Tag Archives: birdsong

Noisy neighbors


Male Red-winged Blackbird in the field beyond the pond this morning, probably nabbing some tasty bugs among the dewdrops.


Nearby, a female Red-Winged Blackbird gathers nesting material.


The male RWBs have been noisy around here for a week or two, even perching up near the house and visiting the tube feeder by the back deck. Guys, you’re supposed to be out in the marsh!

The male has a “conk-la-ree” song and also a piercing “check” call that reminds me a bit of a hawk. For a couple of days I kept looking for a hawk in the front yard oak tree.


When the pairing is complete and the nesting begins, will they be a little quieter?

Oh sweet Canada! (over and over)


A flock of about 10 White-throated Sparrows has been hopping and scratching around the yard for a few days. They sing first thing in the morning, last thing in the evening, and off and on all day.

Now their pretty song (YouTube video here) is really stuck in my head.

White-throated Sparrows sing a pretty, thin whistle that sounds like Oh-sweet-canada-canada or Old-Sam-Peabody-Peabody. The whistles are even but typically move slightly up or down in pitch by the second or third note. The whole song lasts about 4 seconds. White-throated Sparrows sing often during the breeding season, even in the middle of the day, and on their winter range as well.

Before your impulse purchase of cute fluffy baby chicks at the feed store, listen to the grownup hen

Hen greets the morning with a sweet warbling song. Not.

Technically, this sound is called cackling.

Translated from Chicken to English: “I laid an egg! I laid an egg!”

Sometimes this a lie. Or it is simply a repetition of what another hen said, passing along the boastful gossip. Sometimes there really is an egg, most often in an egg box in the coop. But this little Easter Egger hen lays her blue eggs here and there so we have to go on an Easter egg hunt to find them. One of the drawbacks to free ranging.

I like my hens, I like their eggs, but I do not really like this noise, especially on the earlier side of morning, especially when all four of them get going in chorus, and sometimes I go toss some corn or stale bread to distract and shut them up.

Root Simple: Do Hens Make Noise?

Being naive first time chicken owners, the first time we heard this sound caught us by surprise. We suspected that it’s the result of discomfort from squeezing out an egg, or some wonder of selective breeding, a way to announce to the poultry farmer, “Hey, time to collect an egg!” In fact, research presented by University of Sheffield animal scientists Tommaso Pizzari and Tim R. Birkhead, in an article entitled “For whom does the hen cackle? The function of postoviposition cackling,” posit that cacking is a way for hens to get the message out to nearby roosters that they ain’t in the mood. As Pizzari and Brikhead put it, “One function of postoviposition cackling may thus be to avoid the costs of sexual harassment by signalling to males a particularly unsuitable time for fertilization.” This contradicts earlier theories that cacking was, in fact, an invitation to boogie.

I have no rooster. I did once, by accident, but a rooster’s morning song is much, much more awful and so he went to live up the road where someone wanted him to supervise and inseminate her free ranging hens. You get eggs without a rooster. But the hens cackle no matter what.

Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she laid an asteroid.- Mark Twain

Peter, peter


Little acrobat, the Tufted Titmouse.

Bird Watcher’s Digest: “Regulars at backyard bird feeders, where they prefer sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet, Tufted Titmice are both active and vocal. In winter, they may join mixed feeding flocks of chickadees, nuthatches, and others.”

Peter, peter, peter, peter! is the clear, whistled song of the Tufted Titmouse. Also utters a harsh chickadee-like scold and a variety of short, sweet, whistled calls.


Wood Thrush says Ee-oh-lay


Is this the song of a Wood Thrush? I think it is.

I stepped out onto our back deck at 4:55 a.m. with my iPhone to record this.

All About Birds: Wood Thrush Life History

One of the first songsters to be heard in the morning and among the last in the evening, the male sings his haunting ee-oh-lay song from an exposed perch in the midstory or lower canopy. He uses the song, which carries through dense forest, to establish a territory that averages a few acres.


The Wood Thrush is a consummate songster and it can sing “internal duets” with itself. In the final trilling phrase of its three-part song, it sings pairs of notes simultaneously, one in each branch of its y-shaped syrinx, or voicebox. The two parts harmonize with each other to produce a haunting, ventriloquial sound.

In many songbird species, males square off by “song matching”: they answer a neighbor’s song with the same song, perhaps seeing which male can perform it best. Wood Thrush males are different. They almost always answer a rival’s song with a different one.

Listen: Classical music inspired by birdsong