Songbird symphonies: Recognizing bird calls this migratory season

Songbird symphonies: Recognizing bird calls this migratory season

It is peak bird migratory season and if you're an early bird ... you'll likely get the chance to hear one.

But even if you're usually not up with the sun, B.C Director of Bird Studies Canada David Bradley says forests and urban parks are a great place to start if you're hoping to hear a variety of birds and their songs at this time of year.

Bradley told Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC's The Early Edition, that the Pacific Wren is an enthusiastic singer in the early morning, especially "around tall coniferous trees like Stanley Park or other wooded areas."

According to Bradley, living in dense urban areas — like Vancouver — can decrease your chances of hearing this particular songbird.

"They don't like open areas at all so you need to be in pretty dense wooded areas," he explained.

Identifying the unique sounds

If you do get a chance to hear the Pacific Wren, Bradley says it makes a unique sound.

"They're very intricate, very rapid songs," said Bradley, who told Quinn the Pacific Wren also sings "continuously for several minutes at a time," which can make it easier to identify.

Another bird that an amateur birdwatcher — or listener in this case — can keep an ear out for, at this time of year, is the the Rufous hummingbird. Bradly said the bird can be identified by the buzzing sounds it makes. 

"You'll hear them buzzing around quite a bit," said Bradley, although he notes the Rufous hummingbird population is declining.

Birds adapting to urban areas

Not all bird songs are music to the ears.

Bradley said the Northern Flicker is known for drumming repeatedly on fence posts or other wooden structures, which can be annoying to listen to.

According to Bradley, the Northern Flicker creates a nuisance this way if there is an absence or wooded areas or large hollow trees in its environment. When that is the case, says Bradley, the bird will adapt and use its surroundings to produce the sounds.

Bradley said the sounds are both to broadcast its territory to other birds and to attract mates.

"Males do that to try and get females to come and join them but usually ... it's a defined territory," he explained.

Where to listen

Bradley says Queen Elizabeth Park is his favourite place to go in  Vancouver to spot migratory birds because it is on a hill above the city and on cloudy days, birds will stop at the first green areas they see.

"I love Queen Elizabeth Park because the great high spot on a cloudy day like this, birds often are forced down if they're migrating and they seek places like that.

"Some of the first areas they see is a green oasis in the urban jungle."

If you are living in the Lower Mainland and want to venture outside Vancouver, Bradley recommends the Reifel Bird Sanctuary in Delta, B.C.

He says those living in rural areas have a smorgasbord of options available to them to listen to early morning songbird symphonies.

If you think you can already identify the birds by their songs, listen to the full interview with David Bradley below.