This is a blog about the native conifers of the Pacific Northwest. It is a companion to the Northwest Conifers site. The blog will focus on timely and interesting details about our conifers, their connections to the rest of the environment, and our connection to them.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Bird Calls

 One of the great gifts to hikers in the Pacific Northwest is the sound of birds in the forests. Even if you are not a dedicated birder, you can enjoy their chatter. However, you can enhance the experience if you can recognize the calls and songs of different birds. Bird songs are mostly heard in the spring and summer, so fall is a good time to focus on simple calls. Here are some of the calls of common birds heard in the forests of the Northwest. 

American robin. The American robin is a familiar sight in both cities and forests. It has a large vocabulary. The “tut,” “peak," and “whinny,” here are the most common calls. You will commonly see robins pulling earthworms from your yard.
Steller’s jay. Has a series of loud, harsh calls, often in conifer forests. The first three here are common. They also imitate other birds, especially red-tail hawks, probably a good strategy to clear their territory of competing species. Steller’s jays eat conifer seeds, nuts, acorns, and berries. 

Northern flicker. This call is similar to the typical call of a Douglas squirrel. Like most woodpeckers, the northern flicker also drums on trees to communicate with other birds.

Pileated Woodpecker.
This large woodpecker has a loud “cuk cuk cuk cuk” call that echoes through the woods. You can recognize it by its bright red cap. “Pileated” is Latin for “capped.”

Crows are common in cities, often in large flocks, so its “caw” call is all too familiar. 

The common raven is larger and its call is deeper and more resonant. Its translation is “Nevermore.” Ravens are often seen in pairs.

This is one of my favorite little birds, but it is very self-centered: It keeps saying its name, sometimes adding “dee dee dee” at the end. You may hear any of these, but the black-capped chickadee is the most common:
Black-capped chickadee
Chestnut-backed chickadee (pictured)
Mountain chickadee

Red-breasted Nuthatch. Like the knights* who say “Nee,” this little bird also says “Nee,” but much more softly. Also, it never demands a shrubbery. You can see it walking down the trunk of trees eating small insects as it goes.

*Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Spotted Towhee. This ground feeder looks similar to a robin, but it is slightly smaller. It seems to have a hearing deficiency, because it keeps saying, “What?” 

Walk quietly and listen for these birds when hiking in our forests. You may hear some friendly voices calling from the trees.


More info

A Beginner’s Guide to Common Bird Sounds


All About Birds

Birding by Ear

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