Sprague's Pipit 
Sprague's Pipit (Apalachicola, FL), Courtesy of Andy Bankert

How many times have you argued with your birder friends over what birds are the coolest? Maybe you haven’t and I am a total nerdatron. Since “coolest” is kind of vague, I’ve instead chosen to think up a list of the best vocalizations. I did not say the best singers, so any vocalization can be included. Yes, even the short chips of warblers are fair game. Many birds on my list have somewhat sentimental vocalizations for me, they rattle my memory. Others just sound cool. No matter how common, I still get excited over hearing these birds.


The following is my personal list of favorite vocalizations (top 5). This is an invite for other young birders to share personal lists of favorite vocalizations, or even to debate the ones on my list, or each other’s list.  


Great Horned Owl—After sunset, the monotone, deep “who-who-who….whooo….whoooo” fills the empty void left by daytime singers. The call can be heard from quite a distance, but when heard from a branch right above you, the graveyard scene sound sends a shudder down the spine.

Sprague’s Pipit—I heard this bird at the ABA’s 2008 Young Birder Conference in Minot, North Dakota. We watched this high flying singer, a dot in the sky, deliver his rolling cascade of descending song. The pipit sang when he was not flapping his wings but coasting. The sound would not reach our ears until he had begun flapping again.

American Bittern—“unk-a-lunk”, says he with a resonant voice. The sound reminds me of emptying gallon jugs of water into the sink. The sound of air bubbles sneaking in and creeping through the emptying water, “lug-a-lug”.

Sora—I love to stand before some vast marsh bristled with cattails and hear, out of the blue, a burst of uproarious laughter from the Sora. The call is sudden and jocular, as if the bird had just been told a funny joke and could not help breaking out into hysterics.

Bullock’s Oriole—I am talking about call and song (but not the wren-like chatter). Both have a juicy, round quality, like squeezing an orange…oh, and their inmate suit plumage reminds of oranges, too.