Birds!

An Intro Guide to A Few Bird Sounds in the Methow

Spring!

The Methow Valley is literally FULL of birds in the spring -- some migrating, some staying for the long haul. We thought it might be fun to help introduce some of the "regulars" you might hear while out and about in the Methow in the spring months.

A quick note from the All About Birds website: "Why are some bird sounds referred to as songs and others as calls? Typically a song is defined as a relatively structured vocalization produced while attracting a mate or defending a territory. Calls tend to be shorter, less rhythmic sounds used to communicate a nearby threat or an individual’s location. Each species and individual has a variety of songs and calls used in different contexts that together make up its repertoire. While the distinction between calls and songs is not always clear, it can be quite ear opening to explore the full repertoires of your favorite songbirds."

Big thanks to Peter Bauer, Tom Grey, and Paul Pinsky for all the beautiful photos on this page and to All About Birds from The Cornell Lab for the links to the sounds and quick bird info.

If this inspires you to learn more, be sure to check out The Cornell Lab's great resources on How to Learn Bird Songs and Calls.

Goldfinch small
Photo by Paul Pinsky

American Goldfinch

Hear their song and calls: Sounds

Quick Description: This bright flash is the state bird of Washington and a common resident in the Methow. The males are looking especially bright in spring, as they molt their feathers twice a year--as they brighten our temperatures warm. While their songs are long and variable, their flight call sounds a lot like a soft whisper of po-ta-to-chip.

Black headed Grosbeak pp small
Photo by Paul Pinsky

Black-headed Grosbeak

Hear their song and calls: Sounds

Quick Description: These prolific western US birds are known to be loud. Like so many birds, the males have very flashy plummage -- but they also share in sitting on nests and feeding the young. Some people think their song sounds like a tipsy robin!

Chipping sparrow pb small
Photo by Peter Bauer

Chipping Sparrow

Hear their song and calls: Sounds

Quick Description: Chances are, you've hear the loud, trilling song of these little guys. Look for these ground foragers in open woodlands or forests or in your backyard.

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Photo by Paul Pinsky

Flicker

Hear their song and calls: Sounds

Quick Description: Ask any homeowner and they'll tell you the Methow definitely has a lot of flickers. Technically the Northern Flicker, this woodpecker is known to drum against your wooden (or even stucco!) siding. When they aren't on your roof drumming away, you might find them on the ground, as they mostly eat ants and beetles. Their song is similar to a Pileated Woodpecker's -- just to keep the novices among us humble.

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Photo by Paul Pinsky

Lazuli Bunting

Hear their song and calls: Sounds

Quick Description: This is one beautiful bird, looking like it is adorned in jewelry from the Southwest. The Lazuli Bunting breeds in the Methow before moving on. Males distinguish themselves with their own combination of notes, making identification a bit of a challenge for us, but a great territory identifier for them!

Macgillivrays Warbler6 tg Small
Photo by Tom Grey

MacGillivray's Warbler

Hear their song and calls: Sounds

Quick Description: The males prefer to sing loudly early in the morning. Early risers, however, may be more likely to hear them than see them, because they often sing while under the cover of shrubs and bushes. Small and stocky, they like to forage for insects.

Magpie C pp small
Photo by Paul Pinsky

Magpie

Hear their song and calls: Sounds

Quick Description: The Methow hosts the black-billed magpie, as does much of western North America. Relatives of crows and jays, magpies like big nests. They can spend up to 40 days building their nests. They are noisy, with sounds that are rather harsh, and visible, often perched on the top of fenceposts or trees.

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Photo by Paul Pinsky

Mountain Bluebird

Hear their song and calls: Sounds

Quick Description: The quintessential bird on a wire photographers love to capture, these cavity nesters like to spend time in the open on perches like nest boxes, fence wire, or even powerlines. Many people keep track of the date they first see the return of the Mountain Bluebirds as their brilliant splash of blue signals a brightening of the landscape as it awakes from winter.

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Photo by Peter Bauer

Nashville Warbler

Hear their song and calls: Sounds

Quick Description: You might be wondering what the "Nashville" Warbler is doing in the Methow -- but even stranger still is the fact that these songbirds who can really belt it out are only found in Tennessee during migration. The white ring around their eyes serves as some "stage make-up" making their eyes appear even bigger.

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Photo by Paul Pinsky

Pine Siskin

Hear their song and calls: Sounds

Quick Description: There's still a lot to learn about these nomadic finches, like why every few years they seem to make a seemingly random "irruption" into the southern and eastern United States. We do know that these songbirds like to travel in flocks and when in flight, they stay in nearly constant contact with ongoing "wheezy" calls.

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Photo by Paul Pinsky

Red-winged Blackbird

Hear their song and calls: Sounds

Quick Description: Appropriately named for the male species, this common bird can especially be found on any cattails in the Methow. Females are actually rather dullish brown, missing that bright patch of red. The males are pretty territorial, with The Cornell Lab reporting that they can spend up to 25% of their daylight time in "territory defense."

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Photo by Tom Grey

Swainson's Thrush

Hear their song and calls: Sounds

Quick Description: These are the flute-players of the forest. They also can be tricky -- some scientists consider them ventriloquists. Either because of reverberation or their quick movement from branch to branch, it can sound like their songs are coming from all around the forest at once.

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Photo by Tom Grey

Warbling Vireo

Hear their song and calls: Sounds

Quick Description: You won't just hear this sweet song in the Methow -- the Warbling Vireo is common throughout North america in the summertime. Decidedly un-flashy in color, they add their splash of vibrancy in the rollicking of their song.

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Photo by Paul Pinsky

Western Meadowlark

Hear their song and calls: Sounds

Quick Description: More often seen than heard, the Western Meadowlark sounds like a flute. Apparently our Western Meadowlarks like to repeat the same 10-12 songs, while the Eastern Meadowlarks have a range of more than 50-100 variations. It's scientific name, Sturnella (starling-like) neglecta, came from John James Audubon who felt that most white explorers overlooked this member of the blackbird family as they moved West.

Western Tanager B pp
Photo by Paul Pinsky

Western Tanager

Hear their song and calls: Sounds

Quick Description: We like to informally keep track of when the tanagers first appear each spring at our office and like clockwork it is often within just a few days each year. Their "tropical" appearance is distinctive and the males like to show it off in a sort of courtship dance right in front of our office windows some days!

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