President’s Message – March 2017

President’s Message – March 2017

Birds vocalize for myriad reasons – warning off adversaries, locating food sources, staking territorial boundaries, and mate attraction. Many master birders “bird by ear” and so learn all the variation of calls and songs of the avian world. Pointing in a direction, a master birder may call out a species hidden in foliage but revealing its presence only by its melodic tune. I have not learned many bird vocalizations but appreciate the ones I do know, and I can usually tell the difference between a bird’s warning us to stay away or trying to attract a mate. Of all the sounds a bird makes, their songs of spring are the ones that take our breath away. Take the Swainson’s Thrush  whose song is one of the most beautiful in June when it arrives in woodlands here, or the Pacific Wren Pacific Wren which has the longest and most complex song of all birds. Each of these stops us in our tracks, commands our attention and makes us pause. Wonderstruck, we are moved purely and simply by the beauty of their song. Many begin early in the morning. A study on warblers done in Puerto Rico in 2015 by behavioral ecologist David Logue found that the earlier in the morning birds “warmed up” their 30 or so song repertoire, the better their changing of pitch in their trills later as the morning wore on. The result was that those who started practice early, really early, fared better in the competition for mates. So there has been selective pressure on the males of many species to break out in song earlier and earlier in the day. Can you imagine the struggle to begin your regimen earlier than your neighbors each ensuing day? Relish these days of spring and the songs from field and forest. (from Mar/April 2017 Echo newsletter, by Deb Nickerson)