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32 Common Minnesota Bird Sounds

minnesota bird sounds
Chipping Sparrow vocalizing in Olmsted, Minnesota: Photo by Tim Emmerzaal

Introduction

Minnesota is home to a diverse array of bird species, each with its own unique calls and songs that fill the air with melody and rhythm. From the cheerful trill of the American robin to the haunting caw of the American crow, the sounds of these birds are an integral part of Minnesota’s natural symphony. In this article, we’ll explore some of the common Minnesota bird sounds, from woodpeckers and finches to sparrows and thrushes.

Common Minnesota Bird Sounds

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Arthur Mercado
  • Features: The American robin is a familiar sight across Minnesota, with its distinctive orange breast, gray back, and white eye ring.
  • Behavior: American robins are early risers, often beginning their dawn chorus before sunrise. Their song serves multiple purposes, including establishing territories, attracting mates, and communicating with other robins. Male robins may sing from prominent perches such as treetops or rooftops to maximize their sound’s reach.
  • Habitat: American robins are adaptable birds that inhabit a wide range of habitats, including forests, woodlands, parks, and suburban areas. They are often found foraging for earthworms, insects, and berries on lawns, fields, and forest edges throughout Minnesota.
  • Vocalizations: The song of the American robin is a series of rich, melodious phrases that vary in pitch and rhythm. It typically begins with a series of clear, flute-like notes, followed by a sequence of warbling trills and whistles. The robin’s song is often described as cheerful and musical, with a distinctive cadence that is unmistakable.

Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Tim Emmerzaal
  • Features: The downy woodpecker is Minnesota’s smallest and most common woodpecker, with a black-and-white plumage pattern and a small, chisel-shaped bill.
  • Behavior: Downy woodpeckers are skilled foragers, using their strong bills to probe for insects and larvae beneath the bark of trees. Their distinctive call is used for communication, including territory defense, mate attraction, and warning of potential threats.
  • Habitat: Downy woodpeckers are found in a variety of wooded habitats, including forests, woodlots, parks, and suburban areas. They are often seen clinging to tree trunks and branches, searching for insects and drumming to establish territories.
  • Vocalizations: The call of the downy woodpecker is a short, sharp “pik” or “peek” sound, repeated at a rapid pace. It is used for communication between individuals, including mate attraction, territory defense, and warning of potential threats. The downy woodpecker’s call is distinctive and easily recognizable, making it a familiar sound in Minnesota’s woodlands.

Hairy Woodpecker (Dryobates villosus)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Rick Wilhoit
  • Features: The hairy woodpecker is similar in appearance to the downy woodpecker but larger in size, with a longer bill and a larger white patch on the back.
  • Behavior: Hairy woodpeckers exhibit similar foraging behavior to downy woodpeckers, probing for insects and larvae beneath the bark of trees. Their call is used for communication purposes, including territory defense, mate attraction, and warning of potential predators.
  • Habitat: Hairy woodpeckers are found in a variety of wooded habitats, including forests, woodlots, parks, and suburban areas. They are often seen foraging on tree trunks and branches, using their strong bills to excavate insect galleries and drumming to establish territories.
  • Vocalizations: The call of the hairy woodpecker is a sharp, rapid “peek” or “pik” sound, similar to that of the downy woodpecker but slightly lower in pitch. It is used for communication between individuals, including mate attraction, territory defense, and warning of potential threats.

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Nolan Kerr
  • Features: The red-bellied woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker with a striking red cap and nape, black-and-white striped back, and pale belly with a faint red wash.
  • Behavior: Red-bellied woodpeckers are versatile foragers, using their strong bills to probe for insects, excavate cavities in trees, and extract sap from sap wells. Their distinctive call is used for communication purposes, including territory defense, mate attraction, and warning of potential threats.
  • Habitat: Red-bellied woodpeckers inhabit a wide range of forested habitats, including deciduous and mixed woodlands, parks, and suburban areas. They are often seen clinging to tree trunks and branches, searching for insects and drumming to establish territories.
  • Vocalizations: The call of the red-bellied woodpecker is a series of rolling, chattering notes, often described as a “querr” or “churr” sound. It is used for communication between individuals, including mate attraction, territory defense, and warning of potential threats.

