Okalee, Twitter or Sputter?

The Red-Winged Blackbird. One of the earliest migrants of Springtime.
The year I discovered the Richmond Dyke, it became one of my favourite places to wander, mostly because it’s a favourite habitat of the Red-Winged Blackbird.
A few years ago, I set out one late-Spring morning for the West Dyke Trail by Terra Nova Park with a pair of gumboots, a camera and long lens, a tripod, a big bag of snacks and a full day ahead of me. Squishing and squelching in the tidal ooze, slipping on wet driftwood, sitting on my haunches waiting, listening, clicking…I felt fully in my element.
This picture was one of my favourites from the day, capturing what I felt was this bird’s—and maybe my own—Ode to Joy!
That was, until I read a human’s interpretation of the calls of the Red-Winged Blackbird. (See some great audio clips below.)
Makes me wonder, have we just overlooked the possibility, or are we really the only species to sing or whistle as an expression of pure pleasure?
By the way, if you’ve wondered what a real Twitter sounds like, you can hear that below too. (Girls: who wants to get in on a start-up and call it “Sputter”?!) But better yet, find a patch of marsh if there’s one near you and treat yourself to the real thing.
Okalee Song (o-ka-lee’) 1. Given by males in spring. The song is given on territory. Its purpose is to warn other males off the territory (“This is MY piece of this marsh”) and to attract mates (“Check out THESE cattails!”).

Chip Call (chip) 1. Given by males and females in many situations as a general contact call (“Hey, look! Food!”) 2. Alerts group members to danger (“Heads up!”)

Chap call (chap) Very similar to Chip call. 1. Given by males and females in many situations as a general contact call (“Hey, look! Food!”) 2. Alerts group members to danger (“Heads up!”)

Sputter Call [also called the “Teer” or Female Song] (chatter or sputter) Given by females when defending nest area or chasing off other females. (“Go build your nest somewhere else!”)

Twitter Call (long drawn out twitterings) 1. Given by both males and females during courtship (“Hey, sweetie!”) 2. Given by females after a Sputter Call, perhaps to show nearby females which one is most dominant (“I’m queen of the marsh!”)

Whistle (downward slurred “Jeer”) Given by males in alarm situations (“Look out! Here comes a human!”)

Oh, and of course, who can hear an “Okalee” without Ned Flanders’ “Okalee Dokalee”?

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