What the Robin Knows: Bird Language Audio Library
Listing by Species Type
This page lists the What the Robin Knows audio library tracks by species, so that you can hear a number of the voices for each type of bird. You can also view this listing by Vocalization Type, and get an overview of the Five Voices of bird language here.
Tips For Listening: Notice how the tones and frequencies are typically very different for the songs versus the calls and alarms of each species.Also notice how similar a given species’ calls and alarms can be at times; the observer must depend on context, and perhaps subtle differences in repetition, tone, and other dynamics to determine the true cause of a call. With practice and time in the field, one can learn to differentiate these voices and interpret the deeper stories occurring on the landscape.
You can learn more about differentiating the “Five Voices” in What the Robin Knows, and also in the free BirdLanguage.com e-course.
Thanks to Dan Gardoqui of White Pine Programs, audio and science editor for the book, for producing this compilation.
All recordings used with permission of Lang Elliott, NatureSound Studios in conjunction with What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 2012).
All recordings © Lang Elliott, NatureSound Studio, All Rights Reserved.
Multiple Voices of Common Bird Language Birds
1.Typical song: rhythmic, melodic phrases.
2.Whinny calls†: may be used when agitated, in aggressive encounters, or as a mild alarm.
3.Peek! and tut! alarms†: used as alarm calls, often near nest (can also be used as aggressive voice in intraspecies encounters).
4.High seeee alarm: an alarm call made in proximity to an aerial predator (usually hawk); the high-pitched call is difficult to locate.
5.Typical song: a high, metallic trill (sometimes confused with chipping sparrows).
6.Two-parted song and chips: a variation on a typical song, then contact calls.
7.Kew-kew-kew: calls often used during and after aggressive encounters.
8.Tsit! Tsit! Tsit! alarm: subtle, quiet alarm vocalizations of the Junco.
9. Typical song: usually begins with 2 to 3 clear notes, then a complex array of notes follows.
10. Chip calls: calls often used as an alarm call or when agitated.
11. Seep calls: high, clear contact calls used in families and flocks.
12. Zee calls: calls given by fledglings.
13. Song: regional variation of song is normal in this species.
14. Variation on song: males have a complex repertoire; here’s an example with nasal notes.
15. Alarm: listen to the harsh, raspy notes of this alarm call.
16. Calls: often vary by age and gender.
17. Song: this classic loud, clear song says “tea-kettle, tea-kettle, tea-kettle.”
18. Song: another typical variation says “che-wortel, che-wortel, che-wortel.”
19. Song with female chatter: a male sings while a female pipes in with raspy calls.
20. Ti-dink! calls: loud notes used as contact calls between birds.
21. Dit-dit alarm: urgent alarm calls given by females.
22. Male alarm: persistent, raspy calls like this mean trouble for the wrens.
23. Song: an example of this unique outburst of song.
24. Alarm: persistent, raspy, scolding alarm calls sound similar to other wren alarms.
25. Song: a wavering series of melodic notes (variation in song is normal with this species).
26. Alarm: loud tschat! calls indicate trouble is nearby.
27. Aggressive chatter: used when combating others of its kind.
28. Male songs: a wetland chorus of conk-a-ree.
29. Female calls and song: chack calls and high-pitched chatter song of females.
30. Contact: loud chack! calls used within the flock.
31. Cheer alarm: one of many loud, whistled alarms given by red-wings.
32. Song: examples of loud, clear whistles of cardinal songs; variation is common.
33. Chit and song: typical contact calls, then a “cheer-cheer, whoit, whoit…” song with a “chrrrr” call at tagged into the end (the chrrrr is likely meant a as display of fitness, as it’s believed to be a very sound difficult to make.
34. Alarm: tink! alarm calls (louder and more urgent than chit call notes).
35. Songs: two examples of their song.
36. Mew and chip: Mew call used for a variety of purposes (as an alarm when scolding or mobbing, as a contact call when feeding, and in some male-to-male aggressive situations). Chip calls usually given in moderately alarming situations (e.g., handling by humans).
37. More mew and chip calls: slightly different variations of #36.
38. Song: examples of this loud, complex song from one of the tiniest birds in North America.
39. Chi-dit calls: used mostly as a contact call (both in flight and when perched); also used occasionally in aggressive male chases.
40. Song: examples of one of the most celebrated songs of all North American songbirds.
41. Chup-chup and vreee: the functions of these calls are not entirely known, but the chup-chup is often an alarm used in hostile situations, while vreee may be both an alarm and a contact call.
