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A Secret Mimic's Song Quiz

posted by Kenny Frisch at
on Wednesday, March 6, 2013 

 Lesser Goldfinches on my niger feeder

With all the bird song I have been hearing lately as spring approaches, I thought about one of my favorite bird songs and the special quality it possesses.  All year long, one of the most common birds in my yard is the Lesser Goldfinch.  At times in winter I will have over a dozen of these small delightful birds visiting my niger sock and tube feeder.  When spring came last year, it was nice to finally hear their song.  These birds are prolific singers- I had at the University of Utah singing for over 15 minutes straight from the same perch!

Anyways I started noticing that Lesser Goldfinches incorporate the calls of many other bird species seamlessly into their songs.  It isn't like a mockingbird which just repeats bird songs exactly as the other species sings it.  Lesser Goldfinches are more subtle than that.  They will often insert the call right into the song, to the point it makes it hard to realize they are stealing from other birds.  This was how I first figured out that I may have American Kestrels in my neighborhood when I heard a goldfinch sing a kestrel call.  About six months later, I finally saw my first kestrel in my yard (let's hope I hear some other new bird calls in their songs this year).

Here is a recording I made of a Lesser Goldfinch this past September in my yard.  While it isn't as musical as their song in the spring, it still highlights their ability to mimic other bird's calls.  Hopefully I can get a better recording this spring.  How many bird calls can you hear in its song?  (Note: the flicker call you hear is actually a flicker although I have heard Lesser Goldfinches mimic them before)

How many bird calls can you hear?

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Blogger Tim Avery said...

Norther Flicker, Western Scrub Jay, Downy Woodpecker (2 call notes), House Finch, House Sparrow, American Robin, and although there is a Flicker in the background, at :27 seconds it sounds like the Goldfinch trills intro a Flicker then back out.

Those are what I thought I heard...

March 8, 2013 at 7:51 AM  
Blogger matthew pendleton said...

Great observation and blog. I have since been listening more carefully to the lessers in my neighborhood.

March 12, 2013 at 2:32 PM  

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