The course of an old railway line between Knockentiber and
Springside in Ayrshire provides some good scrubby habitat for Yellowhammers (Emberiza
citrinella). While surveying the territorial males there last May, I heard
one bird that was singing two song types which were alternated almost one after
the other. Most of the birds in this area sing about eight strophes (or
deliveries) per minute and stick to one song type for quite long periods,
though occasionally dropping the final ‘cheese’ phrase. Listen to this excerpt
of a recording below of this bird and you’ll see what I mean. The first strophe
I’ve termed the ‘Fast High’ song type/strophe and the second, the ‘Slow Low’
song type/strophe. See the two sonograms below illustrating this.
Another element in the song that is quite difficult to
detect in the field with the human ear (and while listening to playback of
recordings) is the very short (0.04 secs) and high pitched (up to 8 kHz)
element that immediately proceeds the trill/rattle. Its visible on the sonogram but
see if you can pick it out in the recording.
The ‘Fast High’ strophe is around 1.84 seconds with the
first phrase comprised of a trill/rattle of 10-11 syllables spanning 4.22-6.76 kHz
and lasting 1.07 secs. The second phrase – just a single element, and the
familiar ‘cheese’ of the popular British mnemonic for this species – is around
4.85 kHz and lasting 0.68 secs. (Willow Warbler in the background).
The ‘Slow Low’ strophe is longer at around 2.11 seconds with
usually 12 lower-pitched syllables spanning 3.07-5.04 kHz and lasting 1.37 secs.
The cheese phrase is also lower pitched at 4.4 kHz, lasting 0.55 sec. (Willow
Warbler in the background).