A few more raptors would reduce the noise

My wife was working in the garden this morning, while I was vegetating in front of the computer. One of the things Mary does is listen and fire up Merlin Bird ID as she works — paying attention to bird song is supposed to be good for you, you know. This is what she identified in our back yard this morning: Chipping Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, House Finch, Black-capped Chickadee, Common Grackle, Rock Pigeon, Grey Catbird, American Crow, American Robin, Northern Cardinal, White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-eyed Vireo, Willow Flycatcher, Alder Flycatcher, Blue Jay, Common Raven, Eastern Towhee, Black-and-White Warbler, Philadelphia Vireo, House Sparrow, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher, Great Horned Owl, European Starling, Eastern Phoebe, House Wren, American Goldfinch, Downy Woodpecker, Chimney Swift, Dickcissel, American Redstart, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Mourning Dove, Yellow-rumped warbler, Cedar Waxwing, and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.

I thought she made up “Dickcissel,” but apparently it’s a real bird living in the Midwest. I know we’ve got owls in the neighborhood, and also hawks, since this is clearly a great feeding ground.

This does explain why I’m getting up early every morning — the cacophony is tremendous around here.


  1. says

    Happy to say I’m familiar with roughly half of that list; some of those don’t live out here, some are rare, but I mostly know the calls of the more common ones. I was a musician for much of my life–sound is my world, really. I’ve been known to get birdcalls as earworms on occasion.
    I don’t know if it’s good for me, but I do like knowing what sort of creatures are in the vicinity. The lack of curiosity some people have in their surroundings mystifies me.
    I should also point out that the European Starling is a pretty good mimic and has been known to imitate some of those other birds, as well as car alarms and such.

  2. zygoptera says

    Nice diversity of birds!

    I’m always amazed what birds show up on Merlin Bird ID that I’ve never seen in my neighborhood. I also like to check out ebird to see what birds my neighbors are reporting.

  3. silvrhalide says

    @2 Mockingbirds are usually but not always the ones who tend to mimic car alarms, the backup warning beep and so on. I was under the impression that starlings only mimicked other birds.

    PZ, I will take your bird cacophony over the flock of cormorants that have just moved in to one of the local parks and are busy destroying a prime mature shade tree. The good news is that the private conservatory to which the park belongs is already in talks to bring in a falconer to harass the cormorants out of the vicinity. Three immature bald eagles have moved in on their own but don’t seem to have taken on the cormorants just yet, unfortunately.

    The stench from the cormorant dropping is strictly incredible and will only get worse with warmer weather. They’re loud AF too.

  4. AstroLad says

    In south Orange County, CA the crows have driven almost everything else away. Including the mocking birds. I used to see mocking birds dive bombing crows. Haven’t see that in years. The only ones left in our area are a few doves, and sparrows.

  5. StevoR says

    @1. Matt G : “Earth is still a dinosaur planet.

    Avian variety of dino yeah.

    How the mighty therapods have fallen diversified.. (Also shrunk – even eagles, condors & other vultures but still. Never did get close in size to the largest Pterosuars did they? )

    Also still an insect planet, flora planet* and bacteria planet even more.

    Advanced forms of life? What does that mean and matter?

    Numbers and biomass.. massiveness? What do they mean and matter too? Gawd loves his beetles inordinately.. & don’t get Darwin started on barnacles..

    .* Not the eponymous asteroid : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/8_Flora

  6. wzrd1 says

    A few miles down the road, we had a mockingbird that drove me nuts. Mimicking a cell phone should be considered by nature a crime against nature. ;)
    Here, we do have some raptors, although mostly a few hawks and a bunch of bald eagles.
    Haven’t saw them yet, but I’ve heard some doves, plenty of sparrow types about. Alas, no squab on the wing trying to irritate me enough to make it to my oven (yes, I’ve eaten pigeon, it’s actually quite tasty). Ducks and geese are about as well, again, no geese being aggressive enough to make it to the oven (I nearly got to that point once with one gander that was too familiar with humans and super aggressive to the point of biting humans before, but good sense on the part of the goose prevailed).
    Yes, I will defend myself and eat the result. Here’s to hoping no poison ivy tangles me.
    Also saw two spiders on the window this morning. One big spider, another bigger one. Hey, it was dark. But, the web covers an area an inch from my 3×4 foot screen. Bad timing, mayflies are gone, but were heavy right before that web went up.

