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Nocturnal Flight Calls Online

“Just google it.”

Or: “Just download the app.”

Or, in extreme cases: “Just go to the library.”

Those options work 99% of the time in this birding life, but not—until very recently—in the case of Bill Evans and Michael O’Brien’s indispensable Flight Calls of Migratory Birds. You actually had to buy, borrow, or bootleg the CD-ROM. That was fine back in 2002, when Flight Calls was launched. Fast forward to 2017. I’ve lost track of all the internet-enabled devices in my house, but I can tell you that not a one of them is equipped to play a CD-ROM. Flight Calls might as well have been put on eight-track or papyrus.

Flight Calls of Migratory Birds, an essential resource for birders, is now available online.

I’ll cut to the chase: Earlier this week, Evans and O’Brien announced that Flight Calls of Migratory Birds is now online. Not only that, it is free. Here’s the link:

The online version works exactly as the old CD-ROM did. I’d call it no-frills, intuitive, and supremely useful.

Please, please, please: Take the time to review the various links under “Introduction.” But, for now, let’s just go straight to “Species Index.” Then click on, let’s say, “Thrushes.” And then “Gray-cheeked Thrush.”

I’ve selected Gray-cheeked Thrush for a reason.

This Gray-cheeked Thrush was recorded on nocturnal migration over Victor, western Montana, on Sept. 14, 2017. The spectrogram appears to constitute the first record for the species in the region. Recordings like this one can be ID’d with Flight Calls of Migratory Birds, now available online.

Just yesterday, Debbie Leick posted to the Nocturnal Flight Calls list a spectrogram and audio of a nocturnal flight call that she and her colleagues recorded in Victor, Montana, in the western part of the state. It’s a perfect match to Gray-cheeked Thrush, a species previously unreported in Montana west of the continental divide. And we know what this birds is because of Flight Calls of Migratory Birds, with its user-friendly library of the flight calls of Gray-cheeked Thrushes, other thrushes, and some “confusion species” you might not have considered (Red-headed Woodpecker, believe it or not).

This. Is. Awesome.

On behalf of all of us at the American Birding Association: Thank you, Bill, and thank you, Michael, for making this amazing resource, this timeless classic, available to all of us in the birding community. And there’s just one more thing: When are you going to re-release the notorious “Thrush Tape”? 🙂

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Ted Floyd

Ted Floyd

Editor, Birding magazine at American Birding Association
Ted Floyd is the longtime Editor of Birding magazine, and he is broadly involved in other programs and initiatives with the ABA. Ted has written 200+ magazine articles and 5 books, including How to Know the Birds (National Geographic, 2019). He is a frequent speaker at birding festivals and has served on several nonprofit boards. Join Ted at The ABA Blog for his semimonthly spot, “How to Know the Birds,” celebrating common birds and the uncommonly interesting things they do.