Did you know? Wing Whistles! | Celebrate Urban Birds (2023)


Did you know? Wing Whistles! | Celebrate Urban Birds (1) Photo © Debbie Oppermann

Mourning Doves are known for their gentle cooing sounds. But sometimes they can really make a racket!

Have you ever heard a Mourning Dove make a strange screeching noise (when you get to its focal species page, click on Wing whistle from flushed birdto listen) as it takes off or lands? Where does this noise come from? Why does it happen?

First of all, what makes the sound? Surprisingly, it isn’t the bird’s voice. It’s actually caused by special feathers on their wings! When a Mourning Dove takes off or lands, it flaps its wings quickly. The air rushing through these special feathers makes them vibrate and create sound (kind of like a kazoo).

The noise is called a wing whistle, and it’s part of the Mourning Dove’s natural alarm system. When one bird gets frightened and takes off, the sound of its wings acts like a signal for the other birds to watch out for predators. In an experiment published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, australian scientists recorded doves taking off in routine flight. Later, they compared those recordings with the sound of doves frightened away by a kite shaped like a hawk, one of the dove’s natural predators. The doves that took off alarmed produced stronger, faster wing whistles.

Even though Mourning Doves almost always make this noise when they take off, there is a slight distinction in sound. When the scientists played the recordings later for other birds, they noticed that the “alarm” recording caused the birds to flee.

The next time you hear a Mourning Dove’s crazy sounds, think of their cool natural ability.

~Brigid Lucey


Did you know? Wing Whistles! | Celebrate Urban Birds? ›

When a Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove
Its tail is long and tapered ("macroura" comes from the Greek words for "large" and "tail").
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Mourning_dove
takes off or lands, it flaps its wings quickly. The air rushing through these special feathers makes them vibrate and create sound (kind of like a kazoo). The noise is called a wing whistle, and it's part of the Mourning Dove's natural alarm system.

What kind of bird makes a whistling sound? ›

Cedar Waxwings have two common calls: a high-pitched, trilled bzeee and a sighing whistle, about a half-second long, often rising in pitch at the beginning. Cedar Waxwings call often, especially in flight.

What bird makes noise with its wings? ›

To Europeans, the best known user of wings as sound-producers is the mute swan. In flight this bird produces a humming throb not easy to describe, but highly distinctive and carrying for a considerable distance. It functions as a contact note.

What kind of bird makes a whistling sound at night? ›

Upland Sandpiper. The Upland Sandpiper's ecstatic song bounces over the prairie during spring months when the birds are breeding. The melody, which combines wild trilling with an ethereal whistle, is typically used by males, which vocalize well into the night.

Why do some birds wings whistle? ›

Conspicuous wing flight sounds are most commonly associated with courtship (Bostwick & Prum 2003), but they might also function as alarm signals, because the sound of taking-off in alarm could warn of immediate danger and incite others to flee (Johnston 1960; Coleman 2008).

What are the 7 whistling birds? ›

Though occasionally linked to witches or other demonic entities, the seven whistlers were generally believed to be a group of mysterious birds, flying together at night, whose unearthly calls were considered a portent of impending disaster. Coal miners were particularly susceptible to these supposed messengers of doom.

What bird whistles 3 times? ›

Golden-crowns sing sporadically throughout the winter, then more often again as weather warms in spring, before their departure in March and April for northern breeding grounds. Their song is a distinctive series of three clearly whistled, descending notes, though you will often hear only two, and occasionally four.

What birds have a wing whistle? ›

When a Mourning Dove takes off or lands, it flaps its wings quickly. The air rushing through these special feathers makes them vibrate and create sound (kind of like a kazoo). The noise is called a wing whistle, and it's part of the Mourning Dove's natural alarm system.

What bird has the loudest wings? ›

In fact, the White Bellbird has the loudest bird call ever documented, according to a paper published today in the journal Current Biology. Its short, booming, two-part call is three times the sound pressure level—a measure of sound intensity—of the Screaming Piha's call, the previous record-holder.

What is the most annoying bird noise? ›

It doesn't matter what time it is the male Eastern Koel will do its mating call and it is incredibly annoying. It's the type of bird call that has rhythm and no matter whether you hear it clearly or it came from distance the sound will get into your head, there is no escape.

What bird makes 2 whistles? ›

Listen first for the two-note whistle of the male black-capped chickadee. It's a very clear two-note song that drops in pitch and sounds like “fee-bee.” Now you know that THAT sound is! The males begin singing in mid-January, and the song increases in frequency as winter progresses. Females also sing occasionally.

