What is the small bird (or frog?) on top of trees that sounds so awesome
May 7, 2017 10:50 AM   Subscribe

In Western Pennsylvania, and I assume other parts of the northeastern and Midwest United States, there is a bird (or something) that sings from the tops of tall trees and can never be seen from the ground, at least without binoculars. (Of course it could be a bird that I see all the time that only sings this way on treetops.) It has a fairly high pitched, waving or slowly vibrating call that reminds me of a stream of water coming out of a faucet and landing on water in a well.

If someone knows what the bird might be and could link me to an audio file, it would be so cool if I could identify it. It's a lovely sound (hmm, good for apps!) and Metafilter just put birds on my brain for some reason.
posted by serena15221 to Science & Nature (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Could it be a house finch? (Audio file at link.) They're very common and IMO have a lovely song.
posted by DrGail at 11:29 AM on May 7

That sounds lovely. But it's a simpler, more full throated sound. Like echoing water (to my ears.)
posted by serena15221 at 11:53 AM on May 7

It would help if you gave more information about the time of day and time of year when you hear this call and about the type of place where you hear it (in your yard? at the edge of the woods? deep in the woods?)

Here are some guesses:

chipping sparrow
parula warbler
gray tree frog
posted by Redstart at 12:01 PM on May 7

The Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh recently made a bird song alarm clock app that features 20 birds, many of them common in Western Pennsylvania. Perhaps you could give it a download and see if any of those birds are it?
posted by unannihilated at 12:25 PM on May 7 [2 favorites]

Your description is how i describe a wood thrush.
posted by Sassyfras at 12:57 PM on May 7

I also think you're hearing a wood thrush's haunting "echo-y" song. One just arrived in the woods near my home. I never see the thrush, but I love the call.
posted by Elsie at 1:04 PM on May 7

Leopard frogs?
posted by Miko at 3:55 PM on May 7

Closest so far is the grey tree frog; that could be it. Loved the veery!
posted by serena15221 at 4:47 PM on May 7

What time of day do you hear this sound? Gray tree frogs are more often heard at night, though you can also hear them sometimes during the day. (If there's one nearby, you may be able to make it call by making a loud trilling sound yourself.)
posted by Redstart at 5:02 PM on May 7

I've only heard it in daytime that I recall
posted by serena15221 at 5:06 PM on May 7

If you've already listened to the chipping sparrow and didn't think it sounded right, this might be a long shot, but I wonder if it could be a pine warbler or worm-eating warbler. You can hear both of them on this page, along with the similar chipping sparrow and dark-eyed junco. These birds with trilled songs are probably the birds that sound most like a gray tree frog.
posted by Redstart at 5:58 PM on May 7

I asked my aunt the birder and she says that's too little to go on, but her go-to bird ID directory is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology bird guide, which includes over 600 bird calls you can listen to. To narrow it down, the lab has some good brief introductory instruction on Bird ID Skills: How to Learn Bird Songs and Calls as well as, if you're interested, a longer academy course on Be a Better Birder: How to Identify Bird Songs.

Apparently IDing a bird by description of the call is nigh impossible, but if you could record it yourself and link it here an experienced birder could be of more help? If you do so I'll forward it to my aunt and get her opinion.
posted by MoTLD at 7:44 PM on May 7 [3 favorites]

Based on this thread so far, it's grey tree frogs minus any gutteral sounds. None of the birds here resemble it .
posted by serena15221 at 7:53 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]

The best way to confirm it's a tree frog would be to go out and listen for it at night. If you hear the same sound after dark you can be pretty sure it's a frog and not a bird.
posted by Redstart at 8:41 PM on May 7

it's grey tree frogs minus any gutteral sound

That's definitely the "horses" in this diagnostic puzzle.
posted by Miko at 8:59 PM on May 7

My best guess would also be a Pine Warbler. That or Chipping Sparrow, also already suggested!
posted by tybstar at 5:33 AM on May 8

I concluded that it is definitely surprised grey tree frogs. They sound like the grey tree frogs on the Internet.....but surprised.
posted by serena15221 at 12:56 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]

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