For the Birds Radio Program: Beautiful Songs (Re-recorded from 1987)

Original Air Date: June 8, 2000 (estimated date)

What are some of the most lovely songs of the north woods?

Duration: 3′15″

Transcript

Beautiful Songs

(Recording of a Cardinal)

That was the song of the Cardinal–the second most beautiful bird song in North America. People often lament that we don’t get cardinals in the Northland. Every year there are several sightings of individual cardinals in Duluth and along the South Shore, but the species has not yet become established this far north. Many people think it’s because our weather is too severe, but my theory is that vanity or just plain embarrassment is what keeps the cardinal down south. Up here we have the bird that sings the absolute most beautiful song on the continent–a song that puts the cardinal to shame:

(Recording of a Winter Wren)

The tiny Winter Wren spins this exquisite silver-threaded song only on its breeding grounds–deep, dark spruce woods and bogs not found much further south of here. Although most bird species start singing in late winter and frequently sing during migration, Winter Wrens apparently don’t consider Chicago or Minneapolis worthy settings for their song.

(Recording of a Winter Wren)

Another beautiful song heard only in north country is that of the Hermit Thrush, a brown-backed relative of the robin, with a spotted white breast. Hermit Thrushes began returning to the Northland a couple of weeks ago. Like the Winter Wren, the Hermit Thrush lives in moist coniferous woodlands. It’s also called the swamp angel for this:

(Recording of a Hermit Thrush)

The veery is a thrush with a bit less regional chauvinism–it will be returning in a week or two to moist mature woodlands over much of Wisconsin and Minnesota, although it’s most common in the northern parts of both states. The Veery’s back is rich rufous brown, and it’s white underside is lightly spotted on the breast, but it’s so shy that people hear it much more often than they see it. It performs in outdoor concerts at dusk, with spring peepers and chorus frogs singing backup.

(Recording of a Veery)

Yes, the Northland is rich in its bird songs–probably one of the nearest places to heaven on this green earth. But even with all the wonderful sounds of spring up here, the sweet whistle of the Cardinal still has the power to make me nostalgic for the Chicago neighborhood where I grew up. Fortunately, cardinals are steadily extending their range northward, and sooner or later a pair of cardinals without too much pride will establish residence up here–further enriching the Northland with their song.

(Recording of a Cardinal)

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