Eastern Bluebird Dawn Song as part of an energetic dawn chorus at the edge of a meadow (featuring Chipping Sparrow dawn song too). 5:45am, 21 April 2010, Land Between the Lakes, Kentucky. © Lang Elliott. Please play at a low volume to simulate a natural listening experience.
The song of the Eastern Bluebird is a delight to the ear, a series of bright, musical warbled phrases sounding like cheer … cheerily … cheer-cheerful-charmer. Females occasionally sing and sometimes answer their mate’s song with their own (female songs are usually rather brief).
Bluebird Dawn Song:
At the crack of dawn, especially in areas where bluebirds are concentrated, males sing an excited song series that includes lots of sharp, staccato chit calls given before songs, and often delivered in a chattering group of two or three. Males may even sing in flight as they move from perch to perch. The above featured recording provides a typical example, recorded at the edge of a meadow in Kentucky.
The dawn song performance is brief, lasting twenty minutes or less, and many bluebird enthusiasts are actually unaware of its existence. Why? … because they don’t get up early enough to hear it! The presence of chit notes, which are usually given in alarm situations (see example below), betrays the high level of arousal among competing males during the dawn song melee.
Here is a close-and-clean example of a male bluebird singing dawn song:
Eastern Bluebird Dawn Song closeup. 6:15am, 24 March 2007. Land Between the Lakes, Kentucky. © Lang Elliott.
Normal Daytime Singing:
Normal daytime song differs from dawn song in that it does not typically include chit calls. Daytime singing can also be quite laid-back, with long pauses between songs. Below is a very nice-sounding example of the “normal” daytime song pattern, captured during my first major recording expedition, way back in 1988, 28 years ago:
Eastern Bluebird Normal Song closeup. 7am-ish, 5 May 1988. Land Between the Lakes, Kentucky © Lang Elliott.
The common call note of the species is a musical turalee, given during all seasons. Thoreau was quite impressed by it and considered it to be the premiere sign of spring. When conditions were right, he felt that the environs called forth the sound such that the air over a field becomes “a foundry full of moulds for casting bluebird’s warbles.” Below is a splendid example, recorded by my friend Beth Bannister in Florida:
Eastern Bluebird – Turalee calls. 6:40am, 28 May 2008, Everglades National Park, Florida. by Beth Bannister.
Pair Interaction Calls:
When pairs are nesting, they often exchange calls as they interact. These include sweet whistles, typical song-phrases, and other sounds. Below is an intimate and revealing recording that I made of a pair interacting in the vicinity of their nest in a meadow in upstate New York:
Eastern Bluebird – sounds made by pair around nest. 8:30am, 22 March 2013, near Dryden, New York. © Lang Elliott.
As mentioned in above, staccato chit calls are given in alarm situations and may be delivered in chattering groups. Below is a recording of excited chattering given after I inadvertently stumbled upon a nest in an old woodpecker hole in a dead stub at Land Between the Lakes, Kentucky. Note that musical whistles are also included at times:
Eastern Bluebird – alarm chips and whistles given at nest when approached. 8am, 2 May 1991, Land Between the Lakes, Kentucky © Lang Elliott.
Well … that’s about it … a fairly complete collection of recordings demonstrating the vocal repertoire of the Eastern Bluebird. The only recording that I am missing is a really good example of a male and female exchanging songs. Maybe luck will be with me next season, when I plan to be back on the road, passing through prime Bluebird country as spring unfolds.
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