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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

BirdNote © Willow Ptarmigan

Air Date: Week of June 21, 2013

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Willow Ptarmigan between plumages (© Tom Grey)

Many birds delight us with their melodious songs. And then, as Michael Stein explains, there's the Willow Ptarmigan, a bird whose voice is more likely to give you a fit of the giggles.

Transcript

CURWOOD: Usually BirdNote® gives us a chance to take a couple of minutes to marvel at the loveliness of nature. But as Michael Stein reports today, sometimes nature sounds downright goofy.

STEIN: Some bird songs leave us in admiration of their beauty, some with a sense of wonder at their complexity - and others are downright comical.

[CALL OF THE MALE WILLOW PTARMIGAN]


Willow Ptarmigan (© Matthew Studebaker)

STEIN: This male Willow Ptarmigan sounds like he might be laughing, or at least doing his best to make others laugh. As a maker of silly sounds, he beats the Three Stooges hands down.

[CALL OF THE MALE WILLOW PTARMIGAN]

For the male ptarmigan though, these sounds are no laughing matter. Where it nests in the low, dense, shrubby willow tundra of Alaska and Canada, the Willow Ptarmigan crows to attract females and show other males he’s in charge of his stretch of tundra. This stocky, northern relative of grouse and chickens is a bright rusty brown above with a white belly and wings. The hen ptarmigan is so well camouflaged in brown tones, you might be looking right at her and never know it. But the male is another story: picture those white wings propelling that chunky rusty body in a long arc over the tundra…

[FLUTTERING SOUND OF THE WILLOW PTARMIGAN FLYING],

….as he chuckles his way across the tops of the willows.

[CALL OF THE MALE WILLOW PTARMIGAN]

I’m Michael Stein

CURWOOD: To see some photos of the Willow Ptarmigan, check out our website, LOE.org.

[ Written by Bob Sundstrom
Call of the Willow Ptarmigan provided by the Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. 105769 and 105848 recorded by G.A. Keller.†
Theme music composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2013 Tune In to Nature.org††††††May 2013 Narrator: Michael Stein ]

 

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