Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Starling Cloud Choir: Tea Party Birds

 The structure of the Starling Cloud song cycle will follow the rhythm of the day in the life of a flock of starlings. Just before the crow hour, the birds will have a tea party at the bird feeder. The starlings will mimic the song birds that gather at your backyard bird feeder. There are lots of bird call mnemonics that seem very suited to this subject matter, so I have gathered them up to study for this section of the piece. You can look for them at your own backyard bird feeder. Try birding by ear, or identifying the birds by the sounds they make without any visual cues. Now ask yourself whether you're sure it's that bird and not a starling mimicking the bird. That's when you need to look for the visual cues.

I have written down some birders' menomics for the songs of these birds, but you could try to come up with your own vocabulary.

The Usual Suspects:

Rufous Hummingbird: calls zeeeee-chuppity-chuppity chup (then the wings go zzzzzzz)
bzeet, bzeet bzeet chup chup, bzeet chuppity chuppity chup
zeet zeet chook chook chook, chookity chookity chook

Black-capped Chickadee: call: chik-a-dee-dee-dee
song: feee bee-bee or feee beeyee, come to me
I think it sounds like P. Diddy

Golden-crowned Kinglet: see-see-see- (hp)
I am not a chestnut backed chickadee
I am not a chicka (slow, paced) dee dee dee dee (quick)
["hairdo" reminds me of Elvis]

Ruby-crowned Kinglet
ji-dit; ji-dit; ji-dit (rattly)
tweedleDEE tweedle DEE tweedleDEE
Hedgy hedgy hedgy
[hairdo looks like a red mowhawk] 

American Robin: cheerup, cheerily, cheerily
cheer-up; cheer-a-lee; cheer-ee-o
tweedledum tweedledee, tweedledum, tweedle dee dee
cheery cheerio cheerup
allarm call: yeep yeep chuck chuck chuck chuk yeep yeep eep!
whinny: quick-wik wikwikwikwik or hee he he he he (decending)

The Tea-Totalers:

Song Sparrow
Note: song depends on your region and there are many forms and subspecies of song sparrows
Hip; hip; hip hurrah boys; spring is here!
Madge; Madge; Madge pick beetles off; the water's hot
sweet sweet sweet n'zreee sugarrrr it it it
sweet sweet sweet as MEEEEE put some sugar on it

Bewick's Wren
like Song Sparrow; but thinner; more rapid
BEWR often sings "1-2-3 drink your tea-ea-ea" or "jzzzeeet drink your tea-ea-ea".
calls: plink, plink, skerrr

Spotted Towhee: drink your teeee!; wack! wack!  

The Sweetie Pies:

Yellow Warbler:"sweet sweet sweet, I'm so sweet"
Highly variable song. Often three part, "sweet sweet little more sweet" or “sweet sweet I’m so very sweet”
Has an urgent, quick quality. Also, "sweet, sweet, sweet, sweeter than sweet!”.

White-Throated Sparrow: "poor Sam Pea'body, Pea'body, Pea'body"
"Pure sweet Canada Canada Canada"
whistle: (slow, sustained)Oh sweet old (triplets) CanaDA CanaDA CanaDA (first two notes are higher)

The Gossips:

European Starling: wolf-whistle (breathy), rattles, whirrs Whistle. Pop. Whirrrr. Zzzt.
kizzik--like a washboard
rack rack rack zeep!
Weee errr (rising, then falling)
they also imitate red-tailed hawks, killdeer, cowbirds, jays, etc.


The Unabashed Guide to Selected Oregon and Washington Bird Songs and Calls
(References to “eastside” and “westside” refer to east and west of the Cascade crest)
Compiled by Kelly A. Bettinger with input from many fellow birders

Bird Song: identification made easy by Ernie Jardine

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