Jun 28 2012

He Changed His Tune

Published by at 7:20 am under Songbirds

I'm fairly good at identifying birds by their songs but there's one supposedly easy bird that fools me in June.

The hooded warbler's main song is easy to learn because it has a simple mnemonic, he repeats it five to six times per minute, and he spends more than half his day singing this tune while he's attracting a mate.

In early May I'm sure of him. "Ta wit, ta wit, ta wit tee yo" is a hooded warbler.

What I didn't know is that after he's attracted a mate he sings the other three to eight songs he knows.  Forget the easy song I've memorized.  These are irregular, sung 10 to 12 times per minute, and are his preferred song type in the hour after dawn.

It's hard for human ears to learn these irregular patterns and they're different from bird to bird.  Each hooded warbler sings his own unique songs.  He even recognizes his neighbors by their songs which he remembers from year to year.

I can imagine a hooded warbler returning in the spring and claiming the same territory he had the year before.  He sings from his perch and his neighbors respond.

"There's John on my left again, James on my right... and there's a new guy behind me.  Hmmm!  I wonder what happened to Joe."

The hooded warbler knows his neighbors don't change their tunes.  It just sounds that way to me.

(photo by Steve Gosser)

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “He Changed His Tune”

  1. Margeon 28 Jun 2012 at 7:59 am

    I’ve been fooled by several species lately. Posted 2 taped sounds/songs I heard yesterday on the Facebook page and the ids were birds I SHOULD have known. First according to Brian Shema the sharp/brief raspberry type sound I heard low on the ground (saw small LBJ briefly in bushes) was a Carolina Wren which sounded almost like a frog. I do know the thrushes have alarm calls that sound similar but this one diff. Then a song/sound deep on a wooded hill I kept hearing what sounded like “Beeer, beeer, beeer” and ends up Brian believes it was a Wood PeWee. “Still learning”.
    Love those Hoodeds and their chip is easy to id sometimes then again, could it be a cardinal????

  2. kcon 28 Jun 2012 at 4:29 pm

    That’s cool. I wasn’t aware.

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