For the Birds Radio Program: Birds That Say Their Names

Original Air Date: Oct. 31, 1986

Recast from 7/11/86 (3:50) Date confirmed.

Audio missing


(Recording of a Bobwhite)

Just about everybody recognizes that sound–it’s the call of the Bobwhite. Bobwhites aren’t found in Duluth except maybe on game farms– our winters are just too severe for them. They do live in Wisconsin and Minnesota, but stay a couple of hundred miles south of here. But most Duluthians have heard of Bobwhites, if only because their distinctive call gives them their name.

(Recording of a Bobwhite)

Bobwhites aren’t the only Minnesota birds which were named for their call. Killdeers also say their name.

(Recording of a Killdeer)

So do chickadees.

(Recording of a Black-capped Chickadee)

Whip-poor-wills are another bird named for their call:

(Recording of a Whip-poor-will)

Hardly anyone notices cuckoos unless there is an outbreak of tent caterpillars–The Black-billed Cuckoo is one of the only species of birds that will eat these pests. And it is another bird that says its name.

(Recording of a Black-billed Cuckoo)

The flicker–a common backyard woodpecker, sounds a little bit like it’s saying “Flicka Flicka.”

(Recording of a Flicker)

The Phoebe comes close to saying its name, too–it also says Phoe- bee-bee.

(Recording of the Eastern Phoebe)

Phoebes are dully colored little flycatchers, which often nest under bridges in farm country.

A catbird won’t say its name, but it does sound a lot like a cat.

(Recording of a Gray Catbird)

Veeries–small thrushes related to robins–may well be saying “Veery”

(Recording of a Veery)

The Bobolink supposedly says its name, although whoever named it had a big imagination. Does this sound like “bobolink–bobolink–spink spank spink” to you?

(Recording of a Bobolink)

Bobolinks are blackbirds. If one sits on a telephone wire, it looks solid black from the front. From the back, you can see its handsome white and yellow markings. They’re fairly common in the farming areas along the South Shore–it’s harder to find them along the rocky North Shore.

Minnesota’s state bird, the loon, doesn’t say its name. Most ornithologists believe that its name came from an old Scandinavian word, “Lom,” meaning a lame or a clumsy person–this was in reference to a loon’s clumsiness on land. But everyone agrees that the weird yodeling call of a loon fits its name perfectly.

(Recording of a Common Loon)

This is Laura Erickson, and this program has been, “For the Birds.”