What bird sounds like a low whistle? ›

Songs. White-throated Sparrows sing a pretty, thin whistle that sounds like Oh-sweet-canada-canada or Old-Sam-Peabody-Peabody.

What bird sounds like a wolf whistle? ›

What is it? If you're in grasslands or fields in Wyoming and you keep getting whistled at, you're hearing an upland sandpiper! These birds use their distinctive song to defend their breeding territory and attract mates.

What kind of bird whistles in the morning? ›

Most members of the warbler family are early morning singers. One of the more conspicuous and easy to find warblers is the yellow warbler. They make a series of 6 to 10 whistled notes with a sweet tone, that accelerate and end on a rising note.

Do bird whistles attract birds? ›

Hunters may use various call tools or whistles while out in the field to aid in attracting birds.

Why do some birds whistle at night? ›

The night chirps of birds can be a warning signal as they have a swift danger sensing ability. Most of the time, when the birds shift their places, they feel fearful of the surroundings, which also results in high tone noise levels at night to stay alert or to seek help from fellow birds.

What bird has the best whistle? ›

Cockatiel parrots are known for their powerful, smooth whistle. They are creative songsters that love to sing and whistle and show off. Royce Irwin of Texas has been breeding and showing most types of cockatiels since 1983.

What bird has a very high pitched whistle? ›

Broad-winged Hawks give a plaintive, high-pitched whistle that lasts 2–4 seconds, with a short first note and a long second note: kee-eee. The male's call is an octave higher in pitch than the female's.

What bird is the king of the air? ›

The lion is considered to be the king of beasts and likewise the eagle is the king of birds. It is the favourite of kings and sardars, and flies high.

What bird call sounds like Hello? ›

The corvid family, which includes crows, ravens and jays, among others, are a highly intelligent group of birds. The sounds they mimic can range from words they hear frequently like "hello," to sounds they find interesting, like a washing machine or a cat's meow.

What bird says pretty pretty pretty? ›

Cardinals have a lilting song that resembles the words cheer-cheer-cheer, pretty-pretty-pretty As they move about trees and bushes, they utter a series of sharp, metallic-sounding chit calls to communicate to each other about predators or food. Cardinals vary their songs and calls, as do all birds.

What bird whistles like a man? ›

The Song Sparrow is one of the most widespread birds in North America, and its melodies vary depending on where it's found. However, all of them include at least one phrase that sounds an awful lot like human whistling. The Song Sparrow is a very common bird, and you can find it almost anywhere in North America.

What bird has a loud flute whistle? ›

The male sings a loud flute like whistle that often gives away the bird's location before any sighting can be made. The Baltimore Oriole received its name from the fact that the male's colors resemble those on the coat-of-arms of Lord Baltimore, an important figure in Maryland's history.

What bird call sounds like a scream? ›

Calls. Barn Owls don't hoot the way most owls do; instead, they make a long, harsh scream that lasts about 2 seconds. It's made mostly by the male, who often calls repeatedly from the air.

What bird sounds like it's laughing? ›

The laughing kookaburra of Australia is known for its call, which sounds like a cackling laugh.

What is the most talkative bird? ›

African Greys: Generally considered the most intelligent talking bird species, with speaking/thinking abilities comparable to human toddlers, the Timneh Grey parrot typically learns to talk earlier in life than the Congo African Grey.

What is the loudest bird call that you have heard? ›

A male white bellbird. Bellbirds have the loudest bird calls yet documented in the world, according to a study which found that their mating songs pack more decibels than the screams of howler monkeys and the bellows of bisons.

What bird makes a woo woo sound? ›

The cooooOOOOO-woo-woo-woo call is almost always uttered by the male mourning dove, not the female. These distinctive mourning dove sounds are—wait for it—a wooing call, an enticement to a mate or potential mate.

What is the loudest house bird? ›

Cockatoos: The Loudest Pet Birds

While cockatoos are known for their affectionate natures, these medium-sized pet birds can be the loudest of the flock, with voices that reach up to 135 decibels with their chirps.

What bird sounds like a flute? ›

The Wood Thrush's easily recognized, flute-like ee-oh-lay is actually only the middle phrase of a three-part song. It learns the phrase from other Wood Thrushes and sings several variants with 2 to 10 loud, clear notes.

What bird whistle sounds like a siren? ›

Steller's Jays

In particular, these jays are known to mimic the sounds of loud alarms and, especially, ambulance sirens. They are sometimes referred to as 'the noisy jay' because they can make a variety of very loud noises.

