Including oak and coniferous forests, prairies, and riparian areas
LOUDBEAKS: these first 13 birds are mostly easy, loud, must-knows for visiting or living in our mountains!
Photos of the birds will be added into this space!
Quail calls are very distinctive, described by some as a slow "chi-ca-go chi-ca-go." They live everywhere in HumCo where there is brush interspersed with open areas.
A short series of sharp chirps dropping a bit in pitch at the end. The only similar birdsong belongs to the Orange-crowned Warbler, found further below, but the Orange-crowned is more of a trill than a series of chirps. April to mid-summer, incredibly common in its preferred brushy habitat, and a beauty.
Warning! Both of these birds are commonly found in inland forests, but the songs are famously difficult to distinguish from one another. The song is highly variable, but is usually some form of a squeaky, repeated phrase that sort of winds upwards and then can, or not, pitch down. Think of a squeaky wine bottle cork, "seadle, seadle, seadle, zeet, zeet, zeet," or of an attempted car start. If you hear it in the coastal fog belt during the summer, it's probably the Hermit, but if you're inland, it could be either one. The Black-throated's song does tend to be a bit buzzier, according to the authors of "Common Birds of Northwest California." (How confusing are these birds? When I play any of these recordings for the Merlin ID app, one time it will say it's a BTGWarbler, the next time the app will call it a Hermit Warbler.)
The robin's song is rarely associated with the bird, as it's singing is usually delivered from high perches. As opposed to the chirping we normally associate with Robins, their song consists of a series of slow, rich, rolling notes, "cheer-up, cheerily, cheer-up, cheerily."
This grosbeak's song is "like a robin on speed," and is also delivered from the tops of trees. The birds are very common here during spring and summer, singing away on river bottoms and other brushy woodlands and forest edges. Fun fact: if the male is slacking in his nesting duties, the female will impersonate a marauding male to get him back on task.
The meadowlark's fluting, ethereal song graces sunny grasslands near the coast (but oddly, not directly on the coastal plains). Kneeland and some of the other prairies are the place to hear them.
This sparrow's song consists of phrases that start with 2 or 3 repetitions of the same note, followed closely by a fast, varied trill. "Madge-Madge-Madge, put-on-your-tea-kettle-ettle-ettle." Year-round but omnipresent April through July. Rule of thumb: IF IT STARTS WITH THE SAME 2 NOTES and sounds like a sparrow, it's a Song Sparrow.
The "beep beep beep" call of the nuthatch as it crawls around on vertical tree trunks is a signature sound of our coniferous forests in summer. They then spend the winter in various other types of trees, including those in urban areas, and sometimes visit suet feeders.
The bunting's song is a short phrase of warbled notes, usually pitching downwards. It's probably closest to resembling a House or Purple Finch, but rather than a jumble of notes, its usually just 3 or 4 different notes (out of over 100!), each repeated 2 to 5 times. They like warm, dry areas in open country as long as there are patches of brush.
This vireo's call is a very repetitious rising or falling whistle, but sticking with one or the other during any one session. (I've pasted both of them together in this audio). They love closed canopy forests all over HumCo, and are often ignored....probably due to the repetitious nature of the "song."
Their commonly heard call is a repeated loud, clear "peah" note repeated a few seconds apart, or a faster repeated "wicka-wicka-wicka" (next song down), heard year-round.
This is the Northern Flicker's "wacka-wacka-wacka" call, less commonly heard than that of the above "peah" call. It's easily confused with the Pileated's call, which you can hear further down the list.
The off-key fluting song of the Hermit Thrush is found throughout our forested areas above the coastal fog belt. (My apolgies for the poor recording of this amazing songster, a problem I'll remedy as soon as luck and timing favor me).
These birds are also present in the Humboldt mountains, but generally aren't as consistently obvious as the Loudbeaks, or are found in specific habitats.
I call this a "reverse wolf whistle," repeated after pauses from high in the trees. Once tuned into them, you'll realize that they're extremely common here in the spring and summer.
The Wood-Peewee's call is a short, rough, repeated "preee ....preee..." that pitches slightly up or down near the end. They move into HumCo for the spring and summer, preferring open forests of all types as long as they're not densely wooded.
This flycatcher's name is more difficult to remember than the mnemonic for its call, "drink 3 beers." They prefer mature coniferous and mixed forests, commonly heard in the conifers of our inland mountains.
The crazily long, warbly jumble (35sec on this recording!) of the Townsend's Solitaire can, unfortunately, only be heard at mid to higher elevations of eastern Humboldt. Burns, high meadow edges, ridge-tops, rockslides, and upper mountain slopes are where to keep your ears peeled for this wonderful song.
The Wrentit's song is a short phrase of the same, fast notes that speed up as the phrase continues. I compare it to a bouncing ping pong ball, heard in almost all of our habitats year-round. (This is a duet of 2 birds).
This vireos's song is easily remembered as sounding like it's asking itself questions, then answering them. They prefer the warm, dry forests of our interior, particularly if there are some oaks in the mix.
This bird's song can be remembered as a "jitterbug" for its fast, repeated trill. They live in most of our brushy areas, including along streams and rivers, and can consequently be heard when hiking in the redwoods in the spring and summer.
This vireo has a slow warble similar to the Western Tanager, although a little more melodic, a variation on, "If I see it I will seize it and will squeeze it 'til it squirts ." They move into inland riparian areas and mixed evergreen forests with some tanoak understory for the spring and summer.
