North American Bird Sounds

Tyrranidae through Certhidae

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TYRANNIDAE (Tyrant Flycatchers)
LANIIDAE (Shrikes)
CORVIDAE (Crows, Jays)
ALAUDIDAE (True Larks)
HIRUNDINIDAE (Swallows, Martins)
PARIDAE (Chicadees, Titmice)
SITTIDAE (Nuthatches)
CERTHIIDAE (Brown Creeper)
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TYRANNIDAE: Tyrant Flycatchers

Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Greater Pewee
Western Wood-Pewee
Willow Flycatcher
Hammond's Flycatcher
Cordilleran Flycatcher
Pacific Slope Flycatcher
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Vermilion Flycatcher
Ash-throated Flycatcher
Brown-crested Flycatcher
Cassin's Kingbird
Western Kingbird
A Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet (Camptostoma imberbe) (9 sec., 190K) sits in an Arizona Ash tree at Buenos Aires Nat'l Wildlife Refuge and sings his mournful song. This little guy is the size of an Empid with essentially no distinguishing characteristics, but his song gives him away. He is called "beardless" because he lacks the prominent rictal bristles that most flycatchers have around their mouths. In this sample I have cut some of the silence between songs - it normally runs about a minute or so.

This Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi) was recorded by Jim Morgan near Flagstaff, Arizona in July, 1999. (128K)

The Greater Pewee (173K, 11 sec) (MP3, 30 sec., 89K) (Contopus pertinax), formerly known as Coue's Flycatcher, is a southwestrn US specialty that summers in the mountains of central Arizona. These recordings were made on Mingus Mountain at about 7500' (2300M) elevation, 5/00. Listen for the characteristic "José Maria" song.

Western Wood-Pewees (Contopus sordidulus) are common in the river and stream galleries of central Ariona. In the spring they are easy to distinguish from other Pewees and Empids by their burry call. (81K) Here is an example of the song and call recorded 5/14/99 at Peck's Lake. (68K)

The Southwestern Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax trailii extimus) (238K)(MP3 17 sec 49K)is an endangered "Empid" that breeds in the riparian Willow/Cottonwood/Salt Cedar thickets. This pair was recorded along the Verde River near Camp Verde in central Arizona on 5/30/98. If you hear this easily distinguished "Fitz-bew" song, please let me know. This bird is a victim of Cowbird parasitism and habitat reduction and is on its last legs! For more info on this species, visit the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher Home Page. Instrumental in having the bird added to the endangered species list is one of my most admired environmental organizations - the Center for Biological Diversity (formerly the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity).

Hammond's Flycatcher (Empidonax hammondii) visits Tavasci Marsh regularly. This is an example of his notes, which is sung while awaiting the next meal. (51K)

Cordilleran Flycatchers (Empidonax occidentalis) are uncommon breeders in the pine forests of central Arizona. This one was recorded near Lynx Lake, just east of Prescott, 7/10/99. (88K) (MP3, 18 sec, 53K)

Pacific Slope Flycatchers (Empidonax difficilis) were split from the Western Flycatchers, resulting in the Cordilleran (above) and Pacific Slope Flycatchers. They are nearly impossible to differentiate, except by range and DNA. This male was recorded near Napa, California, 6/22/03. (WAV, 4.7 sec., 150K)

Black Phoebes (Sayornis nigricans) patrol the edges of Tavasci Marsh, sitting still over a stretch of water or grass, waiting for a tasty insect and "peeping". (77K) In the spring they have a "Fee-bee" kind of love song. (118K)

Say's Phoebes (Sayornis saya) like to sit on the phone lines and dead trees around meadows and marshes. Their song (in other than the Spring, see below) is as plaintive as plaintive gets. A simple wheer, repeated over and over. This one was between Peck's Lake and Tavasci Marsh on a phone wire (65K)

The Spring vocalizations of the Say's Phoebe, while still not exactly virtuoso, are rather more variable and complex than their song the rest of the year (see above). (146K)

A pair of Vermilion Flycatchers (Pyrocephalus rubinus) call to each other one spring day near Pinal Air Park, Arizona. These birds are some of the most beautiful on earth - at a distance they are red flares flitting about! (58K) When things get really heated up in the spring the male displays and sings for the female, as she sits admiringly on a nearby branch. His display flight is a fluttering, puffed-up display that shows off his brilliant plumage to its best advantage, and he sings this song (136K) while flying.

