Feb 12 2013

Sounds Like A Typewriter

Published by at 7:03 am under Songbirds,Vocalizations

White-winged Crossbill, male (photo by Heather Jacoby)

White-winged Crossbill (photo by Heather Jacoby)

This winter in addition to irruptions of evening grosbeaks and redpolls, crossbills have come to Pennsylvania.

I've seen white-winged crossbills before, especially in the winter of 2009, but this year they've eluded me.  People send news of them to PABIRDS but when I travel to their reported location they aren't there.  True to their irruptive nature crossbills are always on the move.  Dang!

Last week I ran into Claire Staples while on my lunch break in Oakland.  We exchanged bird sightings and Claire said she'd experienced the same problem finding crossbills until quite recently when she heard them near her home in Squirrel Hill.

The clue is their sound.  Claire says they sound like typewriters, a useful tip as I actually do remember what typewriters sound like.  Shows how old I am!

So now on my walks I'm trying hard not to look for crossbills as I don't want to jinx my chances of seeing them.  But I'm listening for the sound of typewriters.

(Click here to hear.)

(photo by Heather Jacoby)

10 responses so far

10 Responses to “Sounds Like A Typewriter”

  1. Carol Smithon 12 Feb 2013 at 9:44 am

    What I hear sounds like an electric typewriter, not a manual. Take heart! You’re NOT THAT OLD!

  2. Kate St. Johnon 12 Feb 2013 at 9:45 am

    “Not that old!” 🙂

  3. Mary Ann Pikeon 12 Feb 2013 at 10:00 am

    My daughter saw a bird in Erie that she said looked like a large house finch. I thought maybe it was a Pine Grosbeak, but perhaps it was White-winged Crossbill. I don’t know that she got a close enough look at it to see what the bill looked like.

    I saw a bird foraging through the litter at the edge of the woods behind our house this past weekend that looked like a very large sparrow/finch but with a buff breast (no or minimal stripes), so I was thinking it might be a female Rose Breasted Grosbeak, but I wouldn’t think they would be back in the area yet. I think brownish birds are the toughest to ID!

    I saw a thrush in January in the same place, so I’m assuming that was a hermit thrush since they should be the only ones here in winter. I’m getting to see a lot of new winter birds since we moved into a more wooded area in Washington County last year.

  4. George Bercikon 12 Feb 2013 at 10:02 am

    Carol, I am that old, and 2-years out of the last 3 I’ve experienced W.W. Crossbills at home. Each time,it was their clicking sounds that drew my attention.To me,it sounded like the manual typewriter. One disclaimer——- I don’t hear so well! It was a special treat to see them.

  5. Steve Gosseron 12 Feb 2013 at 10:33 am

    Typically I almost always hear the crossbills before I see them, especially when they are flying. Once though back in December I was walking around Lakewood Memorial gardens in Indianola and looked up into a hemlock right beside me and about 10 WW Crossbills were feeding in there completely silently.

    That’s a great picture Heather got…wow!!

  6. Stephenon 12 Feb 2013 at 10:50 am

    I agree with Carol, this sounds like an electric typewriter. The bird which sounds most like a mechanical typewriter to me is the Yellow Rail. In fact, it doesn’t sound much like a bird at all, just a bunch of clicking. You can listen to it here:


  7. Judith Woolseyon 31 Aug 2017 at 3:34 am

    Thank you! I moved to Molalla Oregon last year and heard this typewriter sound in the garden alone. Noone really believed me beyond suggesting perhaps I had heard a hummingbird. Now I know. .. Judi

  8. Kate St. Johnon 18 Feb 2013 at 3:42 pm

    Monday, February 18: Well, I broke my rule and went looking for crossbills three times since I wrote this article. I suppose my efforts were jinxed from the start. I still have not seen nor heard crossbills this winter. I know they’re in the area. Erf!

  9. judi woolseyon 25 Jul 2016 at 3:19 pm

    hi..i just moved to molalla oregon…this morning there was a small bird in tree making the clicking sound like a typewriter…a manual one…couldn’t really get a good look at it since it kept hopping branch to branch higher & higher up the tree…any idea of what kind of bird it was?

  10. Kate St. Johnon 25 Jul 2016 at 3:25 pm

    judi, I’m afraid I can’t help without a description of the bird. About what size was it (compared to a bird you know)? Did it perch like a sparrow or robin? Or perch like a woodpecker (upright clinging to the tree)? Any other clues you can give will be very helpful.

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