Bird calls in the morning

On those days I am feeling a little lazy and sleep in a while I enjoy lying in bed listening to the morning chorus of birds in our garden. When we stay with our daughter in Clare (mid-north South Australia), or with our son in Sydney or with friends or family in other parts of the country, the bird calls in the morning have variations we don’t get at home. When we are holidaying in our caravan or camping in our tent there is a different set of calls to identify. Call me a lazy birder but it is very enjoyable.

A while ago we were in Clare. At dawn I identified the usual birds in my daughter’s garden or nearby. Laughing Kookaburras could be heard down by the lake. The “chock-carock” of the Red Wattlebird is another easy one to ID. The Common Blackbird skulking in the bushes nearby gives its warning “cluck-cluck” call and a mournful Little Raven flies unhurriedly overhead. The “sweet pretty creature” call of the Willie Wagtail is very familiar and easy to hear. Up the street I hear a small flock of Adelaide Rosellas and their “chink-chink” calls. The screeching Musk Lorikeets rocket their way to another tree nearby for a feed. A pair of Australian Magpie Larks on the back lawn begin their piercing duet calls, “pee-wee” answered immediately by the other with “tee-o-wee”.

But there is one call that intrigued me. On first waking I dismissed it as a Red Wattlebird but then I wasn’t so sure. I wondered if it was a Little Wattlebird. In all my years of birding in the Clare district I’d never recorded the Little Wattlebird there but it was theoretically possible. Its call is what intrigued me the most. Not once but many times over about five minutes it called, mostly from the bush just outside the bedroom window. It distinctly sounded like the bird was saying “Rach-maninoff” with a very brief pause after the first syllable.

I must take more notice of the birds around here.

UPDATE: If you are trying to identify a bird call, a good place to start is the Birds in Backyards website (click here). This site features many Australian birds with plenty of information about each one. Many of the entries have sound files of the calls. Some of our field guides also have excellent apps for phones – I frequently use the Michael Morcombe eGuide to the Birds of Australia. This has all the information contained in the book version plus sound files. It costs around $30 Australian.


19 Responses to “Bird calls in the morning”

  1. Andrew Perkins says:

    I was interested to read your descriptions of birdcalls in Australia. There is one which I can not identify – a bird sings each morning a call that features all the notes of a D Major arpeggio over and over again. The bird always begins its call rocking on two notes – F and A flat, then changes to what sounds like a bugle call – F# up to A, up to D, down to A, down to F#, repeating this figure four or five times.
    I thought it might have been a dawn call of the Wattlebird? Or could it be a Magpie? If you have heard similar calls I would be grateful to identify this bird. Many thanks.

  2. Trevor says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I’m not all that musically inclined and I had to write out the notes you described and then try to hum/whistle them. LOL (Good thing you weren’t in earshot!)

    My immediate thought was Pied Butcherbird. It is one of our most beautiful songsters. You can hear the calls on the Backyard Birds site here (go to the bottom of the page to hear the sound file)

    Another possibility is the dawn call of the magpie – they have an incredible range of songs for different times of the day and for different purposes. But my bet is on the butcherbird.

    You didn’t mention where you live – the Pied Butcherbird is not found everywhere.

  3. Andrew Perkins says:

    Hi Trevor,

    Thanks for the reply – the sound files found at the site above are great. I have noticed that the Wattlebird has a large repertoire of calls and I have since discovered that it is this bird that is making this call. It makes it mainly in the morning, from different trees, probably marking out its territory. One morning another bird was singing nearby and the Wattlebird would not stop this ‘bugle call’ until the other bird flew off – the music competition lasted about 10 mins (a bit like a bird version of Wagner’s ‘Meistersinger’)
    I’m living in Vermont South, Melbourne which is a green suburb near the Dandenongs. There are lots of trees in the gardens around and in our own garden I’m planting more trees that attract birds.

  4. Trevor says:

    I’m pleased that you’ve solved the mystery. When I get the chance I love lingering in bed and trying to identify all the birds by their call – especially on a frosty morning. Works well when out camping too. Love to hear the calls of nature in the morning – as opposed to that other “call of nature” that often rouses me too early to be civilised!
    Happy musical birding.

