thrashers (Oreoscoptes montanus) gather in the mesquite scrub around Red Tank Draw in Arizona's Verde Valley each Winter. Here one is calling a blackbird-like call that we commonly hear. (129K)

Bendire's Thrasher (Toxostoma bendirei) is a secretive breeder around the middle-elevation grasslands of central Arizona. They like to hang out with their family members, the Mockers. This sample is a small part of the song of one individual near Cornville, Arizona, in the Verde Valley, 6/5/99. He was "marking" his territory by singing at one post, usually high in a mesquite or Berberis bush, occasionally on a power line, then diving down and skimming the ground, quickly flying to the next post, maybe 2-400 meters away and starting again. (11.6 sec, 181K) (MP3 25 sec, 74K - this is the same bird, a later, and longer "stanza")

The deserts around central Arizona are perfect habitat for Curve-billed Thrashers (Toxostoma curvirostre). Here are two examples of their vocalizations, both recorded 1/31/99, 15 miles North of Scottsdale, Arizona. Here is the typical call (91K) And a second example, from just north of Tucson, Arizona. (34K) And here is an example of the song (117K), which is highly variable, and resembles the song of a Crissal Thrasher, but much more structured with less mimicry. This example is a male who is sweet-talking a female sitting next to him in top of a mesquite tree one beautiful spring day. Recorded at Bonita Creek, near Safford, Arizona. (269K, 25 sec) (MP3, 25 sec, 74K)

The Crissal Thrasher (Toxostoma crissale) is a common local thrasher. This is their normal call, which is reminiscent of a Mockingbird with a limited repertoire. They do mimic, though, which you'll hear in the next selection! Thrashers are, in my experience, secretive birds which are seen darting from bush to bush, or feeding on the ground in heavy brushy areas, but they'll often climb high in a Mesquite or Hackberry to call and sing. This individual was at Peck's Lake in the Mesquite scrub. (55K)

I recorded this Crissal Thrasher mimicing on October 23, 1997 near Peck's Lake. He allowed me to come within 20 feet and record for more than 10 minutes solid! In the course of this tour de force performance, he imitates, very accurately, the following birds in order: Killdeer, Red-tailed Hawk, Western/Cassin's Kingbird, Lesser Goldfinch, Mockingbird, Plain Titmouse, Flicker, House Sparrow, American Robin, American Kestrel (Sparrow Hawk), Abert's Towhee and Song Sparrow. (239K)(MP3 15 sec 46K) This recording was edited to put the recognized species in a row, but I'm posting a "raw" segment (143K, 13 seconds) to demonstrate how he goes from sound to sound very quickly and deftly. This example was downsampled severely to keep the file size down, so please excuse the resulting noise.

In this sample a Crissal Thrasher imitates the sound of a Mourning Dove's flight! He also does an almost-perfect Curve-billed Thrasher's call notes and Western Bluebirds' flight song. (159K)

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STURNIDAE: Starlings, Mynas

Ever want to hear 1000 European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris, aptly named) all at once? Here's what that sounds like! These guys are going to roost in an old, dead Cottonwood tree at Peck's Lake. Apparently they don't get any sleep until every one of them exhausts all possible vocalization for the day, all in one fell swoop! Unbelievable - you heard it first here on the Internet! Did you know that they are not native to North America, but were introduced by Europeans as a possible fancy food source? (87K) A spectrogram of this sample reveals something interesting - the highlighted section seems to contain the face it?..could it be?...Yes! It's the Easter Bunny! (44K)

A pair of Starlings talk to each other in a small tree at Rosario on Orcas Island, Washington. They often talk this way, with a complex series of soft squeaks and rattles - I think a lot gets said during these discussions. (171K) In this sample from Pacific Grove, California, a Starling is clearly heard mimicing other birds such as an American Robin and a Killdeer, as well as mechanical environmental sounds. (8 sec, 127K) (MP3, 28 sec, 82K)

A single Starling mutters quietly to itself in a Cottonwood Tree at Hermosa Meadows, North of Durango, Colorado, one cool October morning. These birds have an incredible range of vocalizations. Compare this sample to the one above from Washington state. It's a large, but interesting file. (266K)(MP3 12.5 sec 37K)

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MOTACILLIDAE: Pipits, Wagtails

American Pipits (Anthus rubescens)are unobtrusive little guys that like to hang out in barren fields and grassy plains much of the year. These recordings were made above the tree line at 12,500' (3800M) in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado at Cumberland Pass. This is the typical call (WAV, 322K, 10.4 sec.), given from a perch on a rock. Here is the call we hear most often in the winter in Arizona - the flight call (WAV, 3.7 sec, 80K), so characteristic of them - they're saying their name! This is a bit of uncharacteristic chatter - not their "song", which is a monotonous series of chirps lasting several seconds. (WAV, 3 sec., 128K)

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Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) come to Central Arizona in December and January to eat the Pyracantha berries and juniper seeds that abound then. We don't usually get to hear their Spring song, but we do hear these high, clear call notes (34K)


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PTILOGONATIDAE: Phainopepla, Silky Flycatchers

Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens) (Dad calls them Indian Blackbirds) is our sole representative of the Silky Flycatcher family (Ptilogonatidae). The name means "Shining Cloak", because the male wears beautiful shiny black plumage with a pointed crest and a striking white stripe on each wing. His wife is rather duller in color, but similar otherwise. Their regular note is a low "wheer", but they're not shy about singing this song during the Spring breeding season to anyone who will stand under them and listen! (196K)

This is the regular "wheer" of a male Phainopepla. (35K)

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The Olive Warbler (Peucedramus taeniatus) is the single representative of this relatively new family. It was formerly placed in with the New-World Warblers (below), but was recently determined to be more closely related to the Old-World Warblers, Kinglets, etc. The songs and calls indicate that this bird is not a New-World Warbler, too. They are highly varied, but stay true to the theme - usually the same note sung 4-6 times in succession. Often the same bird will sing the song using different voices! Here are several examples of their songs and calls: Song 1 (11 sec, 118K) (MP3, 16.5 sec, 98K)   Song 2 (58K)   Song 3, a male (107K)   Song 4 a female (292K, 19 sec) (MP3, 19 sec, 56K)

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