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Blackbirds' Strange Music

Is that a catfight or a bird?
© Gail West View Large

Blackbird songs have a strange music. The Red-winged Blackbird can be heard in nearly every marsh on the continent — bold, brassy, and piercing. The songs may not seem musical, but they definitely get your attention. Brewer’s Blackbirds, which live in open habitats like farms and grasslands, make a wet, slap-in-the-face sound. The combined voices of Tricolored Blackbirds — like this one in a California marsh — sound like a snarling catfight. Another Western bird, the Yellow-headed Blackbird, makes raucous growls, wails, and whistles.

Today’s show is brought to you by White Flower Farm, a family-owned mail order nursery offering a wide range of perennials, annuals, and shrubs for early summer planting.

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®

The Strange Music of Blackbirds

Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote.
[Red-winged Blackbird song, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/191788, 0.09-.14]
Blackbird songs have a strange music. The Red-winged Blackbird can be heard in nearly every marsh on the continent, bold, brassy and piercing.
[Red-winged Blackbird song, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/191788, 0.09-.14]
The songs may not seem terribly musical, but they definitely get your attention. 
Brewer’s Blackbirds, which live in open habitats like farms and grasslands, have one of the most abrupt songs of any bird — a wet, slap-in-the-face sound [Brewer’s Blackbird song, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/120237, 0.37]. Yeah, that was it. Listen again: [Brewer’s Blackbird song, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/120237, 0.37]
And what sounds like a snarling catfight [Tricolored Blackbird songs, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/205795 , 0.45-.52] are the combined voices of Tricolored Blackbirds in a California marsh. [Tricolored Blackbird songs, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/205795 , 0.45-.52]
Equally arresting are the raucous growls, wails, and whistles of another Western bird, the Yellow-headed Blackbird [Yellow-headed Blackbird song, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/164690, 1.05-1.14]
Which on close listen, isn’t that far from the song we started with – the Red-Winged Blackbird. [Red-winged Blackbird song, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/191788, 1.05-1.14]
For BirdNote, I’m Mary McCann.
Today’s show is brought to you by White Flower Farm: a family-owned mail order nursery offering a wide range of perennials, annuals, and shrubs for early summer planting. More information is at whiteflowerfarm.com.

                                        ###

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. 191788 recorded by Bob McGuire, 120237 recorded by Geoffrey A Keller, 205795 recorded by Gregory F Budney, and 164690 recorded by Gerrit Vyn.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Sallie Bodie
© 2017 Tune In to Nature June 2017 Narrator: Mary McCann
ID#           blackbird-03-2017-06-30    blackbird-03

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