The Sounds Of Summer


Do you have a sound that says “summer” to you? For some, it may be the sound of hamburgers sizzling on an outdoor grill - to me, it is the low, sad “coo-oo, oo, oo, oo” of the mourning dove. Though they sing much of the year, when I hear a mourning dove, I can’t help but get a mental image of a hot, humid, lazy summer afternoon. You know the type, don’t you? The ones that you find yourself hoping for a thunderstorm to help cool things off a bit but always just makes it feel like a sauna!


Another of my favorite sounds of summer is the nasal “pee-eet” that I hear each time I am in a large parking lot at night (grocery store, Boardwalk Square, etc.). Few people know that this actually is a unique bird known as a Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor). No, they are not members of the hawk family. Nighthawks belong to a group of birds known as frogmouths or goatsuckers (Whip-poor-wills). These amazing birds fly around with their “whole face” open and consume huge volumes of nighttime insects.


Some sounds of summer are not as welcome. Two birds famous for singing throughout many summer nights are the American Robin and the Northern Mockingbird. On any given summer evening either or both of these songsters may find a perching spot near a outside light and belch out their happy serenade all night long. For light sleepers like my wife, 4 a.m. is not when she wants to hear a bird singing.


Birds use songs and calls to communicate with each other. Many birds like herons have very primitive vocal capabilities and thus their voices are very harsh squawks, others like the northern cardinals and indigo buntings have elaborate vocabularies. Most of the birds we associate with bird feeding stations have these advanced vocal abilities and are classified as “songbirds”.


It has always amazed me how songs and sounds can stimulate thoughts, feelings, and memories.

 Mark McKellar


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