The songs of our native thrushes are typically described as being flutelike and ethereal. This description works pretty well for Wood Thrush, Hermit Thrush, and even Swainson’s Thrush, but it isn’t accurate when it comes to the songs of the Veery, Gray-cheeked Thrush, and Bicknell’s Thrush. These latter species have ethereal and musical songs, for sure, but even the flute of Pan could not come anywhere close to imitating them (at least I don’t think). No, I wouldn’t call them flutey, but I would certainly characterize them as being breezy, wheezy rambles of silvery, musical, and reedy notes.
It my opinion, the song of the Bicknell’s Thrush is the breeziest and wheeziest of them all. Found in high altitude spruce forest in the mountains of the Northeast, the scarce and reclusive Bicknell’s is not an easy thrush to record. Ted Mack and I have tried a number of times to get acceptable soundscapes on Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks, but we have usually failed. However, in mid-June of 2000 I got lucky. Just before dawn, I set my microphone next to a small brook, not far from the summit. A Blackpoll warbler soon began singing, along with a Winter Wren. Not long after, I heard the call of a lone Bicknell’s off in the distance. Then, to my absolute delight, he flew in close, called loudly, and then did his breezy, wheezy thing for several minutes before silently vanishing into the wilds:
Bicknell’s Thrush calls and songs, with Blackpoll Warbler and Winter Wren. 6am, 13 June 2000, Whiteface Mountain near Lake Placid, NY. Recording © Lang Elliott.
I’m wondering what you think of this bird’s song. How would you describe it? Let me hear your words. Does it sound “flutelike” to you? Is “breezy” and “wheezy” accurate? Imagine this is a contest of words, and the winner will get a free trip up Whiteface this coming June (I’m not sure who’ll pay for that, but it’s a nice idea, isn’t it?).