The Dizzying Calls of This “Concert” Bird

Above: A type of blackbird: Quiscalus mexicanus. Photo by Patrick Coin.

This bird may not have a sophisticated flight pattern or plumage or variegation of color, but instead, it presents us with a dizzying “chorus” of sounds!

The blackbird or more specifically the grackle I am studying, listening to, and practically living with for over two months now, closely resembles the great-tailed grackle or Mexican grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus). But the bird I hear does not sound the same as the latter specie or any of the below:

  • Nicaraguan grackle (Quiscalus nicaraguensis)
  • Common grackle, (Quiscalus quiscula)
  • Boat-tailed grackle (Quiscalus major)

Regardless, let me describe the bird I am observing.

It is black with an iridescent blue tinge. The smaller version of this blackbird, which is a dull brown, and not black and shimmering blue, should be the female. The brown versions are relatively quiet, but I have heard one make a crackling sound.

Above and below. Minutes after sunset, dozens of blackbirds fly to this particular tree, which has many layers of leaves.

This blackbird is not directly social with humans, and it is not physically drawn to birds outside its species. I rarely have seen it on the same branch at the same time, like say, with the “Urraca” bird, but if this blackbird is on the same branch, it is for only a moment or two.

Instead, they are drawn to certain trees at certain times of the day. For example, minutes after sunset, dozens of blackbirds fly to a tree that has many leaves. In contrast, during the mid-day, that same tree contains relatively few birds on it.

Above. This blackbird is comparatively mute during the day as it can stay on a branch for minutes, flutters its tail a lot, all without saying anything.

When it stands awake in one place, it can be quiet for minutes, and then it makes a sound. Another time, even when it was not cleaning itself, it fluttered its tail a lot.

When in flight, it flies relatively straight in one line, versus acrobatic high dives like the “swallow” bird (Chapter 10) or the “yellow bird” (Chapter 11); change direction in mid-air, like the egret (Chapter 8), or glide for a long time, like a raptor or bird of prey. Instead, most notably, the blackbird has its many sounds!

In the early morning and evening, when they congregate in large groups, they sound like an evening concert. At the crescendo of the varied sounds, many of them make sounds for ten minutes. Then suddenly, all goes quiet.

In the late evening, there are only one or two sounds from a handful of birds, and the “concert” or simultaneous sounds do not start again until the next morning, as early as 4:10 am. Then they crescendo to a fevered pitch about 5:30 am.

Now, we will enter into the world of the identification of a species primarily by their sound. Once we identify the sounds of this blackbird, if we hear a non-blackbird sound, we know it is coming from another type of bird or animal.

As a group, the blackbirds emit a “chorus” of sounds in various rhythms, volumes, pitch, and tones. There are at least seven dramatic and distinct sounds, which I list below. Phonetic sounds are in quotations. Also, I tell you the frequency the sound is uttered; then, a description or note may follow.

Here are the various sounds this bird makes:

Above. Above is an audio recording, which is unedited during the entire nine minutes, so you can hear the length of silences or lack thereof, between sounds: the individual sounds and the composite sounds.  As there are other birds and possibly other animals heard in this recording, I will only explain or point out the blackbird sounds.

“Whoops”

  • “Whoop,” then two to seven “whoops,” which is one of the most common sounds this bird makes.

“Cheeps” and “Squawks”

  • Three to ten quiet and fast “cheeps.”
  • “Cheep,” then three to ten “squawks.”
  • One to three duck “squawks,” or a crackling sound, like something was burned in a fireplace.
  • a quick duck-like “squawk”

Other

    • Rustle, squeal! Shake, shake, shake; or, just a rustle and squeal!
    • Two bicycle horn-like sounds.
    • One to nine single short flute “toots.”
    • Four fusillade or one long fusillade, followed by three to ten fast fusillades, which sound like darts that fly by, or little pellets being ejected continuously.
    • Three to four synthesizer-like sounds.

Hopefully, by now, you can grasp the type of sounds this bird can make, and when you are traveling about somewhere, you can say, “This bird sounds like a blackbird I know about.”

Now, we move onto a less concert-like bird, that is usually seen a distance away from us. See next Chapter 13: The Birds That Keep Their Distance.

Chapters

  1. This Side of the Hemisphere: Easy Access to Wildlife
  2. Saved by a Tin Bag
  3. Revenge of the Jungle Ants
  4. The Bird from Heaven
  5. The “Research” Center
  6. TBD
  7. What A Cow Would Do That a Sane Person Would Not Do
  8. What Stands Around A Lot and Is Ready to Strike?
  9. Wild Horses that Try to Mind Their Own Business
  10. Birds Take Turns to Pick Up Food
  11. TBD
  12. The Dizzying Calls of This “Concert” Bird
  13. The Birds That Keep Their Distance
  14. TBD
  15. TBD

 

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