Ash-throated Flycatchers are common summer residents in the Verde Valley of Arizona. This is a pair of them talking to each other as they flit around the mesquite near Tuzigoot National Monument, 5/29/99. (142K, 6.6 sec) (MP3, 17 sec, 50K) In this sample a new parent sits in a Juniper and talks to his (or her) single adolescent. You'll know the youngster when you hear it. (67K) Here, a single bird sits in the chapparal and "sings" (42K).

This pair of Brown-crested Flycatchers (220K, 10.3 sec., MP3, 42K, 14.1 sec)(Myiarchus tyrannulus) were nest-building on an island in the Verde River near Clarkdale, Arizona 5/27/00. Here is a second example of a single bird who came calling in my yard 5/15/02. (13.25 sec, 216K) This Brown-crested Flycatcher seems to have set up light housekkeping in the trees in my front yard lately (6/15/02). He/she is very vocal, and this is a sampling of his daily offerings. (50K, MP3)

Cassin's Kingbirds (Tyrannus vociferans) replace our Western Kingbirds here in the Fall. This one is chasing a Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus) away from his hunting territory. (138K) This individual was sitting in a Cottonwood tree calling and singing, near Clarkdale, Arizona on the Verde River, 4/25/01. (206K)

This Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis) woke me up every morning for a week this spring at 4:15 a.m. Now, I'm not normally a early riser, so you might imagine my mixed feelings about getting this song recorded. It's great that it's a nice birdy, but it's kind of the song from Hell to me. He sings it over and over and over and....... for about a half hour. There are minor variations, interspersed with very low volume, highly modulated vocalizations. (WAV, 119K) Here is a much longer MP3 of that performance. (MP3, 300K, 1:16)

Here's what happens if two Western Kingbirds think you're getting a little too close to their baby, which is sitting in the tree right above your head (you discover after you are repeatedly dive-bombed while recording). Note how similar their "alarm" call is to so many other bird species'. (155K)

This Western Kingbird was engaged in aerial combat with a Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii). Well, it was actually more a harrassment then combat. Kingbirds and other flycatchers harrass all hawks and Ravens on general principal - never give 'em an inch! (59K)

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This Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) was chattering at Tavasci Marsh, 9/98. He was a long way off when I got these recordings, so please excuse the low signal/noise ratio. (133K). Note in the photo that he has impaled a grasshopper on the thorn above him for later dining. This is typical behavior for shrikes. We we used to call them "Butcherbirds" for that reason.

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White-eyed Vireo
Bell's Vireo
Plumbeous Vireo
Cassin's Vireo
Hutton's Vireo
Warbling Vireo
White-eyed Vireos (Vireo griseus ) have lots of "song types", but their style follows a fairly set pattern. (186K) Listen for the high "chip" at the beginning and/or end of each song phrase in each of these samples. The three songs were sung by different birds on the same morning in Spring Creek Park, Garland, Texas, 7/10/00. Example 2 (192K, 12.3 sec) MP3 (12.5 sec, 37K) Example 3 (116K)

He sang this phrase over and over, for 4-5 minutes - never saw him. The phrase never changed. A Bell's Vireo (Vireo bellii) sings to the object of his affections one Spring day at Peck's Lake. This song is sung over and over, using the two phrases heard here. The first phrase sounds like "I wonder who's kissing her now" (not the song, just the words) to me. (154K)

After he attracts her attention, these Bell's Vireos "duet" this buzzy song together - it's difficult to tell when he's singing and when she joins in. (156k)

I caught this Plumbeous (formerly Solitary) Vireo's (Vireo plumbeus) act in Sedona, Arizona in early October, 1997. This was the Rocky Mountain form. He was, just as he should be, in the Piñons and Junipers, and he was, just as he should be, alone! That's a Gambel's Quail you hear worrying during the first half of the sample.(88K)

Another sample from the Plumbeous Vireo's repertoire: this is a Spring Song & Whispers sung one May morning at Peck's Lake. His performance this day included several minutes of loud singing and several of his "whisper songs". (131K) Vireos often lapse into a rambling, disjointed style of song that seems to have no structure - almost like some birds' mimicry. If you know any more about this phenomenon, I'd love to hear about it. Here are examples: WAV format (10 sec., 155K) and MP3 (25 seconds, 73K)

