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April 5, 2014 / Leslie

Weekend Birding: The Sounds of Spring

Winter is a quiet time. No birdsong and barely a chirp out of most species. With the arrival of spring and the upcoming mating season, there is a change in the air. Around the time of the vernal equinox, the start of longer days than nights, birds begin to sing. Some species begin singing a few weeks earlier. In my (unscientific) observations, some singing appears to be triggered by the number of daylight hours from dawn to dusk rather than sunrise to sunset.

Why do birds sing?

Birds sing to attract and impress a mate and to claim territory. In some species females judge mates by the quality of the song, in others the loud and persistent singers will attract the females.

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

Some songs are loud and repetitive like the male Red-winged Blackbird. He will spend the entire breeding season fiercely and loudly defending his territory and mates. When I walked past the marsh earlier this week, the Red-winged Blackbirds were the first birds I heard and this one was only too happy to display his gorgeous red feathers while calling out his song.

The Northern Cardinal has been cheerfully singing for a few weeks as has the Song Sparrow, but this past week I began to hear the delightful song of the American Robin, the definitive indicator of spring for many of us in North America. Robins have finally broken up their winter flocks and are claiming nesting territory in backyards, parks and woodlands.

American Robin

American Robin

Robins are very approachable, don’t mind people and are usually happy to pose for a photo. I saw many singing robins but instead chose to photograph this shy bird that ran off into the brush when he or she saw me. From the pale coloring, this is probably a female or a first-year male. Adult males are more brightly colored and have a glossy black head and back.

Not all birds sing

Woodpeckers drum on trees to produce their song, choosing a dry or hollow branch that will produce a loud sound. This declares their territory and females of the same species will recognize and be attracted to their “song”. Both males and females also have a loud call and various sounds for communication, but the drumming is the equivalent of singing during mating season.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

This male Red-bellied was not only drumming loudly but also beginning work on a nest cavity. I hope he wasn’t too disappointed that his drumming attracted me rather than a female woodpecker.

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

The geese weren’t making much noise but several pairs were walking or swimming along the river, presumably searching for a good place to start their nest. They mate for life so don’t have to go through the business of attracting a new mate every spring. The female selects the site, builds the nest and does all the incubation. The male’s job is to guard her and the nest. My job was to watch where I was stepping!


Saturday Snapshot was originated by Alyce at At Home With Books. It is now hosted by Melinda of West Metro Mommy. Visit her blog to see more great photos or add your own.

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Leave a Comment
  1. Sandra Nachlinger / Apr 5 2014 11:31 am

    Your bird photos are gorgeous! I remember seeing red-winged blackbirds along the Texas coast–that flash of red was always a delight.


  2. Sean @ His and Her Hobbies / Apr 5 2014 11:36 am

    Great photos! I have never seen a woodpecker up close but once in a while I will hear it pecking away in the woods near our home.



    • Leslie / Apr 5 2014 11:41 am

      This is the best time of year to see and find birds – they are making noise and there are no leaves on the trees yet.


  3. Rita @ My Home of Books / Apr 5 2014 11:43 am

    We have all those types of birds here by me and they are beautiful to see! I am especially happy to see the Robins eating insects on my property. Hopefully Spring has sprung in my neck of the woods. Have a great week.


  4. AnaLuciaSilva / Apr 5 2014 11:46 am

    Great shots =)


  5. Suko / Apr 5 2014 12:20 pm

    Gorgeous, gorgeous photos! Spring–at last!–such a wonderful season.


  6. Beth Hoffman / Apr 5 2014 12:49 pm

    Thank you for this wonderful post and amazing photos. The red-winged blackbird is my absolute favorite bird, and the photo you shared is awesome!


  7. BermudaOnion / Apr 5 2014 3:00 pm

    I love listening to the birds – it’s so relaxing. We have a pair of Canada Geese hanging around our neighborhood a lot right now and we’re hoping they’ve got a nest hidden away.


  8. irene / Apr 5 2014 3:19 pm

    Yup! spring seems to arrive, not so much here, but I have seen one robin and a great many geese.


  9. Brona / Apr 5 2014 5:16 pm

    I love how you caught the first bird with an action shot. He’s beautiful.


  10. Paulita / Apr 5 2014 6:32 pm

    I heard a woodpecker this morning as I finished my run. I wonder if the robins aren’t leaving Ohio during the winter any more. It seems like I seem them year round. I know the Canada Geese aren’t leaving. Here’s Mine


  11. Louise / Apr 5 2014 6:43 pm

    It must be eerie having a silent winter. I’ve never noticed if ours is. I don’t think so. We do have resident birds like magpies year round that make a fair amount of noise- I’ll have to pay attention here this year (autumn is just starting for us of course). I love the photo of your red-winged black bird, I’ve never seen them, but would love to. I always like seeing Canada geese- so far I’ve seen them in Canada, Wales and New Zealand! Do wood pecker drum instead of sing? I thought that their pecking was for finding food in the wood.


  12. Sue / Apr 5 2014 10:19 pm

    Great photos, especially the action in that first one. Nice choice of subjects, too.


  13. readerbuzz / Apr 6 2014 4:08 am

    These are amazingly close and clear shots. Wow!

    Here’s my Saturday Snapshot.


  14. Ginny / Apr 6 2014 5:56 am

    I love the woodpecker shot. Apparently they are becoming more common in the UK. I also found the Canadian goose interesting. My son’s best friend has one, which lives in a pen in his garden. He brought up from a rescued chick. It has bonded with him so much that they take her out for walks like a dog, but she does not relate to wild geese at all. I think he has her for life.


  15. Vicki / Apr 6 2014 9:11 am

    All your photos are beautiful as usual! My favorites are the Red-winged Blackbird and Red-bellied Woodpecker.


  16. Leeswammes / Apr 6 2014 2:01 pm

    Great pictures! Like Vicki, I especially love the blackbird and the woodpecker.


  17. Beth F / Apr 7 2014 6:12 am

    I always love your bird photos and informative posts. We have a great variety of woodpeckers here. I’ve even spotted a pileated woodpecker (though haven’t gotten a photo yet).


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