Their song is generally a form of medium-speed, same-pitched trill coming from the brush. One of the most common birds in HumCo, found in all types of habitat, year-round. (They do make some other sounds, which will be posted at some point).
There are 4 different "forms" of Fox Sparrows that inhabit our area at various times of the year. The "Thick-billed" version that moves into our mountains from the south for summer breeding has a variable song that can start with some intro notes, followed by some nice warbling. (The Sooty, Red, and Slate-colored forms that overwinter here move north in summer).
Lots of noisy "chips" of various pitches, mixed with a "gruff, rapid "chick-a-dee-dee." They love to work bird feeders for seeds and search through tree canopies for insects, year-round, throughout HumCo. It lacks the "fee-bee-bee,' (cheese-burg-er) song of the Black-capped and Mountain Chickadees, and isn't restricted to the coast, as is the former, or the eastern mountains, as is the latter.
Similarly as chatty as the above Chestnut-backed Chickadees, and also co-existing with them in Humboldt's eastern mountains, the Mountain Chickadee has the distinction of being restricted to those eastern, high conifer forests. Oddly, it does have the "fee-bee-bee'" (cheese-burg-er) songs of the Black-capped Chickadee.
Their song is a short burst of bubbly warbles, repeated from near feeders or higher in the trees. It's roughly similar to that of the Pacific Wren, but the finch usually sings from a high perch, whereas the wren sings from thick brush. Heard in the spring and summer.
This tanager's song consists of several closely-spaced warbles, similar to the robin's song, but is just a smidge faster and more directly presented. They prefer mature forests away from the foggy coast, a delight to the eye and ear.
Pine Siskins' calls and songs are a buzzy, chattery mess. The thin, questioning, rising call will get your attention as a siskin, the spring breeding song a staccato muttering, and the large flocks in winter as they blast between alders can by a crazy cacophony. Most commonly found in the coast redwoods and fir/tanoaks inland, they can show up in most of our other habitats as well.
Steller's Jays are the familiar, noisy guards of all habitats in HumCo that contain conifers, including the urban areas. They're 2nd only to ravens in the extent of their distribution.
Scrub Jays have some calls similar to the Steller's, but have this distinctively rough, rising, "whank whank" call that is all their own. And as opposed to the Steller's conifer preference, these are birds of the interior oak forests, although reportedly moving into the coastal lowlands in a few locations.
This swallow's high-pitched calls are common over much of HumCo, in the forests, towns, around cliffs, and even the treeless bottoms when old buildings are present. They're insectivores, of course, and so are present only in our summers.
This bird is super fun in that it sounds like several different birds hiding in the same brushy area, and always near water. They have around 60 different song types, but only hit a few in any short period of time. Common along our rivers, we've heard them sing all night long during full moons in the spring mating (and boating) season.
The Spotted Towhee has a rasping, ratchety call, delivered from the brushy areas it loves. They overwinter along the coast, but move inland for breeding in the spring. This in their summer breeding call, very commonly heard along brushy river flats.
This wren's song is a fast, bubbly thing, coming from the underbrush of the moist forests all over HumCo. Most often heard in our coastal redwoods, they're also found in moist riparian areas, and in damp ravines of fir, Douglas-fir, and spruce forests.
The Band-tailed Pigeon is our native pigeon, the Rock (City) Pigeon having been introduced from Europe long ago. They have a great "song", and I'll confess to having assumed was from our local doves....I only discovered the true singer recently (6/20/22!) when it was in the background of a bird mix recording that I ran by Merlin. Felt pretty dumb. Sorry, cool fat birds!
The Swainson's Thrush's "weep" and song are a distinctive late spring feature of our wet, coastal redwoods, but are also found inland along streams and other moist areas, a true delight.
The nasal. "wacka wacka wacka," call of a group of these woodpeckers sets them apart from their cousins, as does their social grouping and crazy acorn granaries.
This is the call of our largest woodpecker (including in all of North America!), a magnificent beast. The call can be confused with another of our woodpeckers, the Northern Flicker, but the Pileated's call is "more resonant, less even in tone, and maybe with changing rhythm or emphasis."
The Pileated Woodpeckers share their fast drumming cadence with several other woodpeckers. Listening for an associated call and the "depth" of the beat can differentiate the birds.
Barred Owls calls are described as sounding like, "who cooks for you - who cooks for you" with 8 syllables, and share the classic "owl" type sound with the Spotted and Great Horned Owls (only 4 or 5 syllables). They first arrived in HumCo in 1981, and have since been rapidly replacing the Spotted Owls in their preferred habitat of deep forests
This beeping song is usually heard in the early morning or late evening, and has been compared to the warning sounds of a truck backing up. The "beeping" can be confused with that of the Saw-whet and Screech Owls, but he Saw-whet Owl isn't common in the redwood forest and sings at night, whereas the Screech Owl, which is common in redwoods, has a "bouncing ball" cadence (below).
These owls sing at night, and their "bouncing ball" cadence is distinctive. A pair of them will trade the phrase back and forth, making for a memorable nighttime experience.
Great Horned and Spotted Owls: I don't currently have recordings of either of these owls. The Great Horned Owl's call is the classic, deep "who-who, who, whoooo" (4 or 5 syllables), while one version of the Spotted Owl's calls is a series of less deep hoots that can rise in pitch, "hoot…who-who…hoooo." Both can be heard in our forests.