Figures and sounds from Birding September 2011 article on syntax,
by Arch McCallum

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Figure 1

© Arch McCallum Lazuli Bunting, Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, Lake County, Oregon, 11 June 2002
Figure 1. A song of a Lazuli Bunting, presented as (below) a sonogram (aka sound spectrogram) and (above) an oscillogram (aka waveform). The sonogram is a plot of frequency, perceived as pitch, (vertical axis) against time (horizontal axis) and reveals in a glance the frequency range (1) and duration (2) of the song. The oscillogram is a plot of variation in amplitude (perceived as loudness) on the same timescale as the sonogram. The gradual increase and then decrease in loudness of this song is shown by both the vertical range of the blue blobs (3) and the darkness of the black traces on the sonogram. Both graphs also show the timing of the song, which is even rather than accelerating or decelerating. Each continuous trace is a note (4). Notes are often combined into phrases (5), which are most easily recognized as such if they are repeated as a unit. Both notes and phrases function as grammatical units, e.g., they may be repeated. The syntax of this song involves the repetition of three different phrase-types. While such graphs can’t let you hear the sound, they describe it much more precisely and economically than words can. Lazuli Bunting recorded at Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, Lake County, Oregon, 11 June 2002. Recording, layout, and sonogram © Arch McCallum.

Figure 2

© Arch McCallum; Recordings © Cornell Lab of Ornithology Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Falcon Dam S.P., Starr County, Texas, 01 May 1995 Northern Pygmy-Owl, Wolf Creek, Josephine County, Oregon, 02 April 1995 Northern Pygmy-Owl, Madera Canyon, Santa Cruz County, Arizona, 09 July 1960 Northern Saw-whet Owl, South Slough Sanctuary, Coos County, Oregon, 21 May 1988 Boreal Owl, Fairbanks, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska, 17 April 1969 Whiskered Screech-Owl, Carr Canyon, Cochise County, Arizona, 19 May 1987 Western Screech-Owl, Coppei Canyon, Walla Walla County, Washington, 30 December 1989 Eastern Screech-Owl, Clear Spring, Washington County, Maryland, 23 July 2000 Field Guide Page: Small Owls That Toot or Trill
Figure 2. Grade 1 singing, exemplified by some owls that “toot” or “trill,” in field guide format. Vertical axes in kiloHertz, horizontal in seconds. All recordings from Voices of North American Owls (Vyn et al. 2006), presented with permission of Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. Recording data in text: Voices of North American Owls disc number and track number, recordist, location, date, and Macaulay Library catalog number. Text, layout, and sonograms © Arch McCallum.

Figure 3

© Arch McCallum Dawn Song, Evening Song Unique to Evening Song Acadian Flycatcher Syntax
Figure 3. The relationships among parts of a flycatcher serenade follow strict rules, as illustrated by the Acadian Flycatcher. “AaB” designates the familiar chelup song of this species, which can be heard in an occupied territory from dawn until dusk on a daily basis. A bird only gives one or two chelups a minute, but sporadic vocalizing during daylight is a common flycatcher practice. To produce dawnsong (upper panel), the bird repeats the initial A note of chelup several times, followed by a full chelup, and then repeats this sequence continuously. The number of A notes in a sequence is variable, as is the spacing between A notes. Evening song is dawnsong with a twist, as the sequence in the lower panel is alternated with the sequence in the upper panel. Note C is the kip call note of the Acadian Flycatcher, probably its second most familiar sound. Dawnsong and evening song are not used daily. Recorded at Lumber River State Park, Robeson County, North Carolina, 30 April 2009. Recordings, layout, and sonograms © Arch McCallum.

