Bird sounds can provide valuable clues to their identification, though it’s important to keep in mind that calls often consist of repeated noises with slight pitch variations – it takes practice to become an expert bird sound expert!
Ludwik Tomialojc, Tomasz Wesolowski and Wieslaw Walankiewicz began extensive bird research in Bialowieza Forest in 1975; all three eventually died within one year of each other.
Great Horned Owl
The Great Horned Owl is one of the most commonly seen and widespread owl species in North America. It can be heard hooting from dusk until dawn across various habitats; other vocalizations include whistles, barks, shrieks, hisses and coos as well as wavering calls.
These hawk-like birds hunt both day and night, often perching in open areas to await prey. When other raptors raid their nests and steal eggs or young, these predatory birds quickly attack with force to defend them and protect their eggs or young.
Plumicorns atop this owl’s head are actually feather tufts known as plumicorns and do not impair hearing; rather they may help it blend in more effectively to its forest surroundings. Like other species of owls, this species swallows prey whole before regurgitating undigested parts such as bones, fur or teeth – it also feeds on other mammals, reptiles and birds as food sources.
This crow-sized woodpecker excavates nesting and roosting cavities used by other birds, reptiles and amphibians alike. It is distinguished by loud calls and its signature forest sounds such as hammering against tree limbs; in flight its black-and-red crested head can be clearly identified.
Pileated Woodpeckers feed on carpenter ants and other insects. To search for sustenance, they dig rectangular holes in snags and dead trees and dig large rectangular pits for them. Their call is an outburst of notes which vary in pitch, volume and rhythm – similar to what Northern Flicker can produce, yet deeper and less even-toned than that produced by Pileateds.
Woodpeckers are majestic birds that grace our forests with grace and magnificence, so please help ensure their continued presence by supporting best practices for land management to support bird species, as well as by protecting key areas of forest habitat. Make your backyard more welcoming by offering several feeders with various seed mixes, while creating suitable habitat on your property.
The Northern Flicker uses both vocal and nonvocal sounds to communicate, including rapid ringing calls (wick-wick-wick) made during spring migration to announce their arrival and drumming on resonant wood surfaces such as trees or birdhouses (usually trees but sometimes posts and birdhouses), with each drumming lasting a second or so and featuring an interrupted peck, striking approximately 25 times on said wood surfaces.
Flickers are woodpeckers known to excavate holes in dead and decaying trees, often using existing cavities or nesting boxes of other birds for nesting purposes. Their favorite food are ants; however they will eat other insects as well as seeds. Flickers breed across North America before migrating southward in search of warmer climates such as Central America for wintering; their winter home can be open forest edges with many trees such as town parks, river groves, or semi-open country settings where you may spot these striking birds!
Song sparrows are often found scratching in the dirt, and are skilled at hiding in dense brush. Male song sparrows use their songs to attract mates and defend their territories using whistles, warbles, burrs, and trills in their repertoire of whistles, warbles, burrs, and trills.
As with other sparrow species, this one is quite adaptable and inhabits various habitats including grasslands, thickets, brushy forest edges, salt marshes, deserts and even Aleutian Islands. Furthermore, backyard bird feeders often serve as meeting places during the winter months.
Watch out for a medium-sized sparrow with a rounded head and long, rounded tail, with grayish-brown skin tone with russet stripes through its eyes and mustache stripe, located near California or dusky overall in the Pacific Northwest. Song sparrows feed on insects during summer months before switching over to seeds during the winter season.
These birds tend to be permanent residents; however, during the winter they can often be seen foraging for food at bird feeders. Members of the Sittid family, these nuthatchs can be identified by their blue-gray upperparts, chisel-like bill, black cap and nasal series of “yank-yank” calls which has been likened to that of a tin horn.
This wood-climbing species can be found throughout its range in mature deciduous woodland and woodland edges, but also breeds at higher elevations in an open pine-oak forest. It frequently visits tree trunks and branches for shelter as well as raiding suet or seed feeders in suburban gardens.
