Well… it’s that time of year again. I see little flashes of red out of the corner of my eye when I’m out walking; everyone in my Ecological Stats class is talking about it, some with dread, some with stars in their eyes. The air is abuzz with courtship, pretty little love songs, and dare I say it… hormones?
That’s right. The red-winged blackbirds are back.
What? You thought I was talking about some silly holiday?! Tsk tsk.
Let’s be serious. Spring seems to be coming early this year in Oregon (see my labmate Danielle’s post about the heavy rain, warm weather, and early frog calls) and the blackbirds are no exception. Red-winged blackbird males sing for a multitude of reasons, but most are directly related to securing and maintaining a mate (and the territory to defend her, house her, and raise lovely red-winged blackbird babies). The part of this whole ordeal that I love most however is the song. Red winged blackbirds produce one of my favorite bird songs, while not as complex as say a Pacific Wren or a Song Sparrow, it might be one of the loveliest sounds on earth. Go on, have a listen.
Admittedly, I am not a bird song (or bird call) aficionado. I’m not even a novice birder, but I do love the morning chorus when I walk by the river, and the evening chorus when I ride my bike home. It is one of the perks of living in the Willamette Valley. As you likely know, however, I am a marine acoustic ecologist by training (see my earlier post on SeaBASS), and I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you that blackbirds aren’t the only boys singing right now.
It’s breeding season for northern hemisphere humpback whales, and males in the tropics and sub-tropics can be heard singing in nearly any hour of the day. Thanks to the Jupiter Project anyone with a broadband connection can listen to the live feed of a hydrophone in the Hawaiian Islands here. By contrast in the high Arctic male bearded seals are singing in and around the sea ice- presumably to establish and defend breeding territories… and impress lady-seals too. Listen to their strange love-song below.
While I eschew Valentine’s Day in general, it does bring me great joy that some of our most genuine expressions of human love, love songs, are something that we share with many animal species. So while I’m unlikely to set aside my Saturday bonfire plans in favor of candy hearts, when I head out this weekend to walk my wild pups by the river and I hear the blackbird singing, I might for a moment imagine he is singing for me.
Have a wonderful weekend friends.