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Dubi Shapiro
  • Features: The American goldfinch is a small, colorful finch with bright yellow plumage, black wings with white wing bars, and a black cap in males.
  • Behavior: American goldfinches are social birds, often seen foraging in small flocks or congregating at bird feeders in suburban areas. Their song is used for communication purposes, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within flocks.
  • Habitat: American goldfinches are commonly found in open habitats, including fields, meadows, gardens, and suburban areas with abundant vegetation. They are often seen feeding on thistle and sunflower seeds, as well as grass and weed seeds.
  • Vocalizations: The song of the American goldfinch is a cheerful, bubbling warble, often interspersed with high-pitched “per-chick-o-ree” or “potato-chip” calls. It is used for communication between individuals, including mate attraction, territory defense, and coordination within flocks.

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Evan Pak
  • Features: The American crow is a large, all-black bird with a heavy bill, stout legs, and a squared-off tail.
  • Behavior: American crows are highly social birds, often seen foraging in large flocks or congregating in communal roosts. Their call is used for communication purposes, including alarm calls, mobbing calls, and coordination within flocks.
  • Habitat: American crows inhabit a wide range of habitats, including forests, woodlands, parks, agricultural fields, and urban areas. They are opportunistic feeders, consuming a varied diet that includes insects, small mammals, carrion, fruits, and human food scraps.
  • Vocalizations: The call of the American crow is a distinctive “caw” sound, often repeated several times in quick succession. It varies in pitch and intensity depending on the bird’s mood and the situation, serving as a means of communication between individuals within the flock.

Northern Raven (Corvus corax)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Brian Sullivan
  • Features: The northern raven is a large, all-black bird with a massive bill, shaggy throat feathers, and wedge-shaped tail.
  • Behavior: Northern ravens are intelligent and adaptable birds, often seen foraging in pairs or small family groups. Their call is used for communication purposes, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the group.
  • Habitat: Northern ravens inhabit a wide range of habitats, including forests, tundra, coastal cliffs, and urban areas. They are opportunistic feeders, scavenging for carrion, insects, small mammals, bird eggs, and human food scraps.
  • Vocalizations: The call of the northern raven is a deep, guttural croaking sound, often described as a “kraa” or “gronk” noise. It is used for communication between individuals, including mate attraction, territory defense, and coordination within the group.

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Michael Sack
  • Features: The house sparrow is a small, chunky bird with a brown and gray plumage, a distinctive black bib, and chestnut-colored markings on the wings and back.
  • Behavior: House sparrows are social birds, often seen foraging in large flocks or congregating around bird feeders in urban and suburban areas. Their call is used for communication purposes, including establishing territories, coordinating within flocks, and warning of potential threats.
  • Habitat: House sparrows are highly adaptable birds that inhabit a wide range of urban and suburban habitats, including parks, gardens, farmland, and residential areas. They are often seen foraging on the ground for seeds, grains, insects, and human food scraps.
  • Vocalizations: The call of the house sparrow is a series of sharp, chirping notes, often given in rapid succession. It is used for communication between individuals, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within flocks.

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Myron Peterson
  • Features: The house finch is a small, colorful finch with a reddish-brown plumage, brown streaks on the underparts, and distinctive streaks on the head and throat.
  • Behavior: House finches are social birds, often seen foraging in small flocks or congregating at bird feeders in urban and suburban areas. Their song is used for communication purposes, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within flocks.
  • Habitat: House finches are commonly found in a variety of habitats, including urban and suburban areas, parks, gardens, and agricultural fields. They are often seen foraging for seeds, grains, fruits, and insects on the ground or at bird feeders.
  • Vocalizations: The song of the house finch is a cheerful, warbling melody, often interspersed with raspy or nasal notes. It is used for communication between individuals, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within flocks.

