Sitka/Birds/Common Singers

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A list of the common singing birds of Sitka.


  • Varied Thrush
    • Distinctive and simple buzzy-whistle song unlikely to be mistaken for anything else
    • Sometimes called the 'telephone bird' the song also is reminiscent of a coach's whistle heard from a distance
    • Some birds overwinter in the area and nesting activity (and associated singing) starts relatively early
  • American Robin
    • Well known throughout North America, the song is sometimes described as "cheerily cheery-oh"
    • No other species likely to be confused with this one in our area (though there are robin-like songs elsewhere)
    • Migrants generally arrive by sometime in March, with males usually arrive first. Territories get set up sometime after that
    • Common in mixed open and forested habitats from sea level to tree line; often present in residential areas
  • Hermit Thrush
    • Flute-like ethereal song unlikely to be confused with any other local breeder except for Swainson's Thrush
    • Listen for the initial (briefly) held note with the song then going up or down from there
    • Typically arrive no later than the first couple of days of May and start singing within the first week
    • Commonly heard from sea level to treeline mostly in areas at least adjacent to forest.
  • Swainson's Thrush
    • Flute-like ethereal song unlikely to be confused with any other local breeder except for Hermit Thrush
    • After typically starting on a short note repeated once or twice the song seems to spiral up from there
    • Usually arrive around the start of the fourth week of May and start singing within a week of arrival
    • Mostly found in lower elevations, where not at low elevation, probably associated with stands of alder.


  • Dark-eyed Junco
    • Song consists of a simple trill that generally stays at the same pitch
    • Speed of trill is generally consistent, but occasionally they will mix in a much faster trill
    • Most likely to be confused with Orange-crowned Warbler whose song usually changes pitch
    • Juncos are found from sea level to tree line. They seem fond of forest edges, and utilize residential areas with mixed treed and open habitats
    • Juncos are present year round and often start singing while still in their large winter flocks.
  • Song Sparrow
    • Song often starts with a pitched repeated two or three times before going into the rest of the song
    • In studies done elsewhere, individual males typically have 5-8 songs they will sing
    • Listen for buzzy trills in songs to help distinguish it from the somewhat similar (looking and sounding) Fox Sparrow
    • Common in residential areas where there is sufficient brushy habitat . Also found along beach margins (as well as harbors, both the floats and the breakwaters); they do not seem to occur elsewhere
    • Present year round (though wintering birds are not necessarily same as breeding birds). They start singing by March.
  • Fox Sparrow
    • Song has beeps and whistles reminiscent of R2-D2 (from Star Wars), which may be the easiest way to tell it apart from the Song Sparrow
    • Utilizes brush areas from sea level to tree line. Seem to be less common than Song Sparrows in most residential neighborhoods.
    • Winter in small numbers, can be abundant during migration - singing probably starts in April (I should check my records).
  • Lincoln's Sparrow
    • Song is something like a bubbling trills
    • Found at the edge of wet areas including Swan Lake, Starrigavan Estuary, and muskegs.
    • Once recognized, song probably not easily mistaken for anything else that occurs in Sitka, though it might give the impression of being something warbler-like.
    • Does not typically winter in Sitka, our latest arriving sparrow. I should check records, but it seems like late April is when they might start singing.



In addition there are other birds that have often heard more or less distinctive calls that wouldn't generally be considered songs.