Tools for Learning
about the local Birds
and the Habitats we all share.

Bird Song and Sound

Birds are, in general, noisy creatures. Sound is employed by birds for many reasons. Sometimes a simple "tic" can just be a way of letting other members of a flock know where another is. At other times, a male may sing a long, complicated song when trying to entice a female to mate. It is sometimes said that maybe 85% of birding is done by sound. One often hears a bird before it is seen. Indeed, when working on official bird counts, a bird that is heard, but not seen is counted just as if it had been seen. There are many visually impaired birders who can identify every bird in a given local just by their sound.

American Crows in silhouette at daybreak.
Photo:R. Templeton

American Crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) making a racket!

I am in the process of making recordings of local birds singing. Here is an example: Listen to American Crows This recording was made July 21, 2006 in el Bosque in Dixon. These American Crows were sitting in the top of the cottonwoods making quite a racket. If this "mobbing" sound had been made at any other time of the year, it would have signaled the present of a Hawk or an Owl. But when the breeding season is finished and the Crows are no longer competing for food, they get very social. Every morning for weeks, 15 to 50 crows would gather in los Alamos at the bottom of Ben and Charlotte Valdes' fields about 5:00 AM. The "crowing" would go on for as much as an hour as more and more birds flew in. Then, suddenly, they would stream away and the quiet would return.

Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)singing his Dawn Song

This bird's song might be the most regularly heard song in the riparian and agricultural areas of Dixon and Embudo. It is described by one local birder as: chup, chup, chup, cheese. With the "cheese" being a trill. This Towhee sings in all seasons. This recording was made in early August in El Bosque in Dixon.  Listen to Spotted Towhee singing in El Bosque in Dixon

What you see below are called Sonograms. The two pictured were made from this recording. The vertical axis is frequency (~pitch) and the horizontal zxis is time in seconds. [Once you open the sound link above, you should be able to minimize the sound window so that you can see the sonograms.]

Sonogram of Spotted Towhee singing in El Bosque
Zoomed view of the first phrase.

I will be expanding this item about the Spotted Towhee song. This particular audio clip is 30 seconds out of a 15 minutes recording. I chose this section, because the chup, chup, chup, cheese pattern is the most commonly heard rendition. However, the full recording reveals a great amount of variation. All of the following appear:

Variation in number of the "chup" syllables:

chup, cheese;
chup, chup, cheese
chup, chup, chup, chup, cheese
chup, chup, chup, chup, chup, cheese
chup, chup, chup, chup, chup, chup, cheese
chup, chup, chup, chup, chup, chup, chup, cheese

As well as variation in order of the syllables:

cheese, chup, chup, cheese
cheese, chup, cheese

And, single syllables:

And more!

By the way: The main bird heard in the background is a Yellow-breated Chat.