The Cassin's Vireo is the other half of the Solitary's split into Plumbeous/Cassin's. This one was just passing through central Arizona on migration, fidgeting it's way through the underbrush at about 5000 ft (1540 M) elevation. (9 sec, 133K) (MP3, 23 sec, 67K)

In the Springtime the Hutton's Vireo (Vireo huttoni) sings this monotonous diatribe. This one was in Big Sur State Park, central California, in late March, 1999. Thanks to Steven Hopp and Kevin Colver for help in confirming the ID! (82K) Here are two more examples of the call notes, from two different birds near Monterey, California, 3/99. (77K) This bird (154K) was recorded in the Buenos Aires NWR, March 21st, 2001, in extreme southern Arizona. It is a member of the "stephensi" group of Hutton's Vireos - a group that has a completely separate range from the West Coast forms.

Warbling Vireos (Vireo gilvus) breed in the high pine and oak forests of central Arizona, where they sing this song over and over. This one was recorded on Mingus Mountain, near Jerome, Arizona, 5/31/99 at about 7000' (2130 M) elevation. (8 sec, 135K) (MP3, 34 sec, 134K)

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CORVIDAE: Crows, Jays

Steller's Jay
Blue Jay
Western Scrub-Jay
Pinyon Jay
Black-billed Magpie
Northwestern Crow
American Crow
Common Raven
Steller's Jays (Cyanositta stelleri) are common residents of coniferous forests in the Western US. This one gives us a sampler of his vocalizations from his perch in an Arizona Cypress near Sedona, Arizona. (378K) Steller's Jays are famous for mimicry, especially of raptors. Here is an example of a Steller's jay mimicking a Red-tailed Hawk near Sedona, Arizona, 3/5/01. (72K) This next example shows some of their parrot-like chatter and calling - easy to see how they might slip into mimicry! (147K)

Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata ) are one of the most obvious birds in the Eastern US. They're beautiful, clever, interesting, annoying and noisy! This one was recorded in Garland, Texas, 7/9/00. (134K) Here is a sample that demonstrates several of the many different calls of this talkative species.(19.5 sec., 211K)(MP3, 37.7 sec, 112K)

A local (to me in Central Arizona) cousin of the Raven and Crow is the Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens). They congregate around the Piñons and Junipers in Sedona and call this seemingly querrulous call. They are characters, just like most members of their Jay/Crow family. (122K)

I recorded this unusual vocalization of Western Scrub-Jays at very close range with a parabolic mic while they were feeding on freshly ripening Piñon Pine nuts, their favorite Fall treat! They will often "hover" below a pine cone and extract the nuts from below, and they gather in large numbers when an area of Piñons is ripening. This is a sound I heard several individuals make, and it's almost as if they're talking with their mouths full! (No manners, those Jays!) (74K)

A flock of Western Scrub-Jays "Mob" something near the marsh one November day. Usually they'll mob an enemy such as an owl or snake, but I never saw what their target was this time. In the same "mob" were Song and White-crowned Sparrows (which can be heard in this sample), Flickers, Gila Woodpeckers and Abert's Towhees. (119K)

Here's a remarkable recording of a huge flock of Pinyon Jays (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus) which flew over my room at Grand Canyon, Arizona, December 12, 1997. These Jays often flock together, but this flock was extraordinary. There were perhaps 1000-1500 birds together, all calling at the same time. It's difficult to estimate large numbers, but the flock flew over me for just over 60 seconds, and was at least 50 meters wide, solid with birds! (109K) Here is the call of a single Pinyon Jay (34 K, 1.6 sec).

