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Q & A: Strange Bird Sounds

 Q: Morning, I just found this blog and think it is wonderful! My family and I moved out to an acreage west of the city recently, and are wondering about one bird sound that we just can’t ID. We hear it mostly at night and very early morning. It’s an eerie call…. The best way to describe it is a high-pitched kakakaka. Almost sounds like something you’d here in a jungle? If that makes sense? If you have a moment I’d really like your thoughts on this one. Thanks.

A: One possibility is a Wilson’s Snipe, a shorebird found in wet marshy areas.  It makes a display flight, often at night, where the bird flies high in the sky and then dives down at high speed.  The air rushing past its tail feathers produces a sound often described as a fast “woowoowoowoowoo….”  Click on the video below and let me know if that’s the bird or not.

Reply: Thanks!!! That’s the one! We haven’t seen one but we can sure hear them!

Q: I live in south Calgary. At night we have been hearing an unusual call that sounds like a dove or possibly a duck. It is a whistling sound that we often hear passing overhead in the sky while we are in the hot tub.  We  have a seasonal marsh close by that is home to Mallards, Canada Geese, Red-winged Blackbirds, Yellow-headed Blackbirds and more species.   Do you have any idea what could be making this sound? Just wondering!

A:  It sounds to me like you have Mourning Doves. They are quite vocal, and make soft cooing sounds all day and in the evening. When they fly, their wings make a loud whistling noise. They are birds of the grasslands not the marshes, but can generally be found wherever there is food – seeds, insects, etc.

Mourning Dove.  Photo by Anne Elliott. 

Another possibility is Common Goldeneye, a species of duck whose wings make a whistling sound when they fly.

Common Goldeneye.  Photo by Dan Arndt. 

Q: Hi there, I was wondering if you could provide some information.  I awoke in the middle of the night last night and heard a bird singing on Nose Hill behind our house. This was at 2:00 am and this bird sang for over an hour. I tried to find its song on the internet and the nearest I came to it was a nightingale.  Is that even possible here? If not, what kind of bird around Calgary, sings at night? Isn’t that unusual?

Thanks for your help.

A: It’s not that unusual for birds to sing at night.  Some species do it all the time in the breeding season.  It’s difficult to say which one you have there.  There are several species of nightingale, but they are not found in North America.  I’m not too familiar with nightingale songs but a quick listen to them online, plus the location you gave, suggests that your bird might be a Gray Catbird.  They have a long, disjointed song that is a series of squeaky syllables separated by pauses.  They don’t usually repeat the same sound twice in a row, and they can include imitations of other birds, and the occasional cat-like mew.  They are also known to sing at night.  Check out this YouTube video to see what they sound like.  If that’s not the bird, let me know.

Reply: That’s definitely what I heard! Thanks!