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  Machine-gun bird sound
  Posted by: pikabike on May-14-14 1:41 AM (EST)

OK, help me out if you can on this ID-by-sound question. There is a bird around here that I often hear but never see. It makes a noise that sounds like tu-tu-tu-TEWWWWWWWW. The first 3 "tu" syllables are fired rapidly.

I would say it sounds like a small bird, but then again bald eagles make wimpy noises and pied-bill grebes make honking big noise. I can't count on birdcalls as giving a clue to size.

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  Posted by: meopilite on May-14-14 6:40 AM (EST)
  Never heard a pheasant ...
  Posted by: Guideboatguy on May-14-14 9:03 AM (EST)
... make a sound like the one she describes.
  Definitely not
  Posted by: pikabike on May-14-14 11:47 AM (EST)
I've heard pheasant.
  Where is here?
  Posted by: alan_gage on May-14-14 10:38 AM (EST)
I assume Washington state from your profile but that's pretty vague. What part of the state? Mountains? Coast? Inland? If not on the coast then what elevation? Wet? Dry? In the trees? In the grass?

I still won't be able to answer your question, being unfamiliar with the area, but it might help someone. The most enjoyable way would be to track it down with a set of binoculars.

  Northwestern Washington
  Posted by: pikabike on May-14-14 11:53 AM (EST)
Olympic Peninsula. But not outer coast. Very close to ocean bluffs, in dense shrubs and brambles. Dry, sunny, calm day.

Binocs don't help when the bird isn't even visible to the naked eye at close range. It must hide very well.
  was it a thumping sound?
  Posted by: slushpaddler on May-14-14 10:48 AM (EST)
like this:
  Posted by: poleplant on May-14-14 11:10 AM (EST)
  No drumming
  Posted by: pikabike on May-14-14 11:48 AM (EST)
Also, the sound sometimes is followed by a fast rushing noise as something zooms through the air.

I wonder if it's a swift or swallow, though I've never heard either one make that noise before. Never been able to SEE this machine-gun bird.
  If it's buried in the brush...
  Posted by: alan_gage on May-14-14 12:13 PM (EST)
It's not going to be a swift or swallow. You're likely looking for a warbler. Just keep looking. Pin down where it's singing from and circle that area. You should be able to catch a glimpse.

  These ideas probably won't be right
  Posted by: Guideboatguy on May-14-14 12:15 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: May-14-14 12:16 PM EST --

What you say here reminds me of how a friend first described the sounds of a mourning dove's wings. You would have seen doves taking flight though.

It also reminds me a little of the sound of a common snipe doing courtship display, since that sound is made by the wings and the bird making the sound is absolutely impossible to locate unless you already know what it is and thus know to look WAY up, rather than horizontally in the direction the sound seems to be coming from (humans can tell right-left directionality for the source of sound quite well, but not up-down, so the unknowing person looks hundreds of feet too low when looking for the sound source in the case of a snipe). But this does raise the idea that maybe you need to look higher. If you know when the sound might be heard, tilt your head sideways and suddenly you will have a good perspective for what upward angle the sound comes from.

But if you are sure it's hidden in the brush, that blows away the high-flying idea too.

  Not a bird??
  Posted by: bzeka on May-14-14 1:09 PM (EST)
Could it be Mick Dodge having some fun with you?
  California Towhee?
  Posted by: Kudzu on May-14-14 1:39 PM (EST)
  Or Spotted Towhee
  Posted by: Kudzu on May-14-14 2:13 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: May-14-14 4:17 PM EST --

More likely.

  Not a towhee
  Posted by: pikabike on May-16-14 1:20 AM (EST)
I know rufous-sided towhee (guess we're not supposed to call them that anymore) calls very well, from both CO and WA. What is the same-named bird has a little different sound here but it's just like a different dialect. Or something.

We did see a baby towhee on the grass in town tonight, though. It's pretty exciting to see so many baby birds popping up all over the place, no need to go searching for interesting birdlife events. This baby hopped into the salal after we had gawked at it for a few moments.

  Keep a small waterproof camera w video
  Posted by: tsunamichuck1 on May-15-14 11:36 AM (EST)
and keep the sounds on
  Cell phone voice recorder is another
  Posted by: Yanoer on May-15-14 1:03 PM (EST)
option for recording bird calls.
  None of the Above?
  Posted by: Kudzu on May-15-14 4:57 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: May-15-14 5:04 PM EST --

How about the harsh rattles of the Red-Winged Blackbird?

The Green-Tailed Towhee has a machine gun sound but the map has it stopping in OR.

  Pika wouldn't be fooled by that one
  Posted by: Guideboatguy on May-15-14 7:05 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: May-15-14 7:06 PM EST --

Doesn't fit the call description and besides, red-winged blackbirds are highly visible, not forever hidden in the undergrowth. In fact, they don't even like bushes and undergrowth at all (though they hide their nests in tall grass or cattails).