    My green beans are going nuts, tomatoes are sprouting up nicely, radishes refuse to sprout, basil is a mixed bag, peppers are too soon to tell. I’m also getting incessant one inch tall mushrooms that last the night, then wither, having dropped their spores, tiny hollow frilled with smooth border cap around a half centimeter in diameter.

  7. monad says

    @10 For number of known species, beetles. For number of individuals, prokaryotes, although I think that may be lumping more different groups than people credit. For biomass, apparently vascular plants.

    If you go by individuals or mass for animals, though, it’s not insects that come first — it’s crustaceans. Copepods and krill. Not nearly as many types but this is still an ocean planet first. :)

  8. birgerjohansson says

    You need a nest with magpie chicks to really get the full “song” experience.

  9. birgerjohansson says

    BTW, what was the problem with the raven Poe wrote about? Ravens are not parrots.
    Or did they believe that in the antebellum South?

  10. rblackadar says

    @14 —
    Ravens can be taught to say words — one at the Clovis NM zoo is famous for saying “The hangman’s coming.” (Check it out on Youtube.)

    As for Poe’s problem with that species, I can’t say, but the incident in the poem is not literally impossible. Personally, I love ravens — one of my favorite birds — but will admit that they can have a creepy side. (And not so much for their habit of eating carrion, which I think is a good thing.)

  11. birgerjohansson says

    rblackadar @ 15
    I learn something new every day! I know Caledonian crows are pretty clever, so corvids (and parrots) are pretty extraordinary.
    Especially when you consider the last common ancestors for mammals and birds was the first stem-amniote from which all reptiles evolved.
    So the advanced brains of at least certain birds and of certain mammals evolved independently, during a quarter of a billion years or more.

  12. birgerjohansson says

    A few more raptors?
    PZ: (screams an an unseen animal drags him into a transport cage)

  13. nomdeplume says

    Wow PZ – I thought I had a rich bird fauna in my garden and farm, but I think I am outnumbered!

  14. Jazzlet says

    birgerjohansson @13
    Nah, to get the full magpie experience you need a not quite fledged chick on the lower branches of a hawthorn being threatened by a cat, the cat is in turn being harrassed by all the chick’s relatives, about a dozen of them (I think, they were moving around a lot, divebombing the cat in turn). It’s what the word “cacophony” was coined for, a good half hour of it until the chick managed to get itself high enough to be safe from the cat, At which point the magpies went back to feeding it and it’s siblings/cousins? which were scattered around in other bushes.

  15. Silentbob says

    White-breasted Nuthatch
    Downy Woodpecker
    Yellow-rumped warbler

    Why are they all named after my exes? *ba-dum tisssshhh*

  16. outis says

    Lucky you, enjoying so much birdsong!
    I count thirty-seven different species, and that’s just the ones your wife catalogued. Where I live I can often hear sparrows and crows (obnoxious), blackbirds (very nice) and when lucky a Nachtigall in the evening (the best).
    Jealous, I am.

  17. zygoptera says

    I wonder if your bird species has been affected by the current migration. According to the bird migration forecast map at Bird Cast, Minnesota and Iowa in particular should be getting a fair amount of bird migrants at this time. The map covers the lower 48 states for those of you who might be interested.

  18. johnnyvector says

    Time for my favorite Carbon Leaf song that they never play live.

    Blue Jay, Jackdaw, Loggerhead Kingbird Whip-poor-will Blackbird Black-billed Magpie Finch Raven Hermit Thrush Black Crow.

  19. brightmoon says

    Rock Doves ( NYC variety) mourning doves, sparrows , occasional starlings and one zebra finch who was cool but lonely. Where I used to live I had one dinosaur chase me down the block because she saw me looking for her nest aka a goldfinch . When I was a kid I’d used to see cardinals and blue jays where I live now . I’d see the occasional brant V flying overhead in fall but I don’t think the local ones migrate any more because it doesn’t get cold enough to kill the grass anymore.