Dawn Song of a Great Crested Flycatcher

Already the early morning chorus is much less exuberant and crowded than three or four weeks ago. This morning one cardinal began singing a little after 5:00 am, joined about 5:15 by a bluebird and several minutes later by a phoebe. About 5:45 other birds began to sing or call, including the pik-a-tuk calls of a summer tanager, the spees of blue-gray gnatcatcher and songs of Carolina wren, chipping sparrow, chickadee, titmouse and the whinny of a downy woodpecker. These are the birds I can hear from a window facing the front yard – not the woods and back where there might have been a Louisiana waterthrush, Acadian flycatcher, northern parula, red-eyed vireo, yellow-throated vireo, scarlet tanager, maybe even a wood thrush – or not.

The most persistent song this morning – and the closest to my open bedroom window – came from a great-crested flycatcher giving a soft, musical, almost purring two-part song. Over and over it called wheer, whurr; wheer, whurr; wheer, whurr. The sound was intimate and low, very different from its loud daytime calls. After 30 minutes or so, I have to say, it became a little monotonous. Still, it was unusual to hear, and interesting.

The dawn chorus, such as it was, ended about 6:15 with the flourish of a full, dry, drawn-out call from a yellow-billed cuckoo. A cardinal, bluebird, phoebe, and Carolina wren continued to sing here and there, as they would all day, and a summer tanager sang in the distance, but the first flush of early-morning music was over, and the sun was about to come up.

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