Date: 8/1/20 9:03 am
From: Joette Borzik <pep4223...>
Subject: confusing bird sounds - Jefferson County yard
Yesterday late afternoon I stepped outside for a minute or 2 to feed my koi fish. While standing on my porch above, I was dropping food down to my koi from above. I love doing this. My fish always experience food falling out of the sky (which it does at my house). It's like how some wasteful people believe money grows on trees. Urban folklore.

While the fish food was falling, I saw three small birds flying across my horizon, vocalizing the entire way. It was quick, and only naked eye viewing. I wasn't paying attention to their trajectory so much as what they were vocalizing. Wow, did it sound interesting. It sounded like squeaky toys, and the first bird that came to mind for this bird vocalization was Red-breasted Nuthatch. Could these 3 dark, but small moving bird silhouettes be Red-breasted Nuthatches? I reminded myself that it was July 31, and although I have seen Red-breasted Nuthatches in my yard, it was always during migration. Could it be a very early migration? That would be nuts! Or nuthatches!!!!???

So this morning, I dug into the Macaulay Lab files searching for truth. I wish I paid more attention to the silhouette of the mystery birds, but it was only a few seconds view, and my ears were in awe, not my eyes. And I was feeding hungry fish. I knew it was probably a flight call, since they were flying (duh!), and there were 3 birds, so started looking at flight calls. Flight calls for the Red-breasted Nuthatch are lacking in the lab files. Not surprising, as it is an unusual time to be set up to record songs. I did not hear the typical yank yank call from my mystery birds, so I eliminated all clips that had the yank call in them. Nothing left.

I did see some goldfinches flying around, so then searched for flight songs and uncommon songs or calls of the American Goldfinch in the library. I found one that had only one second of the sound I heard. Just imagine 3 birds flying together quickly across your horizon, only making a repeated squeak, squeak, squeak sound, like a Red-breasted Nuthatch when it sounds like a squeaky toy. If you stop this sound clip below at the 0:10 second mark, you will hear just the squeak that I heard repeated over and over again, with no other sound.

Try it. The sound at the 0:10 mark sounds like a Red-breasted Nuthatch, but the answer to this quiz question is...

American Goldfinch

...and goldfinches are late breeders, and this is a courtship, display or copulation vocalization by our beloved soundman Wil Hershberger recorded in Frederick, Maryland in 1998. Wil--your recordings just keep on giving...

Mystery solved. If the link does not work for you, go to the Macaulay Lab online and search for ML94299.

Jefferson County, WV
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