Of Kicky-doos, Grunts, Coos, and Meeps

What’s the problem? Are words like “kicky-doo”, “grunts”, “coos”, or “meep”not in your typical lexicon? After a pile of literature review, a call for input, and some clever suggestions, these are some of the terms now that have become standard for describing the various vocalizations of Marsh Birds. To hear them or see a full list visit the National Marsh Bird Monitoring Program page on vocalizations.

It was great to hear them in the early dawn and evening as the odd utterances sporadically irrupt from usually deep cover at Mittry Lake in Arizona.

A spectrogram of Black Rail “kicky-doos. Click here to hear.

A few of the many Black Rails we heard crept within a few meters of us and remained unseen. They “kicky-doo’d” and “grr-grr-grr’d.” The “kicky-doo” is thought to have a function of advertising (to potential mates and/or adversaries). The “grr-grr-grr” is thought to serve as territorial defense and/or alarm.

This tiny rail is seldom seen. In fact, the few who have studied it rarely actually see the bird.

A spectrogram of a Black Rail “grr-grr-grr.” Click here to hear.

As with most Marsh Birds, their populations have declined to very concerning levels. This is primarily due to the loss of wetland habitat.

MRBO is making swift progress to implement surveys for Marsh Birds in wetlands throughout Missouri. It is important that we conduct long-term monitoring, so that we can find out were these secretive birds breed and determine how there populations are doing.

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