  Territorial cry of male hummingbird!
  Posted by: pikabike on May-16-14 1:13 AM (EST)
Tonight I went to a talk (about corvids) for the local Audubon chapter. Great talk, and afterwards I asked the local-local birding expert about the tu-tu-tu-TEEWWWWWW noise. He immediately smiled and said, "Male hummingbird's territorial warning."

Makes perfect sense, because I had noticed that sometimes the noise was either preceded and/or followed by the usual hummingbird shrill flight sounds, and sometimes I would see 2 of them zipping very close to each other.

We heard several olive-sided flycatchers calling in the tall trees on our walk to and from the talk.

Two nights in a row of birding talks! Last night our paddling club had a guest speaker talk about birds we might see on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

On a less cheerful note, this afternoon I rushed to the south window upon hearing a big bird-y commotion in our back yard. Robins dotted the mulched area, with a lone crow perching on a fence bar nearby. They obviously were trying to drive it away and I figured a nest of eggs (or babies) must be very close. Well, not quite. The crow suddenly swooped down, grabbed one of the robins in its beak, and took off. My husband had watched the whole thing also, but from the floor below. He said the crow flew nearby and ripped the baby robin apart, probably to make gulp-sized food for baby crows.

I'll be watching for baby crows on the ground in the next month or so. They don't seem scared by humans looking at them.
  Posted by: Kudzu on May-16-14 4:47 AM (EST)
Was it Anna's Hummingbird?
  Anna's hbirds stay year-round, but
  Posted by: pikabike on May-16-14 12:24 PM (EST)
I don't know if this machine-gun bird was an Anna's. The local birding guy also did not know what kind of hbird it might be.

I think the rapid-fire tu-tu-tu part might be just an especially vehement version of the normal tchi-tchi-tchi noise, and the long, protracted teewwwww must be the distorted (Doppler effect?) last "tu" it makes when divebombing from 100 ft up or whatever. That would explain why it sounds like something is flying very, very fast and I don't see it. If I looked up, I might see it. Several times I have seen, from farther away, hummingbirds arc up really high--about the height of some cedar trees, way above the tallest bushes--before swooping down. But those times I never heard the tu-tu-tu-teewwwww noise. Probably they were just too far away for the noise to be heard.
  Posted by: Guideboatguy on May-16-14 7:34 AM (EST)
When you mentioned "wing noise", I wasn't thinking that kind. I'll have to find a recording of that sound later. We have a few ruby-throats around here, which I think is our only kind of humming bird.

As for the crows and robins, I have heard that if robins didn't lose so much to predators, the time passing before the world was wall-to-wall robins wouldn't be much. Same is true for any species that's that prolific - they are prolific for a reason.

The tables sometimes get turned. I saw a red-tailed hawk dive-bomb a crow yesterday. Little birds "dive-bomb" crows and hawks from a height two to six feet, but the hawk dive-bombed the crow from a height of about 200 feet. Pretty cool. Probably wouldn't happen any other time of year though.
  "Keep common birds common"
  Posted by: pikabike on May-17-14 12:34 AM (EST)
Wednesday night's speaker said that was the credo of his group, and I agree. Neither robins nor crows are endangered or even rare, and I intend to stay out of their interactions with each other.

If one type of common bird quickly became uncommon, that would throw off the balance of more than another bird species. The ripple effect would be big.
  'tis the season
  Posted by: slushpaddler on May-17-14 9:11 AM (EST)
We're coming up on the time of year where dive-bombing birds can be a paddling hazard. Red wing blackbirds and martens can be a nuisance but in a month or so the gulls will be more challenging to contend with.
  Now that I think about it
  Posted by: gnatcatcher on May-16-14 7:52 AM (EST)
It makes perfect sense. I had been wracking my brain, trying to figure it out, but hummers never crossed my mind.

On another note, did the olive-sided flycatchers ever get their beers?
  No beers from me
  Posted by: pikabike on May-16-14 12:31 PM (EST)
Plenty of places to get it if they're willing to come down from the tops of the tall trees, though!

I recently read the mnemonic for the white-crowned sparrow: Youuuuu seeeee pretty-pretty-girrrl. It fits. And they sing it from pre-dawn to dusk, every few seconds.
  Sure it wasn't a woodpecker?
  Posted by: yakfisher on May-18-14 3:04 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: May-18-14 3:12 PM EST --

banging on a hollow tree, or a tin roof?

  Is It Not A Fun Experience...
  Posted by: Kudzu on May-21-14 11:58 AM (EST)
to ID a bird that you never saw?

For me it's the Red-Eyed Vireo. I've never identified one by sight but I hear them every time I go to the (Appalachian) mountains.

If you don't already have it, consider getting the Audubon Guide for Birds and Butterflies for your iphone. Last weekend I heard two kinds of nuthatches and started playing different nuthatch sounds from the app. They came in close to check out the sounds then did some dive-bomb runs at me. It was just plain fun.


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