21 March 2021
When the big waves of migrating songbirds arrive in April and May we will be swamped with birdsong too numerous to list. That hasn’t happened yet so I can still tell you a few birds we’re hearing this week in Pittsburgh.
House finches (Haemorhous mexicanus), show at top, have been singing for a couple of weeks. The males prefer to sing close to their potential nest so it’s a good place to watch for a drab female house finch. The recording below begins with finchy call notes and changes to song.
Did you know … ?
- The house finches we hear in Pittsburgh are the descendants of birds illegally transported from California to New York City in 1940. To avoid law enforcement the birds were released on Long Island more than 80 years ago and spread across the U.S.
- Male house finches resemble male purple finches. How do you tell the difference? The belly stripes. Male house finches have brown stripes. Male purple finches have rosy stripes.
Though common grackles (Quiscalus quiscula) nest communally the males always challenge each other to win a favorite lady. You’ll see them puff their feathers and hear them “skrink!”
Northern Mockingbirds (Mimus polyglottos) returned to urban Pittsburgh this month and are claiming their favorite territories with mimicked songs. Though he sounds like a lot of other birds you can identify a mockingbird because he repeats the same tune three+ times before he changes.
Did you know … ?
- Mockingbirds imitate other sounds they hear on their travels including backup whistles and cell phones. The mockingbird in the recording above imitates the Cope’s gray treefrog at 0:48 in the recording.
- Lonely male mockingbirds sing all night.
(photos by Cris Hamilton and from Wikimedia Commons)