What bird sounds like Hee Hoo? ›

Howell and Webb (1995) describe the song of Nightingale Wren as "confident to hesitant, rising and falling series of whistles… hee hoo, hee hoo, hoo hoo hee hoo, ss hoo hee…or tee tee-tee-tee ssi tee tee-tee-tee-tee-tee tee tee-tee ssi".

What bird makes a single note call? ›

Swainson's Thrushes also have a thin, high-pitched, single-note whine similar to that of American Robin.

What owl call sounds like a whistle? ›

Tooters. Tooters tend to be smaller owls such as Northern Saw-whet Owls, Boreal Owls, Western Screech-owls, and Eastern Screech-owls. These toots are usually high in pitch and may be heard as clear whistles or quavering toot-like hoos.

What owl sounds like a whistle? ›

Calls. Spotted Owls give up to 13 different hooting, barking, and whistling calls, although only a few are common. The owl's signal call—used by adult males and females to mark and defend territory, and by males delivering food to females—is a series of four hooted notes, with the middle two closest together.

What is the annoying bird that chirps at night? ›

The Northern Mockingbird is typically the culprit in these all-night song marathons. Mockingbirds that sing all night long tend to be young, still-unattached males or older males who have lost their mate, and so the best way to shut him up is to entice a female mockingbird to your yard, too.

What bird has a 3 note call? ›

From the three-note call of the American goldfinch to the duet of cardinals sitting outside your window, bird songs are one of the universal signs of spring.

What bird makes a hoo hoo sound in the morning? ›

A “hoooo, hoo, hoo” outside your window can be exciting to hear. An owl is nearby and making its presence known! Sometimes, though, those sounds aren't an owl at all. If you hear these sounds in the morning or during the day, it's very well the cooing of mourning doves nearby.

What sounds do birds hate the most? ›

3 Sounds that Scare Birds
  • High-frequency, ultrasonic sounds. One of the best sounds to get birds to scatter (and perhaps not to return) are synthetic sounds such as high-frequency, ultrasonic sounds. ...
  • Ultrasonic bird repellers. ...
  • Sonic bird repellers.

Do you put water in a bird whistle? ›

An amazing sound is created by adding just a drop or two of water into these bird whistles and then played as normal. You'll be amazed at the sounds!

What smells do birds love? ›

Birds love the smell of food or at least the smell of stuff that indicates the presence of food.

Why are birds singing at 3am? ›

For many years, the prevailing theory was that those early hours are typically the coolest and driest hours of the day which allowed bird songs to travel the farthest, giving their voices better range. It's sending a message to other males that they should stay away…and the farther away the better.

Why are birds chirping at 4am? ›

They warm up, to help ensure that when it's their time to shine, they perform at their best. Duke University researchers have discovered that birds do the same thing in the early morning, just as the sun is shining.

What is the strange bird that calls at night? ›

Owls are famous for their late-night hootenannies, but they aren't the only ones crooning by moonlight. Ecosystems around the planet host a surprising variety of night birds—from nightingales and mockingbirds to corncrakes, potoos, and whip-poor-wills—whose voices can be as haunting (or exciting) as any owl hoot.

What bird makes a 2 tone whistle? ›

Listen first for the two-note whistle of the male black-capped chickadee. It's a very clear two-note song that drops in pitch and sounds like “fee-bee.” Now you know that THAT sound is! The males begin singing in mid-January, and the song increases in frequency as winter progresses. Females also sing occasionally.

What bird has a low pitched whistle? ›

Hoots and coos are low-pitched whistles

The hooting of owls and the cooing of doves are just whistles that are lower than about 1 kHz.

What bird call sounds like a man whistling at a woman? ›

Eastern wood-pewee

If you ever heard sounds like a man whistling at a woman, these medium-sized birds might be the culprit. Eastern wood pewee has a distinctive call that resembles a whistle.

What bird has a loud shrill call? ›

Screech. A screech is a “high shrill piercing cry.” One of the most famous bird screeches is that of the red-tailed hawk, which you might recognize from movies and television shows that dub it over the less strident call of the bald eagle to make that national symbol sound tougher.

What bird sounds like it's yelling? ›

Barn Owls don't hoot the way most owls do; instead, they make a long, harsh scream that lasts about 2 seconds.

What bird sounds like a human talking? ›

Hill mynahs (tropical members of the starling family of birds) are renowned for their ability to mimic the human voice. It has been claimed that the hill mynah is the best talking bird and the best mimic in the world.

What is the prettiest bird sound? ›

Summary Of The 10 Birds That Sing The Most Beautiful Bird Songs In The World
RankBird Name
2Hermit Thrush
4Song Thrush
6 more rows
Apr 18, 2023


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