Blackbirds, Orioles, Meadowlarks (Icteridae)


Dolichonyx oryzivorus

The male gives its bubbling song while in display flight. It also sings when perched or on the ground often while doing the song spread display. The male also makes a chek call. The female makes a chip call along with a tail-flick when alarmed. (Saratoga County, New York.)
Habitat: A bird of open country. Nests in grasslands, hayfields and weedy meadows.

Red-winged Blackbird

Agelaius phoeniceus

Males sing the okaree song throughout the year, and during the breeding season they often sing it when doing the song spread or flight display. Females sing during the breeding season, but their songs are nothing like the male song. This female song is the type sung in the presence of a male and may be for communication between mated birds. The very common chek call is given by males and females when disturbed. Males give the piercing down slurred jeer call when alarmed. (Albany County, New York.)
Habitat: A common bird of salt- and fresh-water marshes. Also fields, especially wet fields or near water.

Eastern Meadowlark

Sturnella magna

The male eastern meadowlark's song is a sweet slurred whistle that can be heard far across the fields where the birds live. Males mainly sing from exposed perches on utility wires, fences, trees and shrubs; they sometimes sing from the ground or while flying. Males and females use the short, buzzy dzeet call when alarmed and during courtship. Eastern and western meadowlarks are most easily distinguished by their songs and calls. (Songs by two birds, Saratoga County, New York.)
Habitat: Meadows, fields.

Western Meadowlark

Sturnella neglecta

The male western meadowlark's melodious song has two parts; a whistled introduction followed by several gurgling notes. The birds sing sporadically in winter; this song was recorded in December in California. Western meadowlarks sing mainly from exposed perches such as utility wires, fences, trees and shrubs; they sometimes sing from the ground or while flying. Both males and females make the rich sounding chupp call. It usually is given when a bird is mildly disturbed (as when an intruder enters the territory), but it also is used during courtship and territorial behavior. These chupp calls were given by two birds that were sitting near each other on a fence -- one with a worm in its beak. They may have been disturbed by me. Eastern and western meadowlarks are most easily distinguished by their songs and calls. (Songs by four birds; Clay County, Minnesota; Stutsman and Grand Forks Counties, North Dakota; and Solano County, California.)
Habitat: Meadows, fields.

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus

I really enjoy yellow-headed blackbirds, but most people describe their calls as harsh or unpleasant. Male's territorial accenting song consists of a couple of soft, musical introductory notes followed by a harsh trill. It is directed at distant birds and is often accompanied by a song spread display (tail and wings spread out, beak pointing up). They look and sound like it takes real effort to squeeze out the trill. A perched male repeatedly produced a "squeal song" and isolated squeals interspersed with accenting songs. Males frequently give the chek call during the breeding season, whether perched or flying, when feeding, when moving in and out of territory, and when threatened. (Burnett County, Wisconsin, Becker County, Minnesota, Stutsman County, North Dakota.)
Habitat: Breeds in marshes, winters in farm fields.

Rusty Blackbird

Euphagus carolinus

Males sing at least two types of songs during migration; a gurgle followed by a high squeak and a jumble of squeaky notes. Birds often make a chek call or a sweeter smack between the songs. Migrating birds often gather in trees and their combined voices are distinctively squeaky (Canada goose in background). (Migrating birds; Albany County, New York.)
Habitat: Breeds in spruce bogs; seen in marshes, swamps and woods near water during migration.

Common Grackle

Quiscalus quiscula

The grackle's song is harsh and raspy and often includes a high squeak at the end. Both sexes sing. The song varies widely among birds and is so non-descript that it is most easily recognized by the accompanying display (tail and wings spread slightly, body feathers ruffled). The grackle's most frequent call is a hard chek or chak. (One bird, Albany County, New York.)
Habitat: Fields, open areas with trees, suburbs.

Brown-headed Cowbird

Molothrus ater

Male is a weak singer and may go unnoticed. Males sing a bubble-squeak song and a squeaky song. The female makes a chatter call. Here are calls made by a pair sitting next to each other on a branch; the male gives his song and the female gives her chatter call. Fledglings give an insistent begging call and wing-quiver display. In this recording a cowbird fledgling is begging from black-capped chickadees and was fed. The cowbird's begging call was quite different from the chickadee's normal tship begging call, but the chickadees fed it anyway. I think of the male as squeaky and the parasitic female as sneaky. (Albany and Schoharie Counties, New York.)
Habitat: Open woods, edges, fields, suburbs.

Orchard Oriole

Icterus spurius

Male's song is a complex warble of mostly melodious notes with a few harsh notes usually interspersed. Often ends in a downslurred note. This male sang two songs that differed only in the presence or absence of the last downslurred note. Both sexes give a chatter call. This chatter call was given during a male-female chase; I don't know which bird made it. Both sexes also make chek calls; these were made by a male. A foraging male sometimes seemed to be talking to itself, as it made quiet, less intense cheks and chatter calls (American Robin prominent in background) and an occasional quiet upslurred squeak even though no other orchard oriole was present. (Rensselaer County, New York).
Habitat: Orchards, shade trees, open woods and wood edges.

Baltimore Oriole

Icterus galbula

The oriole's song is a varied series of usually clear melodious whistles and is given by both males and females. Males sing during territory formation and males and females sing during courtship. Both sexes also commonly give a one or two note whistled call and a buzzy chatter call. The chatter call is given when the bird is alarmed, during aggressive interactions or when coming to the nest. Usually sings from high-up in a tree. (Albany, Rensselaer, and Schoharie Counties, New York).
Habitat: Open woods, edge of deciduous forest, orchards.