A Song for May 27

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Click the sonogram to hear and see the sound.

This cut has three songs by a Brown-backed Solitaire. Each song begins with a few widely-spaced warm-up notes. After a few seconds they are spaced more closely together, and finally they are jammed so tightly that we get a cascade of sound. It is perhaps the strangest bird sound I know. At the least, it seems anomalous for a genus and family noted for its songsters. And yet, it uses special tools shared with its close relatives, the Nightingale-Thrushes (Catharus spp.) to create the complex chords of each note. This bird's innovation is the arrangement of notes more than their acoustics. Several of its congeners (i.e., members of Genus Myadestes) have beautiful songs of muted pure whistles. If we are still doing this next March, you will hear one of them here. And the Cuban Solitaire is as much an acoustic acrobat as this species, albeit with very different tricks.

The solitaires are biogeographically interesting as well. The core range of Myadestes is the great cordillera that runs the length of North and South America. Six species live there. But, the solitaires must be especially good at crossing open water, because they made it to the Caribbean Islands, where two species now occur, and to Hawaii, where at least five species lived until recently. Sadly only two of these are left, the others succumbing to habitat loss and avian malaria carried by introduced mosquitoes, abetted by the wallows of introduced pigs. Two of these were never even recorded. You can hear the Kamao, once the most abundant landbird on Kauai, here.

Other Goodies from May 27

Buff-collared Nightjar
Eared Quetzal

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