North by Northwest

There are few species in North America as ambiguous as Northwestern Crow (Corvus caurinus). Even in a group of birds that are exceedingly similar the differences between American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) and Northwestern Crow are minuscule at best. The only “surefire” way to tell them apart is by range; however a number of sources also cite vocal differences as a distinguishing characteristic. [Read more]

The Dawn Song of Brown Creeper

If you had asked me six months ago whether Brown Creeper had a distinctive dawn song, I would have told you no. But as a matter of fact, it does. [Read more]

Video Library: Large Gulls

The internet is full of wild bird videos. If you want to learn about the behavior and vocalizations, it can be a great place to start, at least for certain species. Gulls are a terrific example. [Read more]

What Gulls Say

Gull enthusiasts are weird. They hang out at landfills. They go to the beach when it’s freezing cold, or just to see what’s in the parking lot. They’ll stare at a single bird for hours, puzzling over insanely minute details. When it comes to identifying a mystery gull, they look at everything; they ignore nothing. Except vocalizations. [Read more]

The “Two-part Calls” of Empidonax

As far as I know, three species of Empids give these calls. In one species, the two-part call is familiar enough to be mentioned in field guides, at least. The two-part call of the second species is described only in the scientific literature. And that of the third is, as far as I know, being described in this blog post for the first time. [Read more]

King and Clapper Rails

Most of the time, the presence of one of these rails is announced solely by their loud, unmusical calls, leaving us to identify them solely by voice. It isn’t always possible, but today we’ll talk about when and how it can be done. [Read more]

How Fast Is That Vireo Singing?

I can still remember the first time I heard a vireo “complex song”. I was taken completely by surprise, not even knowing Plumbeous Vireos had it in them to sing so awesomely. [Read more]

Identifying Eastern and Western Warbling Vireos

Eastern (gilvus group) and western (swainsonii group) Warbling Vireos may represent two species, and if they are ever split, song would be the best way to identify them. [Read more]

A Dove Detective Story

It’s difficult to take your camera to a local park and capture a bird plumage or behavior that has never before been photographed. But it’s about twenty times easier to make an audio recording of a call or behavior that has never before been audio recorded. And finding out what kind of sound you’ve recorded takes real detective work. [Read more]

Identifying Black-capped Gnatcatchers

Separating Black-capped Gnatcatchers from the more numerous Blue-gray Gnatcatchers can be a real challenge. Voice is a key field mark, but good descriptions and recordings of Black-capped Gnatcatcher vocalizations have until recently been in short supply. We’ll try to alleviate some of the confusion today. [Read more]