Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Birds of the Forest

If you have a bird feeder in your yard, you may have become familiar with some of the common birds of the open habitat, like the Bluejay, the Northern Cardinal and the Robin here in Pennsylvania. These birds can be seen at the feeder all year round and are easily identified by their bright colors and distinct calls.

But some of the most common, colorful and musical birds in Pennsylvania are almost never seen. These are the birds that inhabit the big forests, away from the edges where people live. These birds perch in the large oaks, maples and birches that make up the big woods, hidden high up in the summer foliage. The only way some of these birds can be detected is by their colorful and lyrical songs. This post will describe four common big woods birds, with links to sound files so you can hear what they sound like. Click on the bird name to hear the sound, each courtesy of the USGS.

The first bird is the most colorful bird in Pennsylvania, the Scarlet Tanager. Male Tanagers have the brightest red of any songbird in North America, but the females are pale shade of yellow/green designed to look like any one of the leaves growing in early June. The pattern of their song is very similar to that of the American Robin, with just a touch of raspiness.

The Ovenbird is a ground dweller, but his small frame and plain brown plumage make him difficult to see. Their loud call goes "Teacher, Teacher, Teacher". These birds will build their nests on the ground, so be careful where you step when you're close.

Next is the Wood Thrush. These birds have a distinctive lilting quality to their call. These are plain birds as well, with colors that make them tough to spot. The Robin is a type of thrush, and once you are familiar with the Wood Thrush's song, you can hear the family resemblance.

Finally, there's another type of thrush that makes my favorite call of all: the Veery. This bird has the same musical quality to its voice as the Wood Thrush, but sings in a descending "Whew Whew, Woo Woo" pattern. These move through the forest quickly, never pausing to sing in one place for very long.

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