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Birdsong, Translated

With birds tuning up for the breeding season ahead, here are some memory tricks to help you recognize a few of the more common songs.

Robins can be heard in just about all habitats across the state and the nation. Their whistled song is often translated as, "Cheer-up. Cheerily. Cheerio."

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American Robin.

Another song easy to "translate" is the flight song of goldfinches. Someone somewhere interpreted it as, "Potato chip! Potato chip!"    

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American Goldfinch.

Near wet, shrubby thickets, you'll likely hear the territorial song of a very energetic warbler, the common yellowthroat. Note the insistent, circular tempo.

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Common Yellowthroat.

The translation in most field guides is "witchedy, witchedy, witch," but if you take into account the male's black mask and bandit-like appearance, you may also hear: "Give me your money, your money, your money."

Lastly, a more challenging song. A male song sparrow without a mate sings this rapid, buzzy chirp from dawn to dusk, well over a thousand times.

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Song Sparrow. Courtesy of The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

See if this old-time interpretation helps make sense of the jumble: "Maids, maids, maids, put on the tea-kettle, ettle, ettle."

Let us know what birds you've been hearing and seeing in your backyard. Post in the comments below or add your photos to the NHPR Flickr page.

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