Of all our native thrushes, I consider the Veery to have the most magical and ethereal song. Flutey and ventriloquial in quality, it is composed of a rapid jumble of musical notes often delivered in a downward-spiraling cascade.
The notes occur so quickly and are so slurred together that one has trouble distinguishing any one them. They possess a reverberant, echoing quality, as if they were born inside a hollow pipe, mixing together and building up in pressure before escaping like steam through a tiny hole.
(Note: I captured the above video footage on May 31, 2010, in Shindagin Hollow, near Brooktondale, New York. My assistant Beth Bannister did the sound recording.)
A Most Amazing Veery:
Each male Veery has just a few different songs in his repertoire. To the human ear, his different songs usually sound quite similar to one another, as if he were constrained to work his several variations on a single basic pattern. Over the years, I have recored many Veerys, some exquisitely beautiful, but nearly all producing minor variations on a primary musical theme (such is the case with the Veery featured in the video).
And then I met a very special Veery.
It was 4:45 am in the morning on June 12, 2008, at Michigan Hollow, about ten miles south of Ithaca, New York. In the twilight of dawn, I heard the male giving its telltale veer! calls. I quickly got myself into position and carefully aimed my parabolic microphone in expectation of recording “yet another example of Veery song.”
But when this male began singing in earnest, I could not believe my ears. Not only were his “normal variations” quite impressive to behold, but he would also periodically throw in one particular song that was so utterly different from his other songs that I could only smile and shake my head in disbelief. How lucky I was to record this talented individual, a “Veery Extraordinaire” in my scheme of things, perhaps placed on earth to show us what is possible for this musical species.
Listen to the entire five-minute sequence, which begins with a series of calls and several soft songs, followed by a veritable tour-de-force of his entire song repertoire. Note also that a Wood Thrush sounds off nearby during the second half of the recording, providing a musical counterpoint to the Veery’s captivating performance:
A Veery singing in the twilight of dawn. 4:45 am, June 12, 2008 near Ithaca, New York. Recorded by Lang Elliott.