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Bird Language

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All throughout the year, birds have many ways that they vocalize, which are guided by many different reasons. They don’t just sit on a branch and sing, but rather have a whole range of sounds that reflect what they’re experiencing.

Revered naturalist, Jon Young, points out that even though the sounds themselves are different, vocalization types are consistent across species and can be divided into five “voices” of bird language:

  1. Song – the melodic notes heard most often in the Spring as individuals (often males) make their territory known to others
  2. Companion calls – the sounds birds make to contact members of a flock or their mate; regular, short chips or tweets
  3. Alarm calls – the sounds birds make in reaction to threats (e.g. a predator) can be similar in sound to a companion call, but the emotional quality is agitated
  4. Juvenile begging – loud, raucous begging by young birds heard most often in Spring
  5. Aggression – often involves loud squawking, accompanied by flapping; is usually a conflict over territory between individuals of the same species

On your next spring visit to High Park, focus on getting to know these five “voices” for a small handful of local species. This will help you figure out when these birds are in baseline behavior, like with the first four types of vocalizations, or when something is creating a disturbance in the area.

To learn more about birds with the High Park Nature Centre, check out our “Birds of the City” Online Naturalist Course for adults!

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