Black-billed Magpies (Pica hudsonia formerly P. pica) are abundant in the colder regions of Western North America (and Eurasia) (remember that when I say colder, I'm from Arizona!). Magpies are noisy, flashy, ostentatious birds that annoy and entertain wherever they go. Here are a couple of samples of their sounds, but there are many, many variations and combinations. These were recorded just North of Durango, Colorado, 10/97. (210K)(MP3 10 sec 29K)

Northwestern Crows (Corvus caurinus) like everyone to know where they are. If they are in the area you'll know it by this well-known "caw". In this case two Crows perform a duet for your listening pleasure. They are wonderful "talkers" and they have lots of variations on the "caw" theme. Listen for the differences in these two, which appeared to be a couple. Northwestern Crows are considered by many experts to be the same species as the American Crow (C. brachyrhynchos), which is somewhat larger, and has a different voice (hear it below). (190K)

American Crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) abound in the US, although they stay only in the higher elevations in Arizona. These were recorded just North of Durango, Colorado, in October, 1997. Listen to the difference between the Northwestern Crow, above, and the American Crow, which may or may not be the same species - my money is on two species. (169K)

A hapless Common Raven (Corvus corax) sits in a Piñon Pine in Sedona, Arizona. He has been "pinned" here by a pair of Phainopeplas (Phainopeplae?), which alternately sit a foot above his head, waiting for him to fly so they can harrass him again. The first three plaintive notes are him begging for mercy, and the final set of "caws" is when he gives up, flying away and making as much noise as possible ("Maybe", he thinks," if I'm really noisy, they'll leave me alone"...he was wrong!) (159K)

In late February I was fortunate to find a gathering of Ravens consisting of over 200 birds! The gatheriung appeared to be a lek, where young, unattached males compete for the favors of the unattached females. The birds wheel and dive, roll, spin and generally show off, many holding twigs and sticks in their beaks while they fly. Their acrobatics took my breath away, and this recording is some of the wing sounds of one those wild flights (167K). Here is a sample of their calling en masse (104K). If you know more about Raven leks or if you'd like to hear more about this one, please e-mail me.

Again in February, this time in 2001, I was fortunate enough to find and record a roost of Ravens near Sedona, Arizona. I've posted a page of on-going observations of this roost, where you can also hear the extraordinary and unique vocalizations that are used for the nightime ritual. Click here to go to that page.

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The Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris) is resident of the high prairies around Prescott Valley, Arizona, where Jim Morgan caught this one with his new Telinga microphone and Sony MiniDisc! This is a Spring song recorded in late February, 1999. (121K) Here is the flight song of a small flock (76K).

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HIRUNDINIDAE: Swallows, Martins

Violet-green Swallow
Northern Rough-Winged Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
Violet-green Swallows (Tachycineta thalassina) are common breeders in central Arizona. These were recorded on their breeding grounds near Lynx Lake, east of Prescott, Arizona, 4/30/00. This recording is of an individual sitting outside a nesting hole in a Cottonwood tree, while the mate checks it out. (4.7 sec., 167K) (MP3, 12.2 sec., 146K)

Northern Rough-Winged Swallows (Stegidopteryx serripennis) reel in the Spring air above Tavasci Marsh, calling as they fly - notice, as in most swallows, that they call most when the flock is the densest (a mechanism to help avoid collisions?). (45K)

Cliff Swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) discuss their favorite insects while feeding around the bridge over the Verde River, Clarkdale, Arizona. (90K)

Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) have several vocalizations. One is the normal flight call (89K), which may serve to keep the flock from flying into each other during their normally acrobatic feeding maneuvers - kind of a "feedback" call. The second is an alarm call (40k) which they use to frighten crows, gulls, and other threats as they dive bomb their nemesis. Third is the "sittin' around the house talkin' with friends" (81K) song. It's a rambling series of whistles, squeaks, crackles and buzzes - everyone talks at once - a delight to hear. These were all recorded around the docks at Roche Harbor, Washington, where they prefer to roost on the tallest mast in the place (Why not? They've earned it!)

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PARIDAE: Chicadees, Titmice

Black-capped Chickadee
Mountain Chickadee
Chestnut-Backed Chickadee
Bridled Titmouse
Juniper Titmouse
Tufted Titmouse
Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) are common Chickadees of the Northern US and Canada. These were recorded along the Animas River near Durango, Colorado, October 1997. Like other Chickadees, these like to hang out with the local Nuthatches, in this case, White-breasted nuthatches (below).(60K)

I recorded these Mountain Chickadees (Poecile gambeli) in the Poderosa Pines and Piñons around Grand Canyon, Arizona. Chickadees are difficult recording subjects - their calls are very high frequency, rendered very softly. I'm always amazed at what a low level recording I have. This recording was made with my new Telinga microphone system.(136K) Here are some more of their sounds & songs recorded on Mingus Mountain, Central Arizona, 2/28/99. (203K)