  5. Paul says:

    I live in Parramatta NSW and am amazed at the variety and prevalence of bird life along the Parramatta river where I live. I know most all of the calls, all during the day, but there is one in particular that haunts me every morning. It occurs very briefly, in a ten minute span only, at the exact same time before sunrise each day.
    The best way i’ve found to describe it is; it sounds nearly identical to Gandalf calling his trusty steed, Shadowfax.

    here’s a link for reference of above description.

    Any help in solving this mystery would be much appreciated.

    • Trevor says:

      Hi Paul,

      Thanks for your question. I’m sorry I can’t be of any help. I don’t really know the bird life in your area, and the call on the link is nothing like anything I’ve heard elsewhere.

      I hope other readers can help you.

  6. jils says:

    hi, i came across this discussion while trying to identify a call i’m hearing before dawn in the northern suburbs of adelaide. still working on that one, but i’d like to suggest to paul that his bird might be a red whiskered bulbul.
    it has a haunting predawn call!

  7. Sam Watson says:

    I have recently moved to Australia from the States and love hearing all the amazing new bird calls. We are located in Hornsby, Sydney and I’ve been hearing a bird that wakes me up at around 5:30 and continues to about 6:00am. It gives 6 to 8 sharp repetitive calls that sound like a car alarm then the tone drops low, then it repeats the call. I haven’t heard it in the summer only this winter so far. Any ideas of what kind of bird it could be would be helpful. Thank you

    • Trevor says:

      Hi Sam,

      I’m not all that familiar with the calls of many of the birds in the Sydney region. Even identifying those near my son’s home in Artarmon is a challenge.

      Can I suggest you go the “Find a bird” section of the Birds in Backyards website? This site has the calls of many of our birds, as well as plenty of other information.

      Sorry I can’t be of more help.

  8. Trevor says:

    For all those readers who have commented on this post, please note that I have written an update at the bottom of the article.

  9. Jason says:

    Hi, did you ever find out what the bird is with the rach-minoff call? Ive started riding to work along the river torrens starting from modbury early morning and I here that call constantly along there.

    Cheers 🙂

  10. I am trying to identify an eerie call made before & after dawn South East of Brisbane. For the life of me despite arising very early to see these birds, I know now they are a very small bird that I cannot identify.The song is one of a joyous and a haunting sound.
    I hope other readers may comment also if they have any credible information.

    • Trevor says:

      Hi Ken,

      I am not familiar with the birds of your area, so I doubt I can be of much help. I hope some of my readers can be of help. Another source of information might be the Birds in Backyards site where they have included sound clips of many of our common birds. It’s worth a try.

  11. Linda says:

    The Littlewattle bird living in my neighbourhood has a very distinctive sound, to me it sounds like ‘ah ah boogie’ which it repeats several times then it seems to lose the rhythm and makes a begark type of noise then off it goes with ah ah boogie.

  12. Ron says:

    Hi All,
    I live on the East Coast, Gosford. We have a bird that makes a call something like – eh eh chronicle eh eh chronicle…. I haven’t been able to spot it visually though.. i had been thinking it was a wattle bird but haven’t been able to hear a recording yet to match at Birds in Backyards etc…
    Any thoughts?
    Thanks in Advance,

  13. Fi says:

    Please for the love of all things feathered help me identify bird by its call! I’m in Geraldton Western Australia. First call in morning whilst it’s dark. Sounds like it’s saying “Wikipedia, Wikipedia”. It’s driving me mad! I can’t fi d out wot it is!

  14. Kay says:

    Whilst visiting friends in Tweed Heads South recently ( northern NSW) I heard a call every morning before daylight. It was a short two notes that sounded like a bell. Bing bong. Or bing bing. Each note was different.
    Maybe someone could help. Kay

  15. Frank Brown says:

    inner Sydney quiet morning I’m hearing a two-note call

    as a musician using the common major scale I’d say it’s a fifth and a third, i.e. the fifth note on the scale followed by two notes lower – about a half-second each so the whole call is over in a second, pause several seconds then repeat.

    Here’s my whistle copy of the sound – interestingly as I was making this recording I could hear the exact same pitch from outside in the street so it’s fairly close to the sound pitch and cadence –

    I’ve browsed several recorded sounds sites but not found a match – anyone ?

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