Sunday, December 12

Icterid flight calls I : Blackbirds

Red-winged Blackbirds have a variety of calls that are given both in flight and while perched. Recordings are of perched birds unless noted.
The common check (jek) call (Apr, NJ).

Compare with the very similar "chack" call of the Rusty Blackbird (Apr,NJ).

Tup (pek, Evans and O'Brien), another commonly heard flight call (with Song Sparrow call and Yellow Warbler song in background).
(Apr, NJ)

Compare with the similar "gup" call of Rusty Blackbird, a call also given either perched or in flight (Mar, PA).

Red-winged Blackbird check (jek) and tup (pek) calls are given by both sexes.

Birds in flight, with several different calls (Mar, NJ).

hard chp at beginning of recording

tek 5-11s

checks start at 12s


Compare with calls of Rusty Blackbirds (taking flight at 62s, April, PA)

The pwik call is apparently only given by female Red-winged Blackbirds (Evans and O'Brien). It can sound quite similar to the tup call but is softer and rises. It is also regularly given in flight (Nov, NJ).

Female pwik call (perched) with male tup call in background (Mar, PA).

Same two birds, male tup in foreground, female pwik in background.

The common flight call of the Rusty Blackbird (also often given perched) is very similar to the check of Red-winged Blackbirds.
Female calling, Common Grackle singing in background (Feb, NJ).

These five birds gave the liquidy gup call in a tree before they flew off towards the end of the recording (Dec, NJ). Compare with the higher pwik and tup calls of the Red-winged Blackbird.

The Brewer's Blackbird flight call is a hard tuk (July, CO).

A small group of Brewer's Blackbirds, a rare bird in the east, has been found on a cattle farm in Salem County, NJ in recent years. This is a recording of their flight call (Jan).

Common Grackles also have a frequently heard chack call that is lower than that of Rusty and Red-winged Blackbirds (Mar, PA)

(Feb, NJ)

Boat-tailed Grackle "chut" flight call (perched male, Nov, NJ).


Male Brown-headed Cowbirds have what is called a flight whistle, often given while perched, which is multisyllabic (bird calling from tree-top, May, PA).

edited to show the three phrases

Another male call is termed the single syllable flight call. In this case it is a pewee-like call, given by a lone male from the top of a tree in the NJ pine barrens (June).
time scale reduced

The check or chuck calls of Red-winged Blackbird, Rusty Blackbird and Common Grackle are difficult to tell apart. Here they are together:
Red-winged Blackbird
Rusty Blackbird

Common Grackle

The Bobolink also has a chuck call (not a flight call, more of an alarm call), low like that of the Common Grackle, and less commonly heard during migration than the calls of the other three species.
(migrant, Sep, NJ)

Red-winged Blackbird (highest call)

Rusty Blackbird

Common Grackle (a lower call)

Bobolink (the lowest call)

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