Thursday, February 19

Sparrow songs

Chipping Sparrows each sing only one song (but the length varies). These two had adjacent territories (May, NJ).

Oddly, Chipping Sparrows sing from the ground before sunrise. Also, the dawn songs are sung at a faster rate (5.54am, Apr, PA).

The Swamp Sparrow has a slower, more musical song (Jun, NJ). Each male has about 3 different songs.

Swamp Sparrow faster song (June, NJ)

The Dark-eyed Junco song is a ringing trill (July, ME).

(July, ME).

(migrant, Apr, PA).

Several migrants singing and calling (Apr, PA)

Dark-eyed Juncos sing two different songs, the well-defined trill (Long-Range Song) and a quieter, more varied song (Short-Range Song).
This may be an example of the Short-Range Song, sung by a wintering bird low in vegetation, or could be plastic song by a young bird. I haven't found anything in the literature that defines the differences between the two.
(Feb, PA, with Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse and Red-bellied Woodpecker).

The bouncing ball song of the Field Sparrow. Each young male initially learns several songs, but uses only one after arriving on territory the next spring, a process known as selective attrition (Apr, NJ).

At dawn, the Field sparrow sings a different song, termed the complex song (30 mins before sunrise, May, DE).

In this case a dawn phrase was sung in between the regular daytime phrases (8.20am, Mar, PA).

Field Sparrows do not always start off with the dawn version. These birds kicked off with the regular song at dawn and did not use the dawn song (6.20am, 38 mins before sunrise, Mar, PA).

Two more examples of the dawn song, adjacent birds (5.40am, Aug, PA).

The next three sparrows have insect-like songs and were recorded in July at Kennebunk Plains in Maine.
The Clay-colored Sparrow is not a regular breeder in Maine:

Savannah Sparrow (males sing only one song).

Grasshopper Sparrow, regular song.

This is the regular song with an additional sustained ending, recorded at dawn.

An even more extended song, recorded with a Henslow's Sparrow singing, at a reclaimed strip mine, Piney Tract, Clarion, PA at the end of May in the afternoon.

time scale reduced

Grasshopper and Savannah Sparrows singing together, with Vesper in the background (Kennebunk Plains, ME, Jul).

LeConte's Sparrow is another species with an insect-like buzzy song, which doesn't carry far(June, MN).

LeConte's Sparrow complex ("flight") song at 2, 6 and 10s, with another bird high chipping in the foreground (June, MN).The song begins with a fast series of high chips, followed by a ti-ti ssyoo and then the buzzy regular song. The ssyoo recalls the flight call, but is single banded.

Both species of sharp-tailed sparrow breed at Scarborough marsh in Maine, where they were recorded in July.

Saltmarsh Sparrow has a quieter, more sustained and varied song with some warbling phrases.

Nelson's Sparrow (Tree Swallows in background)

This is a Nelson's Sparrow nelsoni subspecies recorded in North Dakota in June. It is interesting to compare the sonagram with that of the subvirgatus at Scarborough.

Nelson's Sparrows have a flight song which consists of a series of chips followed by the regular hissing song, which may ascend (July, ME).

reduced time scale

Seaside Sparrow in a southern NJ saltmarsh in May (repertoire is 2-4 songs).

The Seaside Sparrow has a longer song that is performed in short flights (May, NJ).

Henslow's Sparrows have a short song that is actually made up of about five notes that our ears cannot decipher separately (May, PA).

Vesper Sparrow (Kennebunk Plains, ME, Jul). Males each have a large song repertoire.

Some sparrows have really beautiful songs. Examples are Lincoln's and Fox Sparrow.

Lincoln's Sparrow in late May, Michigan. There was snow on the ground at the time.

This Fox Sparrow was recorded beside a creek in northern Alaska in June.

Like White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows, Fox Sparrows are often heard singing during winter and in early spring before migrating north. This is an example of a migrant Fox Sparrow singing a simplified song. Perhaps a young bird still learning its song? (Nov, NJ).

American Tree Sparrow, each male has only one song (June, AK)

Song Sparrows have a repertoire of about 5-15 songs.
Two songs by the same bird (May, PA).

Most White-throated Sparrows sing only one song (breeding grounds, July, ME).

migrant (Apr, PA)

White-crowned Sparrows also sing only one song (the songs on this recording are variable because they include first year birds which haven't yet crystallized their songs; Nov, NJ).

Harris's Sparrow, which winters in the mid-west and is a rare vagrant to the east, has a song similar to the White-throated Sparrow, but the notes of an individual song are all on one pitch. Each male has a repertoire of songs sung at different pitches. In winter though, they add a number of other phrases to these notes (Mar, NE).

Bachman's Sparrow has a pretty song heard in southern pine woods (April, NC). This bird sang for over half an hour 20 feet up on a bare pine branch.

The first five phrases:

Eastern Towhee, males have a repertoire of about 4 songs (May, NJ).

A regular song alternating with an unusual chickadee-like trill (June, NJ).

Eastern Towhees occasionally include mimicry in their songs. This song begins and ends with the puck and flight calls of an American Robin (July, ME).

Here the song begins with a perfect imitation of a Hermit Thrush flight call (Aug, PA).

Male Eastern and Spotted Towhees have a so-called complex quiet song (BNA) that can be heard during the breeding season after interactions with another towhee or even a bird of another species. The complex quiet song is a collection of call notes, and so is in a way similar to the rambling song of the White-eyed Vireo.

These recordings are of a male that had just interacted with another male. There are at least nine different calls, including the commonly heard chewink and lisping see, but also several different chip-like calls, a low, distant-sounding caw, and a high buzz. The calls went on for more than twelve minutes.

(June, NJ)

increased time scale

metallic chip

high chip




caw at 4 and 10s


lisping see

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