Beach to Bayou - April 2020
- Story by Dena Temple
Ah, spring! Flowers are blooming, the sun is shining, and you are dying to get out of the house! It’s a sign of spring fever, to be sure.
The perfect antidote to your “shelter in place” boredom is a walk through the neighborhood. Most stores may be off-limits, but your local patch of woods is rolling out the red carpet right now.
It’s the ideal time of year for a woodland walk, especially because it is peak bird migration season. Birds that have wintered in the South (some as far as South America) are moving back through our area. Some will stay and nest here, and others will continue as far north as the Arctic tundra to complete their breeding cycle.
Female neotropical migrants tend to be dull-colored and don’t vocalize much. This keeps them safe from predators and helps them to blend into their surroundings.
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If you walk through the woods in the early morning in spring, you’ll be treated to a cacophony of bird sounds. This is known as the “dawn chorus.” The (mostly) male migrants, some of which might have just flown thousands of miles, blast into early-morning song. Some are trying to stake out local territory, and others are just stretching their vocal cords so they’re well-voiced when they get to their own breeding grounds farther north. It’s quite an experience to be surrounded in vibrant, beautiful bird song. More information on this phenomenon can be found here, and a good example can be heard here.
Each species of bird sings a different song, and it can be hard to differentiate between all the sounds in a dawn chorus, especially when your neighborhood “regulars” are mixed in. Do you think you know the songs of your resident birds? We’ve put together this little quiz to see how observant you are. Match the song of the bird on the left from the list of names on the right. We bet you’ll know at least a few. Answers appear below.
Eastern Screech Owl
Recorded in Ashford, Houston County, AL © Jim Holmes
Recorded at Kerr Wildlife Management Area, Kerr County, TX © Mike Nelson
Recorded near Sparks, Washoe County, NV © Bobby Wilcox
Recorded at Green Lane Park, Montgomery County, PA © Brian Henderson
Recorded in Lake Wales, Polk County, FL © Sue Riffe
Recorded in Stanardsville, Greene County, VA © Peter Boesma
Recorded in Jamaica Bay Nat’l. Wildlife Refuge, Queens, NY © Ted Floyd
Recorded in Oxford, Lafayette County, MS © J.R. Rigby
Recorded in Sharon, Norfolk County, MA, © Will Sweet
We hope you enjoyed this quiz and that it helps you pay more attention to the sounds of nature around you! Our thanks to the extensive bird recording library at Xeno-Canto for free use of these audio recordings.