For the Birds Radio Program: Weird Bird Calls

Original Air Date: July 25, 1989

What are the weirdest bird calls? (3:31) Date confirmed.

Audio missing


(Recording of a Willow Ptarmigan)

As a continuing service during National Bird Song Awareness Week, today we discuss the strangest bird calls in the world. And the strangest of all belongs to the Willow Ptarmigan, a tundra bird related to our Ruffed Grouse. Back in my junior high teaching days, the Willow Ptarmigan was invariably the big winner in my class’s annual “Pick the Weirdest Bird Call in the Universe” contest.

(Recording of a Willow Ptarmigan)

Yup–that is pretty weird, but it’s not a call you’ll ever hear around here.

Another weird call belongs to the Gannet, an oceanic bird related to the Red-footed Booby, whose name is far stranger than its call.

Many birds that live in wetlands have loud, strange calls– this enables them to be heard over rustling cattails. The bird with the distinction of having the shortest name of all native North American birds, the Sora, has a weird call.

(Recording of a Sora)

The American Bittern is also known as the stake driver or the thunder pumper for its call:

(Recording of an American Bittern)

The Yellow-headed Blackbird sounds mighty strange, too.

(Recording of a Yellow-headed Blackbird)

If you’re upland from a marsh, you can listen for the weird call of the raven.

(Recording of a Common Raven)

The Grasshopper Sparrow takes its name from its insect-like call.

(Recording of a Grasshopper Sparrow)

The song of Henslow’s Sparrow sounds like a hiccup.

The Upland Sandpiper sounds like he’s making a wolf whistle when he performs his skydance.

The Yellow-breasted Chat of the southeastern United States has lots of strange calls strung together in one long song.

The Northland’s own Sedge Wren sounds like a plucked rubber band.

But for sheer looniness, there’s no beating our own good old Minnesota state bird.

(Recording of a Common Loon)

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