Chestnut-Backed Chickadees (Poecile rufescens) inhabit the forests of the Pacific coast, and are an almost ubiquitous sound of the woods there. This is their every day song, but it is remarkable in the high pitch it achieves (over 9100Hz). (72K) Here's a longer example of their singing, including the spring breeding song. (171K, 8 sec) MP3 (18.5 sec, 72K)

The courtship song of the Bridled Titmouse (Baeolophus wollweberi) is heard in the Cottonwood thickets in riparian habitat in Central Arizona beginning in April. This example was recorded at Tavasci Marsh, April 9, 1998. The normal song is a buzzing, Chickadee-like sound heard in this sample, recorded in Central Arizona, 4/11/99. (114K) (MP3, 13 sec., 52K) Here's another sample of their calls (238K) - this one recorded in Ramsey Canyon of SE Arizona, 3/21/00.

This Juniper Titmouse (Baeolophus ridgwayi) flits around a Chinaberry Tree outside the birdhouse on Becky's front porch as his wife prepares the season's nest inside. He sings his Spring "lookin' for love" song, then scolds us with his characteristic chatter when we intrude on his private moment. This is a sound from my youth around Prescott, Arizona, well and fondly embedded in my memories! This particular male was recorded in Sedona, Arizona, April 5, 1998. (23K)

The Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) (196K) is a common bird throughout the eastern half of the US. They are gregarious and talkative - you'll seldom miss a flock of them as they move through your area chattering all along the way! This song was recorded at Spring Creek Park, Garland, TX, 7/9/00, and it is representative of their songs, which vary along the same theme. Here are examples of their calls: Example 1 (256K) Example 2 (286K)

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Our Verdins (Auriparus flaviceps) are residents in the Verde Valley of Central Arizona, occupying the Mesquite/Graythorn/Acacia scrub in the area. This male was recorded in a Mesquite near Peck's Lake in late October, 1997. Sometimes they'll chatter like this for several minutes, almost solid. (119K) Another call is this cheep note (75K) And here is their Spring mating song. (70K) This nesting call is used when they are nest-building. I imagine it has to do with pair bonding. (133K)

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A flock of Bushtits (Psaltriparus minimus) greet me in the Mesquite trees at Tavasci Marsh in late October, 1997. This sample demonstrates that they do make a few varied sounds! (130K)

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SITTIDAE: Nuthatches

Red-Breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Pygmy Nuthatch
The Red-Breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) is wherever the local Chickadee is - they're inseperable buds. This is a sound you'll hear all over the US, mostly, but not exclusively, in coniferous forests. The nazal whine is unmistakable. (96K) Here's a better example of that call, recorded on Mingus Mountain, central Arizona, 6/6/99. (154K)

White-breasted Nuthatches (Sitta carolinensis) are widespread throughout the US. These were recorded at Lynx Creek, east of Prescott, Arizona, 7/10/99. This is one of the many birds which have distinct calls and styles depending on where they live. This Western individual sounds very different from the Eastern samples of the same species. The second two "phrases" of this sample are actually a "duetting" pair - two birds singing at once. (206K)

Pygmy Nuthatches (Sitta pygmaea) are common residents of Western Coniferous forests. They are a very small nuthatch. This one, recorded at Haviland Lake, near Purgatory, Colorado, was tapping at a hole in a Ponderosa Pine and almost whispering to himself. (105k) This is a more typical call of this bird, recorded on Mingus Mountain at 7000', 2/28/99. (70K)

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CERTHIIDAE: Brown Creeper

Brown Creepers (Certhia americana) are known as the ultimate recluse - unobtrusive, and the epitome of a quiet existence, they sing seldom, "peep" this very high-pitched peep occasionally. This recording, made on San Juan Island in Washington state, is from 20 feet with a parabolic mic - very quiet! (111K) Here's the song, sung in the Ponderosa Pines near the top of Oak Creek Canyon of Central Arizona, 4/10/99. The song is so high (between 4500 and 8000Hz) that many humans just can't hear it at all!(90K) In this example one calls while foraging in a juniper tree on Mingus Mountain in Arizona, 6/6/99. This was recorded from 15' (4.5M) with a parabolic mic! (142K)

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