Monday, July 18, 2016

Bird song of Summer

By Beth Sullivan
Many of us are tuned into bird song, for enjoyment, ID challenge, and also because their variable songs may be a hint to what is happening in their lives.
Early in the spring, the migrants dropped in and practiced their songs a bit and moved on.
The resident song birds kept up the music. They practiced and performed to establish their territories. They warbled to attract mates and continued the courtship through nest building. Then, for a while, many of the birds got quiet. Much of the tree-top singing actually diminishes because the birds do not want to attract attention to their nest sites. Nothing like a proud papa singing about his nestlings to draw a predator out of curiosity. Crows and Blue Jays seem to practice this tactic and do a drastic turn around once the babies are out.
A migrant warbler like this Yellow Rump will sing for a bit and then move on.

Now that most of the species have produced their first brood, and some are beginning to think of seconds, some singing has returned. However, the overall tone has definitely changed now, based on parental duties and wandering youngsters.
Gulls never really sing, even if this looks like a chorus. Photograph by Rick Newton.

Feisty Robins 

I think we all have heard the shriek of Robins around the yard when their young have hopped out and are pretty helpless and flightless on the ground. A parent will try and deter a cat, dog, human or a predator bird away from their fledgling, and it can be quite a task when they have as many as five young out and about.
When Robins fledge from their nest, the parents will shriek their alarm.

The Blue Jays and Crows seem to create the most racket, and I find it fun to listen to the varied vocabulary of the young ones as they beg for food and try out their wings and call to one another. Lately the Blue Jays in the woods have been creating quite a racket all day long.
The Barred Owls in the wet woods are a “hoot” to listen to as they chuckle and yodel among themselves, sounding like bouncing echoes to one another . We have on occasion been able to call them in with our own hooted responses.
Barred Owl families hoot and talk with each other throughout the woods.

The young Hawks and Osprey shriek loudly. It cannot be called a song, but it sure can get the attention of mom and dad who may be out of sight as these young take longer flights away from the nest.

Osprey chicks can make a racket when waiting for a meal. Photograph by Rick Newton.
There are several birds that change their tune. The Red–eyed Vireo sings a different song now and adds a scratchy-sounding variant that is not tuneful at all. Some resident warblers add more alarm chips but do shorter portions of their usual spring song, so they can still be identified. Catbirds just mess with us all the time as they change their sounds and songs almost minute by minute.

A couple of favorites 

The Song Sparrow in the field, and the House Wren in the yard. These birds seem to enjoy full on song all season long. A little House Wren takes up a perch, inches outside my open bedroom window, and begins his long trills as early as 4:30 in the morning. Gotta love his enthusiasm at that hour! My personal favorite is the Song Sparrow that throws its head back in song, no matter is if it is dawn or dusk, hot or cold, and even on dark dreary days finds a reason to make joyous music.
A little House Wren will warble his song when ever the mood strikes. Photograph by Rick Newton.

Even when the mood is gray, a Song Sparrow will lighten moods with its song. Photograph by Rick Newton.

Enjoy the change in song of the Summer Birds.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan, unless otherwise indicated.

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