Monday, January 19

Icterid alarm and contact calls I : Blackbirds

The Red-winged Blackbird has an amazing variety of calls.

The commonly heard check call, also frequently heard in flight (Jul, NJ)

Rusty Blackbirds have a similar chack call, a little lower and harder sounding than the dry check of the Red-winged Blackbird (Apr, NJ)

(Mar, PA, female).

Red-winged Blackbird check call more rapidly given (Canada Goose in background, May, NJ).

Following are examples of various calls by males on breeding grounds. It appears that many of these "calls" are being used as alternatives to the full song.

Two males exchanging tyu calls (Gray Catbird mew in background, Jul, NJ).

pee (with Tree Swallows, May, PA).

Squeaky see and descending hoo calls(Jul, NJ).

squeaky see call

hoo calls.

chrek and and a whistled see (Jun, NJ).


whistled see (note similarity to squeaky see).

Ket call by two males in the same tree (Feb, NJ).

A rapidly repeated, high pitched tip which reminds me of a Chimney Swift (Apr, PA).

This one was recorded in Maine, a nasal wee (Jul, ME).

Female Red-winged Blackbirds have a commonly heard rattle, which may actually serve as a form of song (May, NJ).
time scale reduced

A more gurgly call (May, NJ).
time scale reduced

Red-winged Blackbird twitter call, used in courtship, bird unseen, but according to BNA, both sexes make it (May, PA).

time scale reduced


Rusty Blackbirds have a slightly harder sounding chack call (compared to Red-winged Blackbird). As with that species, it appears to be used in several contexts (Mar, PA).

Slightly different version (perched male, with song phrases, Apr, NJ).

Another common call is a liquidy, low Hermit Thrush-like gup, often heard just before taking off.
Calls between three birds high in a yellow poplar (Nov, PA).

This higher and harder variant was used as a contact call between a pair of perched Rusty Blackbirds (male calls except fourth call by female)(Mar, PA).

Lone male perched high in a tree, chack calls followed by gup calls (Nov, PA).

The typical gup call is softer, lower and more liquid than the similar tup call of Red-winged Blackbirds.
Red-winged Blackbird (Apr, NJ).

Gup and chack calls by three migrants, initially foraging beside water, then flying up into a tree at 38s (Mar, PA).

Twitter call, heard in with other vocalizations (Apr, PA)

in center, compare with red-winged blackbird twitter

Various calls and song by flock of about twenty migrants in a tree, with twitters and a double chip at 40 and 41s (Mar, PA).

Common Grackle, a buzzy trr call (Jul, ME)

A shorter version of this call repeated more rapidly (Apr, NJ).

A similar call (Mar, PA).

Several birds, with trr calls, rapidly repeated chack calls and squeaky song phrases (Apr, NJ).

Squeaky calls by Common Grackles are actually their song(Apr, NJ)

Compare with the song of Rusty Blackbird (migrants, Apr, NJ).

Boat-tailed Grackle alarm call "clack" (Feb,FL).

The Brown-headed Cowbird is an example of a species where the male and female "duet".
The rattle is the female, the squeaky note the male (May, NJ). The male song is these whistled notes preceded by gurgling sounds.

Sonagram showing male (two higher pitched notes) and rattle of female
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(May, PA)

Brown-headed Cowbird duetting pair (Apr, NJ).

This is an all too common sound heard in summer, the begging call of a juvenile cowbird (July, NJ)

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