[CT Birds] Listener beware. A Southington Cerulean turned into a Black-throated Blue

Jack Swatt jswattbirds at snet.net
Sun Jun 10 22:02:55 EDT 2018

    The fact that the birds never follow the rules is something that I think makes birding so fun, and confusing at the same time.  The habitat that I had heard this bird singing had some openings in the canopy due to large rocky ledges, so I thought Cerulean was possible.  Another experienced birder from New Hampshire had told me if you hear that song from high up in the trees it favors Cerulean, rather than Black-throated Blue which sing from lower perches, and this bird was singing from high in a tree.  Being on a mountain top was the only thing that favored Black-throated Blue, and made me second guess it.  Like Greg was pointing out, hearing, seeing and learning the birds and their habits is the best way to know when something is just not right.    To answer Hugh's questions, I did actually see the bird singing the song and recorded it.  It's on my ebird list here: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S46337437  I don't think The Warbler Guide, and all the other birdsong guides are wrong.  I must admit I thought the same thing when I first heard it and was adamant that it sounded identical to the Cerulean Warbler song I heard on my Birdpod (some of you may remember that old technology).  They may have just been unaware of this alternate Black-throated Blue song when their guides were being published.  I think it maybe, or may have started out as a regional difference.  I had heard of it first in New Hampshire but was also reported in Vermont and Mass.  Last year was the first I had heard of it in CT so I did some digging on Xeno-canto and found there are also some recordings from New York and Pennsylvania.  The explosion of bird song recordings with the smart phones is probably going to help increase our awareness of where and when this alternate song is being sung. I always thought this might make an interesting research project for a budding ornithologist.  I'm also amazed at how similar the spectrographs appear to the recordings from each species.  I was also thinking of contacting Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle in case they are planning a second edition, but just haven't gotten around to it yet.  I'm also trying to get a better recording of it.   If this may sound discouraging to any new birders, don't worry.  We've all made identification mistakes along the way.  It's just part of the learning process.
Jack Swatt


More information about the CTBirds mailing list