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Tim Emmerzaal
  • Features: The song sparrow is a medium-sized sparrow with a streaked brown and gray plumage, a distinctive dark spot in the center of the chest, and a long, rounded tail.
  • Behavior: Song sparrows are territorial birds, often seen singing from prominent perches such as shrubs, fence posts, or tree branches to establish and defend their territories. Their song is used for communication purposes, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the population.
  • Habitat: Song sparrows inhabit a wide range of habitats, including grasslands, meadows, marshes, wetlands, and suburban areas with dense vegetation. They are often seen foraging on the ground for insects, seeds, and small invertebrates.
  • Vocalizations: The song of the song sparrow is a series of clear, melodious notes, often described as a “sweet-sweet-canada” or “maida-maida” song. It is used for communication between individuals, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the population.

White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Peter Mundale
  • Features: The white-breasted nuthatch is a small songbird with a blue-gray back, a white face, and a distinctive black cap on the head.
  • Behavior: White-breasted nuthatches are agile birds, often seen climbing headfirst down tree trunks and branches in search of insects and seeds. Their call is used for communication purposes, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the family group.
  • Habitat: White-breasted nuthatches inhabit a variety of forested habitats, including deciduous and mixed woodlands, parks, and suburban areas with mature trees. They are often seen foraging on tree trunks and branches, using their strong bills to pry insects from bark crevices.
  • Vocalizations: The call of the white-breasted nuthatch is a nasal “yank” or “ank” sound, often given in rapid succession. It is used for communication between individuals, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the family group.

Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Matthew Addicks
  • Features: The red-breasted nuthatch is a small songbird with a bluish-gray back, a rusty-red breast, and a distinctive black stripe through the eye.
  • Behavior: Red-breasted nuthatches are agile climbers, often seen spiraling up and down tree trunks and branches in search of insects and seeds. Their call is used for communication purposes, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the family group.
  • Habitat: Red-breasted nuthatches inhabit a variety of coniferous and mixed woodlands, including pine, spruce, and fir forests, as well as wooded areas with abundant coniferous trees. They are often seen foraging on tree trunks and branches, using their strong bills to pry insects from bark crevices.
  • Vocalizations: The call of the red-breasted nuthatch is a high-pitched “yank” or “ank” sound, often given in rapid succession. It is used for communication between individuals, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the family group.

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Arthur Mercado
  • Features: The red-winged blackbird is a medium-sized songbird with glossy black plumage, bright red shoulder patches (epaulets), and a yellow wing bar.
  • Behavior: Red-winged blackbirds are highly social birds, often seen foraging in large flocks or congregating in marshes and wetlands during the breeding season. Their song is used for communication purposes, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the population.
  • Habitat: Red-winged blackbirds inhabit a variety of habitats, including marshes, wetlands, grasslands, agricultural fields, and urban areas with suitable vegetation. They are often seen foraging for insects, seeds, grains, and aquatic invertebrates in shallow water or dense vegetation.
  • Vocalizations: The song of the red-winged blackbird is a series of rich, melodious notes, often described as a “conk-a-ree” or “oak-a-lee” song. It is used for communication between individuals, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the population.

European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Philip Drown
  • Features: The European starling is a medium-sized songbird with iridescent black plumage, speckled with white spots during the breeding season.
  • Behavior: European starlings are highly adaptable birds, often seen foraging in large flocks or congregating in urban and suburban areas. Their song is used for communication purposes, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the flock.
  • Habitat: European starlings inhabit a wide range of habitats, including urban and suburban areas, parks, farmland, and open woodlands. They are often seen foraging for insects, fruits, seeds, and human food scraps in grassy areas or on the ground.
  • Vocalizations: The song of the European starling is a complex medley of whistles, warbles, and mimicry, often incorporating snippets of other bird species’ songs. It is used for communication between individuals, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the flock.

Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Arthur Mercado
  • Features: The brown-headed cowbird is a medium-sized songbird with glossy black plumage, a brown head, and a distinctive conical bill.
  • Behavior: Brown-headed cowbirds are brood parasites, laying their eggs in the nests of other bird species and relying on them to raise their young. Their song is used for communication purposes, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the flock.
  • Habitat: Brown-headed cowbirds inhabit a variety of open habitats, including grasslands, agricultural fields, pastures, and woodland edges. They are often seen foraging on the ground for seeds, grains, insects, and other small invertebrates.
  • Vocalizations: The song of the brown-headed cowbird is a series of clear, whistled notes, often described as a “gurgle” or “glug-glug” sound. It is used for communication between individuals, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the flock.

House Wren (Troglodytes aedon)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Steven Meisel
  • Features: The house wren is a small, brown songbird with a short, cocked tail and a distinctive white eyebrow stripe.
  • Behavior: House wrens are energetic birds, often seen flitting among branches and shrubs in search of insects and spiders. Their song is used for communication purposes, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the family group.
  • Habitat: House wrens inhabit a variety of habitats, including forests, woodlands, shrublands, parks, and gardens. They are often seen foraging for insects and spiders in dense vegetation, using their sharp bills to probe into crevices and foliage.
  • Vocalizations: The song of the house wren is a rapid series of bubbly, melodious notes, often interspersed with trills and warbles. It is used for communication between individuals, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the family group.

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Nina Hale
  • Features: The mourning dove is a medium-sized bird with a delicate, streamlined body, a long, pointed tail, and a soft, muted plumage of grays and browns.
  • Behavior: Mourning doves are ground feeders, often seen foraging for seeds, grains, and small invertebrates on the ground or at bird feeders. Their song is used for communication purposes, including mate attraction, territory defense, and coordination within the pair bond.
  • Habitat: Mourning doves inhabit a wide range of habitats, including open woodlands, grasslands, agricultural fields, and urban areas. They are often seen perched on telephone wires or fence posts, scanning the ground for food or potential predators.
  • Vocalizations: The song of the mourning dove is a plaintive, mournful cooing sound, often repeated several times in succession. It is used for communication between individuals, including mate attraction, territory defense, and coordination within the pair bond.

Rock Pigeon (Columba livia)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Matt Saunders
  • Features: The rock pigeon is a medium-sized bird with a stout body, a small head, and a distinctive iridescent plumage of grays and blues.
  • Behavior: Rock pigeons are highly adaptable birds, often seen foraging for food in urban and suburban areas. Their song is used for communication purposes, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the flock.
  • Habitat: Rock pigeons inhabit a variety of urban and suburban habitats, including city parks, plazas, buildings, and bridges. They are often seen foraging for seeds, grains, and human food scraps on sidewalks, streets, and open areas.
  • Vocalizations: The song of the rock pigeon is a series of soft, cooing sounds, often given in rapid succession. It is used for communication between individuals, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the flock.

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Thomas Burns
  • Features: The northern cardinal is a medium-sized songbird with vibrant red plumage (male) or muted brownish-gray plumage (female), a distinctive crest on the head, and a stout, cone-shaped bill.
  • Behavior: Northern cardinals are territorial birds, often seen singing from prominent perches such as tree branches or utility wires to establish and defend their territories. Their song is used for communication purposes, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the family group.
  • Habitat: Northern cardinals inhabit a wide range of habitats, including woodlands, forest edges, shrubby areas, parks, and residential gardens. They are often seen foraging on the ground for seeds, fruits, insects, and berries.
  • Vocalizations: The song of the northern cardinal is a series of clear, whistled notes, often described as “cheer-cheer-cheer” or “birdy-birdy-birdy.” It is used for communication between individuals, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the family group.

