Monday, May 04, 2009

Favorite Warbler Song?

Ok, time for a poll. What's your favorite warbler song? Let's stick with North American wood warblers. It's a tough call, but I think I'm going to go with Blackburnian.


P. Ollig said...

The problem with warblers is that few of their songs really have that "iconic" quality that makes it easy for someone to have a strong emotional connection to place identity. Like a loon to a clear, quiet lake in the north woods; or a Gambel's Quail to the Sonoran desert; or the Whip-poor-will to the southern Appalachians.

I think the one exception to this might be the Ovenbird, since it's song can readily place the listener in an eastern deciduous forest. But if I had to choose one favorite just based on musicality and just plain sweetness of the song I'd have to go with the Chestnut-sided Warbler.

Great question, though!

John said...

Whether a bird song counts as iconic and what it represents are pretty subjective questions. A lot of species get counted as iconic because a someone decided to promote them as such through repetition of sound and image. Other species could just as easily have been chosen. Among warblers I would argue for the Prothonotary Warbler's song as having a pretty strong connection to southern swampland. The song is unmistakable once one learns it.

For me Prairie Warblers are pretty evocative of particular habitats in mid-to-late spring, so I would be inclined to go with them as my favorite. A close second would be Blue-winged Warbler, just because it's so funny.

P. Ollig said...

Sure, counting a bird song as "iconic" is certainly subjective. It depends entirely on personal preference as well as developing a level of familiarity with a particular area. I was referring more to the qualitative definition of "iconic" rather than a cultural one (ie, those birds that have selectively been "chosen" as iconic, such as the Red-tail's scream and so on).

I guess I was also basing my comment on the premise that, as a westerner, the relative abundance and diversity of warblers that I experience is considerably different than someone out east. There just aren't as many prolific and conspicuous warblers out here...and those that are around tend to get overshadowed by the kinglets, the thrushes, the finches, etc.

To be honest, in the forests around my house here in NW Montana I can't really think of a single warbler that I would classify as iconic for this spot. I've certainly heard several species, but they're here such a short time and tend to be more in the "background". On the other hand, I can readily identify Red-breasted Nuthatches, Mountain Chickadees and a variety of Corvids that could easily fit the description of being "iconic" for this area.

I also want to add that I have now added Prairie Warbler to my list of favorite warbler songs. Never seen or heard one myself, but after listening to it it's now on my list of must-find lifers.

Good discussion! A little off-topic, but fun to talk about.

dguzman said...

Blackburnian is my favorite as far as looks, but for song, I'd have to go with the Northern Parula--hard to mistake it for anything else.

BirdBoy said...

Chesnut Sided warbler is defenitely the best. I feel that it sounds exactly like people say...Please please please to meet you

Jennifer Hanson said...

I've never thought about warbler songs in the sense of having a "favorite" (honestly, I usually think of them when I realize World Series of Birding is way too close and once again I've neglected listening to the birdsong tapes). If forced to pick, however, I think I'd choose Yellow-breasted Chat, just because you never know what phrase you're going to hear next. Hooded Warbler would be my runner-up; a great bird with a distinctive assortment of songs that has been part of many happy days in the field, both in north and south Jersey.

Kallen305 said...

Chestnut-sided for me as well. Of course I have not heard many of the others yet so that is subject to change in the next day or so. ;o)

noflickster said...

It's a roundabout way to get to "favorite," but I lean to American Redstart: the variation makes it the one that often forces me to track down the songster. It reminds me to look at the birds, not to just bird by ear!

Larry said...

Off the top of my head-I like the Hooded Warbler,Prairie Warbler, and Black-throated Green songs-Although I get kind of sick of the BT-Green after a while.

Rick said...

Tennessee, of course--a song I'm enjoying here in eastern Nebraska at the moment.
As to whether any parulid song carries cultural weight, there is one: MacGillivray's Warbler is audible in the sonic background of any number of tv commercials, where it seems to connote brightness, cleanliness, purity. Start listening, and you'll hear it!
Back to AZ tomorrow,

Jochen said...

Okay, nice thoughts guys but you see, your answers are biased as you are all born and raised amongst the warblers or other birds of North America and connect certain great/memorable birding moments with a certain warbler song. So it is not really the song you find is the greatest/your favourite but that particular connection or memory.

Now here (trumpets, please) is what the newbie - the European birder who has only spend a ridiculous two springs in North America - has to say about it:

North American warblers look absolutely amazing but their songs are - frankly - mostly crap. Come on, it is true: I spent hours and hours listening to the Stokes' CD while driving from migration hot spot to migration hot spot trying to memorize those songs but essentially and to the untrained / unbiased ear they all SOUND EXACTLY THE SAME !!

Geez, and if one warbler - like the Ovenbird - sound unlike the other warblers, it sounds like another North American bird species, so it's no better than the rest. Yes, you may find it ridiculous but for a first-time-spring-birder in North America, it is hard to tell an Ovenbird from a Cardinal or a Carolina Wren.

So what is - viewed neutrally - the best warbler song in North America?

Well, obviously it is the Blue-winged Warbler.


Well, because its song is a deep, sad and desperate sigh of disappointment, a sigh resulting from the desparation that it (and its whole group) have such great looks but just cannot sing very well and that this will get you very far in the human's music industry but it just ain't no good when you're a bird.

Okay, lunch break now, so I have to finish this comment and pull my tongue out of my cheek to get some feeding done. Cheers!!


Erica Mueller said...

DEFINITELY my favorite is Black-throated Green, one of the first warbler sounds I identified.

Nate said...

Swainson's Warbler has a really great song. All swirly and loopy and liquid.

LA Waterthrush is a close second for me. A real harbinger of spring and also kind of elaborate for a warbler.

Why is it the warblers with blah plumage have the best songs?

Patrick Belardo said...

Jeez, who knew this would generate so much chatter?

corey said...

I'm a bit late to the party but I can't believe no one suggested Yellow Warbler!

"Sweet sweet sweet I'm so sweet" is a seriously, well, sweet, song.

Anonymous said...

One more for Blue-winged, but I'll specify the dawn song. I think I spent 20 minutes watching one the first time I heard it making sure I was on the correct bird, it's so different.

Dale Forbes said...

I would have to agree with Jochen - they all kinda sound the same to me. Although, Corey has a point, the Yellow Warbler both looks and sounds sweet. Maybe my vote will have to got there.

Patrick, I just blogged about this post.

dAwN said...


T.R. said...

Prairie Warbler - especially since I've heard it multiple times AND HAVE YET TO SEE IT!

Swainson's is a close second. And Bill of the Birds has a great video of the Swainson's we found last week in W.V. singing on his blog right now.