current issue web exclusives blog multimedia archive subscribe advertisers
Feature Articles
Editor's Note
Audubon View
Field Notes
Audubon Action
Earth Almanac
Green Guru
One Picture

Sounds of the Boreal Forest
A chorus of birdsongs enlivens Canada’s boreal forest.


Ovenbird on the Albany River, Ontario

We may not immediately think of the ovenbird as a creature of the boreal, since this shy ground-walking warbler is a locally common nesting bird as far south as Virginia and Tennessee. But in fact, a major percentage of its total nesting range lies in the southern part of Canada’s boreal forest. In this recording the first thing we hear is the persistent short whistled phrases of a red-eyed vireo, and this song continues throughout the cu. The ovenbird, however, is obvious as the foreground sound when it comes in: a rapidly building crescendo, chertea-chertea-cherTEA-CHERTEA-CHERTEA!


Tennessee warbler

Tennessee Warbler Singing at Triangle Lake, Ontario

The Tennessee warbler was named by mistake: Pioneer ornithologist Alexander Wilson, traveling through America in the early 1800s, happened to encounter his first one in Tennessee. The name stuck, but Wilson’s bird was just passing through that state on migration, heading for nesting grounds in the boreal forest. Quite possibly, Wilson was attracted to this warbler by its loud and persistent song, because males often sing during spring migration. In this recording we can hear just how insistent is the song of the Tennessee warbler, a rapid dry series of notes that shifts gears twice as it speeds up toward the end. In the background are the clear whistles of a white-throated sparrow singing “oh, sweet, Kimberly-Kimberly-Kimberly,” the snappy “chebek!” of a least flycatcher, and the tapping of a woodpecker, among other bird sounds.


Swainson’s thrush

Bird Song Chorus on Beaver Swamp, Along the Albany River, Ontario

In the quiet symphony of the boreal, no one birdsong dominates the chorus. One of the most beautiful sounds here is the flutelike song of the Swainson’s thrush, spiraling upward and ending on a higher note than where it started. This shy brown thrush winters widely in the tropics and is abundant in summer almost throughout the boreal forest of Canada and Alaska. In this recording we can also hear the gentle trill of a dark-eyed junco, the bouncy, squeaky song of a ruby-crowned kinglet, the buzzy “ffree-BEER” of an alder flycatcher, and distant sounds from least flycatcher, Tennessee warbler, and others.

Back to Top

Back to Web Exclusives

Read Related Stories: “Paper Chase” and “Travel Diary: Boreal or Bust