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Tim Emmerzaal
  • Features: The blue jay is a medium-sized songbird with blue and white plumage, a distinctive crest on the head, and bold black markings on the face and throat.
  • Behavior: Blue jays are highly vocal birds, often seen perched prominently in trees or shrubs, calling loudly to communicate with other members of their flock. Their call is used for communication purposes, including alerting others to the presence of predators or coordinating within the group.
  • Habitat: Blue jays inhabit a variety of habitats, including deciduous and mixed woodlands, parks, suburban areas, and residential neighborhoods with mature trees. They are often seen foraging for acorns, seeds, nuts, insects, and small vertebrates.
  • Vocalizations: The call of the blue jay is a loud, harsh “jay” or “jeer” sound, often given in rapid succession. It is used for communication between individuals, including alerting others to the presence of predators, coordinating within the group, and establishing territory boundaries.

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Stephen Davies
  • Features: The black-capped chickadee is a small, round-bodied songbird with black and white plumage, a distinctive black cap on the head, and a small, stubby bill.
  • Behavior: Black-capped chickadees are highly vocal birds, often seen flitting through trees and shrubs in search of insects and seeds. Their call is used for communication purposes, including alerting others to the presence of predators, coordinating within the group, and establishing territory boundaries.
  • Habitat: Black-capped chickadees inhabit a variety of habitats, including deciduous and mixed woodlands, coniferous forests, parks, and residential areas with mature trees. They are often seen foraging for insects, spiders, seeds, and berries in trees and shrubs.
  • Vocalizations: The call of the black-capped chickadee is a clear, whistled “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” or “fee-bee” sound, often repeated several times. It is used for communication between individuals, including alerting others to the presence of predators, coordinating within the group, and establishing territory boundaries.

Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Arthur Mercado
  • Features: The common grackle is a medium-sized songbird with iridescent black plumage, a long, keel-shaped tail, and a distinctive yellow eye.
  • Behavior: Common grackles are social birds, often seen foraging in large flocks or congregating in communal roosts during the non-breeding season. Their call is used for communication purposes, including alerting others to the presence of food or predators, coordinating within the flock, and establishing dominance.
  • Habitat: Common grackles inhabit a variety of open habitats, including grasslands, wetlands, agricultural fields, and urban areas with open spaces. They are often seen foraging for insects, seeds, grains, fruits, and human food scraps on the ground or at bird feeders.
  • Vocalizations: The call of the common grackle is a series of harsh, guttural sounds, often described as “grack” or “chack,” sometimes accompanied by squeaks or whistles. It is used for communication between individuals, including alerting others to the presence of food or predators, coordinating within the flock, and establishing dominance.

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Michael Hurben
  • Features: The eastern bluebird is a small thrush with bright blue upperparts, a rusty-orange breast, and a white belly.
  • Behavior: Eastern bluebirds are cavity-nesting birds, often seen perched on fence posts, tree branches, or power lines while scanning for insects or other prey. Their song is used for communication purposes, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the family group.
  • Habitat: Eastern bluebirds inhabit a variety of open habitats, including grasslands, meadows, pastures, orchards, and suburban areas with scattered trees and nest boxes. They are often seen foraging for insects, spiders, berries, and other small invertebrates on the ground or in low vegetation.
  • Vocalizations: The song of the eastern bluebird is a series of melodious whistles, often described as “cheerful” or “merry.” It is used for communication between individuals, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the family group.

Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Arthur Mercado
  • Features: The Baltimore oriole is a medium-sized songbird with bright orange plumage (male) or muted yellow plumage (female), a black bib on the throat, and distinctive black and white wing bars.
  • Behavior: Baltimore orioles are migratory birds, often seen foraging in deciduous trees and shrubs for insects, fruits, and nectar during the breeding season. Their song is used for communication purposes, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the family group.
  • Habitat: Baltimore orioles inhabit a variety of habitats, including deciduous forests, orchards, parks, and suburban areas with mature trees and shrubs. They are often seen foraging for insects, spiders, fruits, and nectar in the canopy and understory of trees.
  • Vocalizations: The song of the Baltimore oriole is a series of clear, whistled notes, often described as “flute-like” or “melodic.” It is used for communication between individuals, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the family group.

Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Malcolm Gold
  • Features: The chipping sparrow is a small, slender songbird with a rusty-red cap, a white eyebrow stripe, and a streaked brown back.
  • Behavior: Chipping sparrows are ground-foraging birds, often seen hopping or running on the ground in search of seeds, insects, and other prey. Their song is used for communication purposes, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the family group.
  • Habitat: Chipping sparrows inhabit a variety of open habitats, including grasslands, meadows, pastures, roadsides, and suburban areas with scattered trees and shrubs. They are often seen foraging for seeds and insects on the ground or in low vegetation.
  • Vocalizations: The song of the chipping sparrow is a series of dry, rapid trills, often described as “chip-chip-chip” or “tsit-tsit-tsit.” It is used for communication between individuals, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the family group.

Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Bob Dunlap
  • Features: The dark-eyed junco is a small, plump sparrow with a gray or brown upperparts, a white belly, and a distinctive dark hood on the head.
  • Behavior: Dark-eyed juncos are ground-foraging birds, often seen hopping or scratching in leaf litter or snow in search of seeds and insects. Their song is used for communication purposes, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the family group.
  • Habitat: Dark-eyed juncos inhabit a variety of habitats, including deciduous and coniferous forests, shrubby areas, parks, and residential gardens. They are often seen foraging for seeds and insects on the ground or in low vegetation.
  • Vocalizations: The song of the dark-eyed junco is a series of musical trills and whistles, often described as “tinkling” or “bell-like.” It is used for communication between individuals, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the family group. In Minnesota, you will mainly find the ‘Slate-coloured’ subspecies (J. hyemalis hyemalis/carolinensis).

Pine Siskin (Spinus pinus)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Steven Meisel
  • Features: The pine siskin is a small, streaked finch with brown and yellow plumage, a pointed bill, and distinctive wing bars.
  • Behavior: Pine siskins are highly nomadic birds, often seen foraging in small flocks in coniferous forests, woodland edges, and suburban areas with bird feeders. Their song is used for communication purposes, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the flock.
  • Habitat: Pine siskins inhabit a variety of coniferous and mixed woodlands, including pine, spruce, and fir forests, as well as shrubby areas and residential gardens with mature trees. They are often seen foraging for seeds, buds, and insects in the canopy and understory of trees.
  • Vocalizations: The song of the pine siskin is a series of high-pitched, musical trills and whistles, often described as “zreeee” or “weee-weee-weee.” It is used for communication between individuals, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the flock.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Linn H.
  • Features: The rose-breasted grosbeak is a medium-sized songbird with black and white plumage, a distinctive rose-red breast, and a large, conical bill.
  • Behavior: Rose-breasted grosbeaks are migratory birds, often seen foraging in deciduous forests and woodland edges for seeds, fruits, and insects during the breeding season. Their song is used for communication purposes, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the family group.
  • Habitat: Rose-breasted grosbeaks inhabit a variety of habitats, including deciduous and mixed woodlands, forest edges, parks, and residential gardens with mature trees and shrubs. They are often seen foraging for seeds, fruits, and insects in the canopy and understory of trees.
  • Vocalizations: The song of the rose-breasted grosbeak is a series of clear, flute-like notes, often described as “perk-o-ree” or “cheer-up.” It is used for communication between individuals, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the family group.

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Brian Tennessen
  • Features: The white-crowned sparrow is a medium-sized sparrow with bold black and white stripes on the head, a gray or brown back, and a white breast and belly.
  • Behavior: White-crowned sparrows are ground-foraging birds, often seen scratching in leaf litter or hopping on the ground in search of seeds and insects. Their song is used for communication purposes, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the family group.
  • Habitat: White-crowned sparrows inhabit a variety of open habitats, including grasslands, meadows, shrubby areas, and residential gardens with low vegetation. They are often seen foraging for seeds and insects on the ground or in low shrubs and grasses.
  • Vocalizations: The song of the white-crowned sparrow is one of the most-studied sounds in all of animal behavior. Different subspecies across the country sing clearly different songs, but they’re all recognizable by the sweet, whistling introduction, a succession of jumbled whistles, and a buzz or trill near the end. Songs last 2-3 seconds. Females sing only rarely.

