Jun 28 2012
I’m fairly good at identifying birds by their songs but there’s one supposedly easy bird that fools me in June.
The hooded warbler’s main song is easy to learn because it has a simple mnemonic, he repeats it five to six times per minute, and he spends more than half his day singing this tune while he’s attracting a mate.
In early May I’m sure of him. “Ta wit, ta wit, ta wit tee yo” is a hooded warbler.
What I didn’t know is that after he’s attracted a mate he sings the other three to eight songs he knows. Forget the easy song I’ve memorized. These are irregular, sung 10 to 12 times per minute, and are his preferred song type in the hour after dawn.
It’s hard for human ears to learn these irregular patterns and they’re different from bird to bird. Each hooded warbler sings his own unique songs. He even recognizes his neighbors by their songs which he remembers from year to year.
I can imagine a hooded warbler returning in the spring and claiming the same territory he had the year before. He sings from his perch and his neighbors respond.
“There’s John on my left again, James on my right… and there’s a new guy behind me. Hmmm! I wonder what happened to Joe.”
The hooded warbler knows his neighbors don’t change their tunes. It just sounds that way to me.
(photo by Steve Gosser)