Differentiating the Trilling Songsters

Below, I will attempt to highlight the differences between the trilling songsters most commonly encountered here in eastern Ontario! I hope you enjoy this segment 🙂

Song clips and discussion

Chipping Sparrow: Chipping Sparrow songs are characterized by their lengthy song bout and dry, mechanical song quality. The length (seconds) of the sound bout is a handy clue. The quality of the trill is less musical (Pine) and less buzzy (Palm) than the other trillers. The speed of the trill is too high to count the individual notes. Sound clip: http://www.xeno-canto.org/327741

Dark-eyed Junco: Dark-eyed Junco songs are characterized by their relatively short song bout and ringing song quality. This ringing quality is akin to the quality of a rotary dial phone. The speed of the trill is variable but generally it is slower than Chipping, and thus is slightly more musical to the ear. The trouble with Dark-eyed Juncos is that they can sing a faster, drier trill as well, which may cause confusion with Chipping Sparrow. Listen to this “variant song” closely, and analyze its length (seconds) in comparison to the characteristically lengthy song bout of Chipping Sparrows. Sound clip: http://www.xeno-canto.org/247781

Swamp Sparrow: Swamp Sparrow songs are characterized by their characteristically countable notes and musical, wet song quality. The “wet” quality is discernible with practice (the light smacking sound of opening and closing one’s mouth); this wet sound coalesces each musical loop to the trill. As with Dark-eyed Juncos, Swamp Sparrows have slower and faster trills to their repertoires. Regardless of the speed of the trill to the song bout, the musical and wet song quality shines through. With this species, consider habitat an important clue in your species determination as well. Sound clip (faster): http://www.xeno-canto.org/138011. Sound clip (slower): http://www.xeno-canto.org/184305

Pine Warbler: Pine Warbler songs are characterized by their characteristically short song-bouts and musical quality to their trills. Pine often exhibit an alternating pattern (fast one song bout, followed by slow the next, and vice versa) to their songs, as well (unique among the trillers). Pine Warbler songs are quite gentle to the ear and lack a harsh, dry, mechanical quality. The notes are clear and liquidy, unlike the buzzier quality of, say, a Palm Warbler. Listen for a crescendo to the trills of Pine Warblers; once you hear it, it provides a great clue! The length of the song bout is characteristically short, typically being less than 2.5 seconds in length. Sound clip: http://www.xeno-canto.org/316727. Sound clip (example of alternating pattern): http://www.xeno-canto.org/81084

Palm Warbler: Palm Warbler songs are characterized by their characteristically slow-tempo and buzzy song quality. The notes are not clear and musical, nor are they dry and mechanical. They are buzzy and “scratchy” to the ear. There are two subspecies of Palm Warblers, and in keeping with the simplified theme to this post, any differences between the quality of their songs will be discussed at another time. Audio clip (Yellow Palm): http://www.xeno-canto.org/52339. Audio clip (Western Palm): http://www.xeno-canto.org/104660