White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Kevin Pero
  • Features: The white-throated sparrow is a medium-sized sparrow with bold black and white stripes on the head, a gray or brown back, and a white throat and belly.
  • Behavior: White-throated sparrows are ground-foraging birds, often seen scratching in leaf litter or hopping on the ground in search of seeds and insects. Their song is used for communication purposes, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the family group.
  • Habitat: White-throated sparrows inhabit a variety of habitats, including deciduous and mixed woodlands, shrubby areas, and residential gardens with low vegetation. They are often seen foraging for seeds and insects on the ground or in low shrubs and grasses.
  • Vocalizations: The song of the white-throated sparrow is a series of clear, whistled notes, often described as “oh-sweet-Canada” or “old-Sam-Peabody.” It is used for communication between individuals, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the family group.

Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Michael Sack
  • Features: The gray catbird is a medium-sized songbird with uniform gray plumage, a black cap on the head, and a long, slender bill.
  • Behavior: Gray catbirds are secretive birds, often seen skulking in dense vegetation or perching in shrubs and bushes while foraging for insects and berries. Their song is used for communication purposes, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the family group.
  • Habitat: Gray catbirds inhabit a variety of habitats, including deciduous and mixed woodlands, shrubby areas, thickets, and residential gardens with dense vegetation. They are often seen foraging for insects, spiders, fruits, and berries in low shrubs and bushes.
  • Vocalizations: The song of the gray catbird is a series of rich, musical phrases, often described as “mewing” or “cat-like.” It is used for communication between individuals, including territory defense, mate attraction, and coordination within the family group.

Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia)

minnesota bird sounds
Photo by Joe Wujcik
  • Features: The black-billed magpie is a large, conspicuous bird with black and white plumage, a long, black tail, and a distinctive black bill.
  • Behavior: Black-billed magpies are highly social birds, often seen foraging in groups or congregating in communal roosts during the non-breeding season. Their call is used for communication purposes, including alerting others to the presence of predators or coordinating within the group.
  • Habitat: Black-billed magpies inhabit a variety of habitats, including grasslands, shrublands, agricultural areas, and urban parks with scattered trees and open spaces. They are often seen foraging for insects, seeds, fruits, and human food scraps on the ground or at bird feeders.
  • Vocalizations: The call of the black-billed magpie is a series of harsh, chattering sounds, often given in flight or when alarmed. It is used for communication between individuals, including alerting others to the presence of predators, coordinating within the group, and establishing dominance.

Citizen Science

In recent years, citizen science initiatives have revolutionized the field of ornithology by enlisting the help of birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts to collect valuable data on bird populations and behaviors. One such initiative is eBird, a global database managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society.

Birdwatchers in Minnesota can contribute to eBird by recording and submitting their observations of bird species, including their vocalizations, through the eBird mobile app or website. These observations not only help scientists track changes in bird populations over time but also contribute to our understanding of bird distribution, migration patterns, and habitat preferences. By participating in citizen science projects like eBird, individuals can play a vital role in conserving and protecting the diverse avian species that call Minnesota home.

Conclusion

The diverse array of bird species in Minnesota offers a rich tapestry of sounds that fills the air with melody and rhythm. From the melodious trill of the American robin to the haunting croak of the northern raven, each species’ vocalizations add depth and character to Minnesota’s natural landscape. By listening closely to these sounds and learning to recognize them, bird enthusiasts can gain a deeper appreciation for the avian diversity that thrives in Minnesota’s forests, fields, and backyards.