Figure 4

© Arch McCallum Western Flycatcher Dawnsong, Deschutes County, Oregon, 19 June 2005 Western Flycatcher Songtype 1, Deschutes County, Oregon, 19 June 2005 Western Flycatcher Songtype 2, Deschutes County, Oregon, 19 June 2005 Western Flycatcher Songtype 3, Deschutes County, Oregon, 19 June 2005 Western Flycatcher 'tseet' callnote, aka 'Female Position Note', McKinley County, New Mexico, 08 July 2006 Western Flycatcher Territorial songtype, aka 'Male Position Note', Pacific-slope form, Galiano Island, British Columbia, 01 June 1991 Western Flycatcher Territorial songtype, aka 'Male Position Note', Interior form, Brewster County, Texas, 01 June 2010 Hammond's Flycatcher Dawnsong, San Juan County, New Mexico, 11 June 1981 Hammond's Flycatcher Songtype 1, Pend Oreille County, Washington, 10 June 2006 Hammond's Flycatcher Songtype 2, Deschutes County, Oregon, 24 May 2009 Hammond's Flycatcher Songtype 3, Deschutes County, Oregon, 24 May 2009 Hammond's Flycatcher 'pip' callnote, Cibola County, New Mexico, 19 June 1981 Hammond's Flycatcher 'k-lear' calltype, Pend Oreille County, Washington, 10 June 2006 Hammond's Flycatcher 'whe-zee' calltype, San Juan County, New Mexico, 11 June 1981 Dusky Flycatcher Dawnsong, Deschutes County, Oregon, 24 May 2009 Dusky Flycatcher Songtype 1, Deschutes County, Oregon, 24 May 2009 Dusky Flycatcher Songtype 2, Deschutes County, Oregon, 24 May 2009 Dusky Flycatcher Songtype 3, Deschutes County, Oregon, 24 May 2009 Dusky Flycatcher 'whit' callnote, Harney County, Oregon, 25 May 2005 Dusky Flycatcher 'du' calltype, Lake County, Oregon, 13 June 2002 Dusky Flycatcher 'hic' calltype, Lake County, Oregon, 13 June 2002 Gray Flycatcher Dawnsong, Gray Flycatcher Songtype 1, Deschutes County, Oregon, 24 May 2009 Gray Flycatcher Songtype 2, Deschutes County, Oregon, 24 May 2009 Gray Flycatcher 'whit' callnote, Deschutes County, Oregon, 13 June 2004 Gray Flycatcher 'whea' calltype, Lake County, Oregon, 01 June 2003 Gray Flycatcher 'twit' calltype, Deschutes County, Oregon, 13 June 2004 Willow Flycatcher 'fitz-bew' songtype, Princeton, British Columbia, 06 June 2007. © Andrew Rush Willow Flycatcher 'fizz-bew' songtype, Princeton, British Columbia, 06 June 2007. © Andrew Rush Willow Flycatcher 'creet' songtype, Douglas County, Oregon, 14 June 2007 Willow Flycatcher 'whit' callnote, Lane County, Oregon, 11 August 2007 Field Guide Page: Western Empidonax
Figure 4. Grade 2 repertoires and singing, exemplified by the five widespread empids of western North America, in field guide format. Vertical axes in kiloHertz, horizontal in seconds. Each panel is a composite of several recordings, all from western North America. Recording data available at www.appliedbioacoustics.com. Recordings © Andrew Rush or Arch McCallum; text, layout, and sonograms © Arch McCallum.

Figure 5

© Arch McCallum White-crowned Sparrow, Newport, Lincoln County, Oregon, 21 April 2001 White-crowned Sparrow, Deschutes County, Oregon,14 May 2009 White-crowned Sparrow, Lummi Island, Whatcom County, Washington, 10 April 2004 Black-crested Titmouse, Davis Mountains, Jeff Davis County, Texas, 31 May 2010 Black-crested Titmouse, Davis Mountains, Jeff Davis County, Texas, 31 May 2010 Black-crested Titmouse, Davis Mountains, Jeff Davis County, Texas, 31 May 2010 Song-Types
Figure 5. The “song-types” of a Grade 3 species are variations on a common theme, whether they represent geographic variation (left column) or individual variation (right column). Left: Three White-crowned Sparrow dialects. Individual males, at least in sub-boreal breeding populations, typically have only one song-type, which is shared with neighbors. These song neighborhoods, or dialects, can comprise hundreds or thousands of individuals, all singing the same song-type. These samples are all from the migratory pugetensis subspecies: Panel 1, Newport, Lincoln County, Oregon, 21 April 2001; Panel 2, Deschutes County, Oregon,14 May 2009; Panel 3, Lummi Island, Whatcom County, Washington, 10 April 2004. Note that all are of similar duration, occupy similar frequency range, start with a whistle, and include buzzes, slow trills, and/or a few “complex syllables.” Right: Three songs of a single Black-crested Titmouse also show similarity in frequency, duration, and syntax. Recorded on 31 May 2010 at the western outpost of the species in the Davis Mountains of Jeff Davis County, Texas (courtesy of the Davis Mountains Preserve of The Nature Conservancy). Recordings, layout, and sonograms © Arch McCallum.

Figure 6

© Arch McCallum Swamp Sparrow, Arkola Rd., Cotton, St. Louis County, Minnesota, 07 July 2007 Lincoln's Sparrow, Three Creeks Lake C.G., Deschutes County, Oregon, 10 June 2004 Song Sparrow, Mt. Mitchell S.P., Yancey County, North Carolina, 14 July 2009 Vesper Sparrow, Roan Mountain, Carter County, Tennessee and Mitchell County, North Carolina, 25 June 2010 Lark Sparrow, Paradise, Cochise County, Arizona, 08 May 2000 Field Guide Page: Melospiza et al.
Figure 6. Grade 3 singing, exemplified by five common sparrows, in field guide format. Note the dissimilarity among the three closely related species of Melospiza. Vertical axes in kiloHertz, horizontal in seconds. Recording data in text: recordist, location, date. Recordings, text, layout, and sonograms © Arch McCallum.

Figure 7

© Arch McCallum Whistle A Whistle B Whistle C Whistle D Whistle A Whistle E Whistle B Whistle C Whistle D Whistle E Entire Serenade Wood Thrush Serenade
Figure 7. Portion of a serenade of a Wood Thrush. A single song is a combination of three components, always in the same order: a series of faint “bup” notes, barely visible in the sonogram, but audible in the recording; a variable whistle (indicated by letters); and an optional terminal trill. Only the whistled part is learned (Evans et al. 2011). Colored letters highlight the pattern of repetition of the variable whistle-types. Click on the letter to hear the specific song. In most cases the trill-type is not predictable from the whistle-type. Some individuals sing with much less variety than this one. Recorded at Montreat, Buncombe County, North Carolina, 8 May 1993.Recordings, layout, and sonograms © Arch McCallum.


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