Is there any sound more beautiful than the melodious mixture of bird songs in early spring? When I stepped onto my deck early this morning, I admit that the mating songs of the various species of birds caught me by surprise. No matter what’s going on with our human species, the birds continue to raise their voices in song. I began to wonder just what kind of birds are singing such beautiful songs. Whether we realize it or not, many of the most common species of birds and their songs are all around us even as we go about our daily tasks. Many of these birds can be seen in cities, suburbia, and rural areas alike, and will come to our backyard birdfeeders.
One of the most well-known birds in our country is the male Northern Cardinal or “redbird” with his red body and crest, and black markings on his face. He represents seven states and is the mascot for many sports teams. His chirp is short and sweet. The Blue Jay is unmistakable because of his bright blue body and distinct blue, black, and white stripes on his wings. He is the “bully” of the bird family, and his blunt, loud call lets everyone know that when he’s around, he is the “boss”.
The soft cooing of the Mourning Dove can be heard from the woodlands to the cities. They are easily startled at the feeder, and will flutter away if frightened. The soft gray-brown coloring, and light-blue eye ring match their soft, mournful call and shy personality.
When you hear the loud cacophony of the Black Birds’ calls, you may not realize that this bird is actually the “gifted” species of the Corvus family. When Aesop wrote this bird into his fables, he relied on the fact that Black Birds are smart. Not only have members of this avian family been seen using sticks for tools, but they are also good at problem solving.
The European Starling was introduced into the United States in 1890 by a gentleman who thought every bird mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays should be represented in America. They are found in flocks, and have dark feathers with an oily sheen, and a bright, yellow bill. However, they have a high-pitched, squeaky call that has a “metallic” sound.
Dark-eyed Juncos will appear when the temperatures turn colder, and therefore, are known as “snowbirds”. These tiny birds are found around feeders on the ground picking up dropped seeds. The eastern version sports a white belly, slate head and back, with small, black eyes. They are backyard favorites, and prefer coniferous habitats. The Black-capped Chickadees are easily identifiable by their “chickadee-chickadee” call. Found mostly in the northern United States, they prefer wooded areas, but are frequently seen at backyard feeders.
The white-breasted NutHatch is an acrobatic, little bird who prefers to be upsidedown some of the time. He will hide his edible finds from the backyard feeder in loose tree bark to snack on later. He is known by his slate back, white breast, black-capped head, and his short “yank-yank” call. The unmistakable whistle of the Tufted Titmouse, “peter-peter-peter,” can be heard in conjunction with many of the other backyard feeders. This little, gray bird lives in the deciduous and mixed forests in the eastern part of the U.S.
The common House Sparrow is comfortable living in human environments and is easily identified by its mixture of brown, and gray, and a black patch on its chin. The male bird with the largest black patch on its chest is the leader of the flock as this species live in a “military-like unit”. Their call is a “chirp-chirp-chirp.” Found in suburbia and the urban areas of the U.S. is the House Finch. In 1940, these southwestern birds were released into the East by New York pet-shop owners who were found to be illegally selling them. Now they are prevalent everywhere, and easily recognizable by a splash of red on their face that fades into their chest. Their song is light and pleasing to the ear.
The American Goldfinch is a cheerful, little bird with its splash of yellow coloring. However, in the winter the male changes color to match the female, and trades its yellow plumage for olive-colored feathers. It inhabits the northern U.S. year-round, but can be found in the southern regions during the winter. Its song is filled with repeated, cheery notes.
Finally, if you hear a rapid, tapping sound like a small hammer against a wooden surface, then look for the Woodpecker. He will be busily tapping to secure a snack from the bark of a nearby tree, but he can be lured to your birdfeeder by suet. Woodpeckers need extra-long tongues to reach the insects inside the trees. The Red-bellied Woodpecker can extend his tongue two inches past his beak. All Woodpeckers are blessed with built-in shock absorbers in that they have extra muscles behind their beaks and enlarged, reinforced skulls that protect their brains. The Woodpecker’s chirp is a quick, short note that he pauses and repeats.
The next time you are out and about, stop for a moment and appreciate nature’s choir. These little harbingers of spring will elevate your mood, and lift your spirits. All you have to do is listen!
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