Nuthatches are monogamous birds that form their own nests by lining hollow trees or crevices with fur, bark and fine grass; nest boxes may also be utilized. While in summer they primarily feed on insects for sustenance, during fall and winter they switch over to eating seeds, grains and nuts as food sources.
Red-breasted nuthatches are agile birds that climb down tree trunks and along branches one at a time, often one after the other. Although small and stub-tailed, Red-breasted nuthatches are easily identified due to their distinctive call: it has been described as sounding similar to an antique toy tin horn! Red-breasted nuthatches also produce soft tseeps and tsits when calling or assailing treetops.
They move swiftly over bark in search of food in crevices or beneath flakes of bark. Unlike their larger relative the White-breasted Nuthatch, they can change direction quickly as they sneak around a tree’s branches and branches.
Breeding takes place throughout coniferous forest from Alaska to northern New England and higher elevations of the Appalachians. Irruptive winter visitors to Texas can occasionally be found within its lower mountains as well as western Colorado.
Pine siskins are partial migrants that may completely vanish in certain years. Additionally, these birds often experience periodic “irruptions” when conditions cause population expansion and food availability to surge unexpectedly.
They forage in open coniferous forest canopies as well as parks and cemeteries, suburban woodlands, weedy fields, backyard gardens and bird feeders. Their diet consists of small seeds like those produced by pine trees as well as cone-bearing species like larch, hemlock, spruce and cedar as well as tree buds, fruit and insects.
Their vocalizations include high-pitched, rapid chittering and buzzing calls that may even argue to defend feeding locations from sparrows and goldfinches. Their undulating flight is swift and agile – you might see them flitting from branch to branch before landing upside-down on pine needles for support or the tips of cone bearing trees for refuge.
The Steller’s Jay is an increasingly common sight at Western campgrounds and picnic areas, often hanging out around bird feeders or perching itself clumsily in trees with its head tilted upward. Its distinctive harsh vocalizations help protect it against potential predators.
This bird has excellent mimicry abilities and can imitate other bird calls as well as mechanical sounds like sprinklers or phones. Additionally, they store food reserves – particularly acorns and pine seeds – for use during lean times.
Georg Steller (1741-1762, also known as Steller’s Sea Cow and Steller’s Sea Eagle) encountered this jay during his 1741 visit to Alaska. Its black-and-blue plumage, similar to European blue jays, persuaded him that he had arrived on a new continent. These birds form long-term monogamous relationships year round and nests often feature large structures constructed out of branches, moss, leaves and mud – an indication of long term commitment!
The Canada Jay (Perisoreus canadensis) is an agile feeder, taking advantage of opportunities when food becomes available to feed on eggs or nestlings of other birds – even their own! Due to its ability to store food during harsh winter conditions, its nickname of “camp robber” has earned it respect from wildlife enthusiasts.
These large blue birds can be found throughout the boreal forest and northern mountain ranges, particularly black spruce bogs and mixed coniferous forests. They form cup-shaped nests out of twigs, bark, lichen and mosses lining it with soft materials before placing three to four pale gray to greenish eggs into them for incubation by female. Both parents feed the young. Their vocalizations vary from soft whistles to harsher chatters.
During the boreal summer, Canada Jays are commonly seen in groups. Though typically considered harmless, they can sometimes become nuisances around campsites by stealing hikers’ food and handouts. One such banded Canada Jay lived up to be 26 years old!
Icteria virens) can often be heard but rarely seen as it moves silently through dense vegetation and thickets, singing its complex, melodious song that blends whistles, rattles, clucks, catcalls and whistles. Additionally, the chat searches foliage near ground level as well as lower branches for insects and berries while simultaneously keeping its food in its beak – unlike other warbler species!
Breeding occurs in shrubby habitats such as old fields, riparian forests and regenerating logged forest fencerows. Nests consisting of grasses, stems and strips of bark are constructed for these birds which then incubate their eggs for 10-12 days (NatureServe 2019).
Chats may be common, yet can often be more challenging to spot than other forest birds. They rely on dense early successional habitat that often gets destroyed during forest clearing operations; further research into minimum patch sizes requirements as well as habitat availability versus population density needs to take place.