General Question

gailcalled's avatar

What kind of bird might be singing a short, unmusical trill in my wood margins?

Asked by gailcalled (54631points) April 28th, 2012

I am in the NE and have heard this song for years. It’s obviously a common song bird. I would have guessed the junco (who is omnipresent) but the song seems too short and too abrupt. It doesn’t sound quite like either the chipping sparrow or pine warbler either. (Maybe it’s a junco with a cold or a bad teacher?)

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19 Answers

Coloma's avatar you only notice it the spring? If so it must be a migratory species, maybe a Grosbeak? They are not terribly good singers. lol
Is it more of a buzzing? Maybe a Wren of some sort?
Get out the big binocs and go for a nice case of Warblers neck. :-)

gailcalled's avatar

@Coloma: I have only the little house wren who nests here; her enormous song is hard to miss. And she lets herself be seen.

I can imitate the brrrt with my tongue and voice box. Open your window and I’ll show you.

The rose-breasted grosbeak hangs around, but he has a loud melodious operatic song. And it’s a little too early. And I haven’t seen the evening grosbeaks for several years.

Trying to actually see it? That’s a good idea. And I have lovely birding binocs.

I used to hear this song in Lake Placid (three hours N. of me and 2000’ higher) all summer long and also thought it might be a junco.

Coloma's avatar

Maybe a Bewicks Wren, they trill like that. Hmmm…
Yes, I have 8×40’s and the long range 10×50’s I keep the little ones hanging on a nail on my garage wall at all times. Get out the binocs and report back. :-)

Coloma's avatar

I only get the Black headed Grosbeaks up from Mexico and Central America, they are not exceptional singers. :-)
Maybe some sort of Flycatcher other than a Phoebe?
We have Western Kingbirds and they trill too.

bkcunningham's avatar

Check out this site:

You can search for birds on the site also.

gailcalled's avatar

Bewick’s is not an eastern bird, but it does have a cheery sound.

The problem with roaming in my woods with binocs. to my eyes and looking up is 1) my mouth drops open and the mosquitoes fly in and 2) I have to scour myself and my clothes for ticks now.

I was hoping to sit on my nice safe deck and do the ID by ear. Apparently, expert birders make 90% of their IDs with their ears alone.

However, it is a nice, little research project for this quiet Sat. evening. Milo is particularly interested although annoyed at not have a corpus delicti

@bkcunningham; The call of the Oregon junco is certainly the closest that I have found.
Thanks for the excellent site.

lillycoyote's avatar

Jeez, @gailcalled if you don’t know, how do you expect any of us to? You’re our “go to girl” when it comes to bird questions. What might sound like a Junco?

All I can suggest is that you maybe call the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

When I first started getting into bird watching a bit I used to call them all the time. I haven’t called them in a while, but in the past, the phone was always answered immediately, by an actual human being; by a friendly and knowledgeable volunteer, who might be able to answer your question.

gailcalled's avatar

@lillycoyote: I have been now listening to enough bird songs and calls from the Cornell site to be temporarily stone tone deaf.

I do feel that it can only be the dark-eyed junco. Particularly since they (and the phoebe and goldfinches, which are not yet singing) are the only small song birds hanging around right now.

I would be slightly embarrassed to call Cornell and trill over the phone. But I will bookmark the site. Thanks.

lillycoyote's avatar

@gailcalled Really, call them. The folks at the Cornell Ornithology Lab are very helpful and just calling an 800 number and having an actual human being answer the phone is a pleasure in itself. :-)

Though, as I said, it’s been a while since I’ve called them. Hopefully it still works that way.

bkcunningham's avatar

Record the bird call, @gailcalled.

gailcalled's avatar

Not possible. I don’t have the equipment and can barely master the electronic toys I do own. I spent a sweaty hour today setting up a new cordless phone with a satellite phone and almost dismembered them and me. Luckily, Milo took over and fixed everything.

bkcunningham's avatar

I may now know the identity of @Secret_Service_Police.

wildpotato's avatar

I am no birder, but I was in the area until yesterday and the dark-eyed junco call sounds familiar.

Also, I was pleasantly surprised at how few ticks I encountered – we hiked around on Monument Mountain for several hours trying to find some early morels (in vain), and we had none and my dog only got three! Can’t let them ruin a good woods walk.

gailcalled's avatar

@wildpotato: Oh, wow. Do you live around here? It’s been chilly; perhaps making the ticks sluggish?

This article about foraging appeared in The Berkshire Eagle several days ago; I was tempted.

There will be a trail walk at Monument on Sunday, May 13, if you’re interested. You sound as though you know what a morel looks like, however.

Coloma's avatar

Once I played a recording of the Western Tanager which breeds in my woods and within minutes I had 8 male Tanagers outside my window!
Maybe find some good CD’s and the birds come to you!

CWOTUS's avatar

Have you looked through any internet sites that let you listen to bird songs and match them with the bird?

Here’s one, and here is another.

gailcalled's avatar

Indeedy. We all have. Reread the answers ^^.

The consensus is that the junco best fits the bill.

But thank-you for the additional sites. Cornell’s is still the best.

lillycoyote's avatar

@gailcalled I just reread one of your previous answers and wanted to say don’t be embarrassed to call the Cornell Lab. Those people love birds as much as you do. They will love to talk about them and will love that you love birds as much, if not more, than they do. At that’s how it was in the past.

wildpotato's avatar

@gailcalled This is great, thank you for the article! I will try to go on a bunch of these. While I am familiar with morels, I have only hunted them in Minnesota in the past, where they grow in association with dead elms. There aren’t so many of those out here, so I need to learn the other trees they like in these parts. Plus I could definitely use a course in porcinis, chanterelles, and all the other forest edibles.

I did a little research – ticks are active at any temp above 40–45F, but there aren’t as many around until about May, usually, because the nymphs don’t wake up from winter dormancy until late spring/early summer. So we only have the adults to deal with in the winter and early spring.

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