What bird is making this noise and what can I do about it?
August 7, 2009 8:54 AM   Subscribe

What kind of bird is making this annoying noise (mp3 file; alternate link here) behind my Manhattan apartment building? And what can I do about it?

This is our second summer living in our apartment in a residential area of Manhattan. During the spring and summer, we occasionally hear the above noise, which I assume is a birdcall, from somewhere behind our building. (You may have to turn up the volume a bit.) It went away during the winter, but then the weather got warm a few months ago and it started up again. Sometimes it happens every 10-20 seconds or every minute or every few minutes. Sometimes we don't hear it at all. Sometimes it's quite loud. It's usually during the daytime but sometimes at night. It's really annoying.

So I'm dying to know -- what kind of creature is making this noise?

Our apartment faces the back of the building, and there are other residential apartment buildings behind ours, so I assume someone behind us must own a bird and they have the windows open when the weather is warm. Or maybe some creature with a spring and summer migratory pattern roosts on a nearby roof. I've looked out the window numerous times scanning for birds in apartment windows and I haven't seen any. There's also more than one apartment building behind us, and sometimes sound can bounce around, so I have no idea where it's coming from.

Next question is, what can I do about it? I know the default answer would be to call 311, but how are they supposed to find a bird that makes noise only sometimes? Are the police supposed to come and hang around on the street for a few hours? What if they can't even hear it from the street?

So, (1) what kind of bird is it, and (2) what can I do?
posted by Tin Man to Pets & Animals (24 answers total)
My stab at (1): It doesn't remind me of any common urban bird call, so I suspect it's someone's pet.

Not sure where that leaves you for (2).
posted by gavia at 8:59 AM on August 7, 2009

At work so I can't listen to the mp3, but...

If it's a pet, there's probably not much you can do other than talking to the owner.

If it's a wild bird, you could try putting some of those fake owl statues on the rooftop. Supposedly those work well for scaring off small birds.
posted by reticulatedspline at 9:00 AM on August 7, 2009

Sounds like someone opening a creaky door, actually.
posted by rahnefan at 9:03 AM on August 7, 2009

That first link hijacked my browser, FYI.

The alternate link sounds a lot like a grackle. A quick googling tells me that grackles do live in NY state, but I can't tell from my cursory search if they're in the city.

Listen to the end of the first mp3 here.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:07 AM on August 7, 2009

Best answer: I'm pretty sure that that is someone's parrot (or other pet bird). There's a guy down the block from me who raises birds and there's something in his collection that makes a similar sound. I'd ask him, but he never makes eye contact or says hello when we pass each other on the street (where we've both lived for more than six years). I'd suggest somehow transporting that recording to a pet shop - better yet, one that specializes in birds - and asking someone there.
posted by rtha at 9:09 AM on August 7, 2009

And heh, I just saw the question about what can you do.

Basically, you can move.

Grackles are gregarious and noisy. They roost in (very) large groups and do lots of talking right around dusk. They also poop. A lot. When I went to UT-Austin, campus tried a pilot program where they'd dispatch maintenance workers with blank-loaded shotguns every night in hopes of scaring them out of their trees and getting them to roost elsewhere. All it did was make an already noisy twilight even noisier.

So, move, or learn to appreciate the quirk of the grackle.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:10 AM on August 7, 2009

Should have previewed! I think mudpuppie has it - I was in a place with a ton of grackles a year or so ago and I'm suddenly remembering why your recording sounds so familiar. It's not because of the guy-down-the-street's birds (though some of them do make...unusual sounds) - it's because of the grackles I heard in Anza Borrego!
posted by rtha at 9:12 AM on August 7, 2009

Response by poster: Hi mudpuppie -- definitely not a grackle, at least not if your link is accurate. My mystery bird sounds very different, more like a cartoon noise of someone slipping on a banana peel.

(Also, sorry the first link screwed with your browser... I've seen a few other people host sound files via zshare here before so I thought it would be ok.)
posted by Tin Man at 9:20 AM on August 7, 2009

Response by poster: rtha: The pet shop is a very good idea! I recorded the sound on my iPhone so maybe I can take it someplace.
posted by Tin Man at 9:21 AM on August 7, 2009

Sounds like a cockatiel to me, a pet bird prone to very loud shrieking.
posted by idiopath at 10:42 AM on August 7, 2009

Actually, it sounds to me like a mocking bird imitating something like a parrot or cell phone noise. But worst case, try this link or this one for browsing bird noises.
posted by strixus at 10:56 AM on August 7, 2009

The "alternate link" attempts to foist malware on you - the download starts automatically trying to infect your computer with an .exe file... fortunately I'm on a mac. Please deal with this immediately.
posted by VikingSword at 11:16 AM on August 7, 2009

I don't think its a 'tiel, but I wonder if it could be a quaker parrot, either a pet or part of the wild colony there: http://www.brooklynparrots.com/labels/Manhattan%20Parrots.html
posted by [insert clever name here] at 11:22 AM on August 7, 2009

Response by poster: VikingSword, I think you're referring to the first link, the zshare link. The "alternate link" is to the sound file hosted on my own website. I've asked the admins to remove the zshare link so it doesn't cause anyone problems.
posted by Tin Man at 11:34 AM on August 7, 2009

Mod note: I killed the problem link. Remaining link should be fine, I think.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:34 AM on August 7, 2009

Response by poster: idiopath: Not sure if it's a cockatiel -- I found a cockatiel sound online and it didn't really sound like it.

Actually it might be a grackle after all (kind of sounds like the middle part here). But my best bet might be a pet shop, as rtha suggests.
posted by Tin Man at 11:48 AM on August 7, 2009

Sorry for the misunderstanding, Tin Man, you are right, it's the first link.
posted by VikingSword at 12:08 PM on August 7, 2009

It's not a great tailed grackle, which you linked just above, because NYC is nowhere near their range. I would think that it's a common grackle though. Check out this page and listen to the "Calls, song (Purple mixed race) " link. I can hear your recording in there about halfway through.
posted by Stewriffic at 12:11 PM on August 7, 2009

Response by poster: Hmm, the common grackle clip doesn't really sound like it to my ears...
posted by Tin Man at 12:17 PM on August 7, 2009

It could be any number of varieties of parrot imitating lord knows what sound they heard or made up on their own. I own a flock of parrots and the number of noises they can come up with just staggers the imagination.
posted by torquemaniac at 12:53 PM on August 7, 2009

Could it be one of these guys?
posted by Sys Rq at 12:58 PM on August 7, 2009

Response by poster: I doubt it's a parrot, because it only makes one noise, but I guess it's possible.
posted by Tin Man at 1:34 PM on August 7, 2009

My guess is a moluccan cockatoo. Not all parrots are loud all the time, some have only one or two really loud calls. you tube video

you'll want to turn down the volume.
posted by ljesse at 11:06 PM on August 7, 2009

Response by poster: Now that is definitely possible.
posted by Tin Man at 6:56 AM on August 8, 2009

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