42. Weeh: this raspy vocalization is mostly used by agitated birds as an alarm call.
43. Song: this easily recognized whistle song says “Oh-sweet-Canada-Canada-Canada.”
44. Seep and pink! : the quieter seep vocalization is used mostly as contact call; the louder pink! is primarily a general alarm call (but can be heard when going to roost as well).
45. Song: typical long, warbling song of the American Goldfinch.
46. Po-ta-to-chip: a contact call given both in flight and when stationary.
47. Bay-bee: an alarm call, given by distressed birds, often at or near the nest. Also mixed in are nasally “what-the-hell” calls, also made by the goldfinches.
48. Chip-pee: a begging call given by persistent fledglings as they follow parents around.
49. Song: the song of the black-capped chickadee is a loud, clear, whistled fee-bee.
50.Chick-a-dee: a variable vocalization with multiple functions, including predator mobbing (in this case, the more dees at the end, the more threatening the predator); as an “all clear” call after the predator has left; or as a food source is located.
51. Alarm: a small flock of chickadees vocalizes in the presence of a sharp-shinned hawk. Listen for all the high-pitched see and rapid fire zap notes mixed in with chick-a-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee (up to 9 dees in this example) alarm calls.
Helpful Game Birds
These ground birds are very useful when it comes to predator detection.
52. Kill-deer: known primarily as a flight display call often in alarm situations, sometimes simply as an assembly call.
53. Te-dit-dit: an alarm call given by wary birds; often head bobbing is associated with this call.
54. Deet!: an alarm call given by birds on the ground, usually near nest.
55. Aggressive trill: a sputtering alarm call given by a bird chasing predator from nest.
56. Assembly or rally call: a common call, chi-CA-go, usually given more than 10 times.
57. Pit-pit-pit: an alarm call given when a predator is detected; can be mixed in with a rally call.
Northern Bobwhite Quail
58. Bob-white!: made mostly by unmated males in the spring (like a “song”).
59. Scatter call: one of the most common contact calls used to locate and coordinate movement of flock members.
60. Alarm: bobwhites use a variety of alarm calls, starting softly and increasing in frequency and intensity as a predator draws nearer.
Known as one of the most intelligent groups of birds, it’s impossible to clearly classify most of their vocalizations. That being said, they’re professional nest robbers, and birds know this. Whenever you hear corvids mobbing or when you notice silent corvids during songbird nesting season, pay extra close attention.
61. Alarm: in this example, the crows are mobbing a human (who is making field recordings of birds).
62. Alarm: here the crows are mobbing a red-tailed hawk.
63. Jeer: used as a contact call as well as in mobbing and other alarming situations. Gradation of calls, ability to mimic, complex vocal abilities, and large vocabulary make classification of Blue Jay calls very difficult.
64. Red-Tailed Hawk call: here the Steller’s Jay mimics the call of a red-tailed hawk. Exact function is unknown, but it’s often given by a hidden bird, maybe to manipulate other wildlife.
65. Alarm: the alarm begins with owl vocalizing and bill snapping (agitation), then magpie scolding calls, more owl hoots, magpie scolds, and so on.
Mammals Useful for Bird Language
While all these calls are not necessarily alarm calls in every context, they’re nonetheless worth learning and investigating when studying bird language.
66. Terrestrial threat: a repeated loud, sharp chip!-chip!-chip! warns of ground predators and threats.
67. Aerial threat: a repeated low, dull cluck-cluck-cluck warns of aerial predators and threats.
68. Chip! trill: usually given by a chipmunk diving for cover from threat.
69. Various calls: begins with scold sequence alarm, followed by territorial chatter (also known as chatter-trill), interspersed with whining calls given in social encounters.
Eastern Gray Squirrel
70. Harsh nasal calls: used as both an alarm and in nonthreatening social situations.
Black-tailed Prairie Dog
71. Social calls: typical squeaky, wheezy social calls of prairie dogs.
72. Alarm: typical high-pitched barks of agitated prairie dogs.
73. Alarm: a deer snort sequence, then snorting while bounding away.
More Voices of Alarm
Songbirds in the presence of raptors.
74. Alarm: a mockingbird mobs a barn owl while making harsh, raspy vocalizations.
75. Alarm: with a Cooper’s Hawk nearby, a purple finch belts out a very strange alarm – a vireo song.