Tag Archives: birdsong

What bird is this?

The other week my Twitter friend Cindy Bahl sent me a recording of this bird, which she’d heard in Kansas City, Missouri earlier in June. It sounds rather like someone doing something to a piece of sheet metal with a machine that’s painfully in need of lubrication. Can anyone identify the bird?

Here it is, with some background sounds edited out.

Lately I’ve been listening to slowed-down versions of birdsong and bird calls. The result is sometimes much more complex and musical than one would expect. Skylarks, for example, structure their song in a way that sounds very similar to human music. An unpromising chirp can turn into something startlingly beautiful.

So of course, I wanted to try that with this recording and see what I got. Here it is again, slowed down in one-octave steps. (To avoid very long almost-silences, I’ve cut more of the gap between calls each time. So there’ll be inconsistencies if you try to follow what the other birds are doing.)

(The downloadable versions are MP3s, with a total size of 2.4 MB.)

There’s certainly added complexity. The bird is singing a fast and consistent sequence of notes. In the final version, three octaves below their original pitch, they sound a bit as though they’re being played on a pipe organ.

At a sixteenth of the original speed, this becomes a sequence of foghorn or ship’s hooter notes. But it also becomes very murky to listen to, so I haven’t included it.

As for beauty, maybe that’s in the ear of the beholder . . .

If you’ve any idea what the bird is, please leave a comment below.