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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

BirdNote®: Strange Sounds

Air Date: Week of

A pair of barred owls perch on a tree branch. (Photo: Mike Maquire, CC)

Birds can make an amazing array of sounds, from the call of a male Yellow Rail that sounds like someone tapping two stones together, to Rhinoceros Auklets that have a call resembling a muted chain saw. BirdNote®’s Michael Stein reports.


DOERING: Scientists estimate that there are around ten thousand or so different species of birds today, each with its own strange and wonderful calls. BirdNote®’s Michael Stein has more.
Strange Sounds

[Call of Yellow Rail] Some bird calls can sound like somethin’ else altogether! For example, one could easily mistake the call of a male Yellow Rail, [Call of Yellow Rail] for someone tapping two small stones together.

What about this sound? [Turkey Vultures hissing] They’re Turkey Vultures hissing at one another over a carcass!

What about this plaintive whistle? [Call of a male Black Scoter] That’s the call of a male seaduck, a Black Scoter.

And what could possibly be going on here? [Caterwauling of Barred Owls] That’s a duet between a male and female Barred Owl!

And this one? [Call of Rhinoceros Auklet] Do we have a miniature cow with a chain saw? No, that’s the call of the Rhinoceros Auklet, a seabird, deep in its nest burrow.

Finally, what bird call resembles the howl of a wolf? [Wail call of the Common Loon] That’s the wail call of the Common Loon.

What an amazing array of sounds birds have to offer.

Ours are brought to you by arrangement with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Hear them all again at birdnote.org. [Wail call of the Common Loon]


Bird vocalizations provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Call of the Yellow Rail ML 125394 recorded by Thomas Sander; Turkey Vultures by Greg Clark; Black Scoter ML 130900 by Gerrit Vyn; Barred Owls ML 63003 David Herr; Rhinoceros Auklet ML 110904 Thomas Sander; Common Loon ML 107963 S.R. Pantle.
BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and produced by John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2015 Tune In to Nature.org May 2015 / October 2023
Narrator: Michael Stein
ID# sound-09-2015-5-30 sound-09


DOERING: For pictures, flap on over to the Living on Earth website, LoE.org.



Listen to this story on the BirdNote® website


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