[CT Birds] Singing female Redstarts

Brian Webster b.webster at hotmail.com
Mon Jun 1 08:25:43 EDT 2009

I want to thanks the responders to my question about singing female Redstarts.
My initial count that morning was 7.  5 female, 2 male.  I completely forgot that the 1st year males look a lot like females when flitting through the trees.
I also checked Peterson's Warbler guide and found that the males have a very slow, whistled song with single notes.  Which is what I heard a female sing.  Then, at the bottom of the paragraph, it said female song is known, but rare.
So I had to go back and find out for certain.  I had the same count of 7 (weird... I wonder if they were the same, or new ones), just in a different area, spread out over about 100 yards.  I actually found them by following the whistle song, not the usualy upslurred ending song.
So checking each one as best I could, I saw that one of the 'females' had quite the dirty face... almost like it had ticks on it.  This was the only juvenile male.  SO there were 2 adult males, one juvenile, and 4 females.
I figured I had solved it, until I actually saw a female in a tree by herself, then she sang!  It was a very slow, very soft set of individual whistled notes.  One of the males was singing a similar song, but louder and a bit quicker.  The length of time between notes was longer than the note itself.
So my question would be this.  How often do the females sing?  And why?  I know female grosbeaks sing (never heard it), but can it be for the same reasons as a male?  Territory or locating a mate?  Perhaps it has a similar use to the bellowing noises female big cats make when trying to locate their young?
-Brian Webster-
Stratford, CT
b.webster at hotmail.com

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