A Song for June 15

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Click the sonogram to hear and see the sound.

I had an outstanding Hermit Thrush available today, and an unbelievably clear and loud Golden-crowned Kinglet, and an ebullient Winter Wren, all on Mt. Mitchell, NC. In Alaska, two Fox Sparrows were candidates to introduce you to that group of songsters. But sometimes simple elegance prevails. I think this is the most elegant North American bird song I know. Several Golden-crowned Sparrows were there at Ninilchik, with the sun setting over Cook Inlet as 10 p.m. approached. They were singing from the tops of the ubiquitous willows, and any other available perch, even the roof of a church. His song easily pierces the noise of the occasional car passing by on Alaska 1.

The Golden-crowned Sparrow is a Pacific specialty, nesting in Alaska and at timberline south to Mt. Rainier, and wintering in numbers in the coastal states south of there. To the east, along the northern fringe of the boreal forest, is the Harris's Sparrow and south and east of it, in the boreal forest, is the White-throated Sparrow. All three of these fill the air with mournful whistles. Overlapping all of them is the White-crowned Sparrow, which adds buzzes and trills to a whistle or two, and way to the south, from the Isthmus of Tehunatepec to Tierra del Fuego, is the Rufous-collared Sparrow, a species that uses whistles and slow trills in a multitude of ways. Together they comprise the genus Zonotrichia, a well-studied people-friendly group that has taught us much about the lives of birds.

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