The "robin sound-alikes" include the Pheucticus grosbeaks and the
Piranga tanagers. The common features are these: Four to six simple phrases make up a "song."
The phrases are in the same part of spectrum, roughly between 2 and 4 kiloHertz,
and of similar duration, around 300 milliseconds. The songs and the silence between
them are of similar duration. The finer points of these patterns help us tell the
sound-alikes apart. For example, the Western Tanager's phrases all have a distinctly
two-parted cadence. I listen for that when I hear one of the "sound-alikes." Many of their
notes also have a burry quality, a feature shared with the eastern Scarlet Tanager.
Essentially identical is the song of the Western's closest relative, the Flame-colored Tanager,
which has recently showed up in southeastern Arizona.
As you can tell from the background, a lot of birds were singing at the hour when this bird
was recorded. The dawn chorus was in full swing. Dawn had been nearly silent the previous few days as we camped
our way up from Albuquerque to Great Sand Dunes. The breeding season was wrapping up at those lower
elevation sites, but here at 10,000 feet everyone was singing. This tanager has slightly
enhanced his presentation here at dawn by adding a few call-notes in between songs. Warblers
and sparrows do this more intensely. They are all just trying to be heard.