Distinguishing Two High-Pitched Calls

As I referenced in my last post I spent 3 hours at the local park last weekend. Besides the woodpeckers another reason I was there that long was I finally took the time distinguishing two high-pitched calls – the Brown Creeper’s and Golden-crowned Kinglet’s.

I have referenced before I can still hear very high sounds. We take an annual hearing test at work and my results have barely moved in over a decade. The chart on my left ear hasn’t moved and my right ear barely. So I usually hear both Brown Creepers and Golden-crowned Kinglets before other people.

But that doesn’t mean I can distinguish between the two.  

Both species were in the same area Saturday which gave me ample time for distinguishing between the two high-pitched calls.

Upon exiting the car, I immediately heard one of the high-pitched calls. Seeing as I was in the parking lot with only a few trees that meant they were probably Golden-crowned Kinglets. I don’t know about you but they are hard to see feeding in even a half-leaved tree. It took a few minutes before I finally spotted two near the tree top.


I think one of the distinguishing features of a Golden-crowned Kinglet is it always looks mad about something. Franklin Township Community Park 10-30-16

Listening for a few minutes before the pair flew I decided the call sounded like see repeated over 4-5 times, stopped, and repeated: seeseeseesee seeseeseesee

I little later in the walk I came across 3 Brown Creepers in a wooded area. I watched and listened to them. It sounded more like a repeated trill lasting for a second: seeeeet

brcr-1 two high-pitched calls

It isn’t often I come across numerous Brown Creepers in the same area, so I took the opportunity to learn their call. Southeastway Park 11/12/16

The two sounded basically the same but I could pick up the different notes of the kinglet while the creeper’s notes trilled together. So there is a difference.

The ultimate test came when I came across both species together (along with several other woodland species). This time the Golden-crowned Kinglets were making the repeated call but were also making more single note calls – a long repeating seet – seet seet seet

So could I distinguish the two species by sound? Yes.

The trill of the Brown Creeper gave it away versus the Golden-crowned Kinglet’s more distinctive single notes. I’m sure both species have other calls but these are the ones I usually hear in the Midwest.

Once again spending a couple of hours to learn something instead of seeing how many species I could chalk up will pay dividends.

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2 Responses to Distinguishing Two High-Pitched Calls

  1. Thanks for the info! I always get totally thrown by both of these birds when they first show up in the fall. I have to do a double-take to make sure it’s not some sort of insect.

    • BobC says:

      There are a few other calls that confuse me that I’ll probably tackle. But these two have bothered me for years. Now if I can actually tell the difference the next time I’m in the field…

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