Pennsylvania Game News - November 2020 - 61

By Marcia Bonta

L

AST NOVEMBER, during an early
and snowy cold snap, dozens of
migrating white-throated sparrows took
refuge in our fields and forests. Despite
the weather, they sang their Poor Sam
Peabody, Peabody, Peabody song and
occasionally were joined by a song sparrow. Like most birdwatchers, I assumed
the singers were male, but I might have
been wrong.
Researchers have found northern
female songbird chicks still have a brain
area for singing that has atrophied among
species in which females no longer sing.
Furthermore, Karan J. Odom, at Leiden
University in the Netherlands, and Lauryn
Benedict at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, published a paper in The Auk in 2018,
asking scientists and birders to spread the
word that the females of most tropical
and some temperate songbirds do sing.
Previous work by Benedict and others
concluded that females in 42 percent of
songbird species in the United States

and Canada, and 43 percent of European
songbirds, have some song.
Odom and Benedict appended to their
paper a list of the singing North American
female songbirds using the life histories
of all North American birds in The Birds
of North America (BNA). Currently, there
are 144 species, 67 of which breed, live
year-round or migrate through Pennsylvania.
Sometimes females have a unique
song, while others closely resemble the
male's. For instance, northern cardinal
females sing the same cheer, cheer, cheer
song as males. But female red-winged
blackbirds sing a rapid tut-tut-tut in
answer to the male's okalees.
Of the birds I saw last November, 10
species have singing females - American
crows, black-capped chickadees, tufted
titmice, house finches, eastern towhees,
fox sparrows, song sparrows, northern
cardinals, dark-eyed juncos and whitethroated sparrows.
Female chickadees sing a faint feea-bee, which is lower in volume than
the male's fee-a-bee during breeding.
But females sometimes sing fee-a-bee
loudly throughout the rest of the year, as

Female
Songsters
NOVEMBER 2020	

61



Pennsylvania Game News - November 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Pennsylvania Game News - November 2020

Contents
Pennsylvania Game News - November 2020 - Cover1
Pennsylvania Game News - November 2020 - Cover2
Pennsylvania Game News - November 2020 - Contents
Pennsylvania Game News - November 2020 - 2
Pennsylvania Game News - November 2020 - 3
Pennsylvania Game News - November 2020 - 4
Pennsylvania Game News - November 2020 - 5
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Pennsylvania Game News - November 2020 - 20
Pennsylvania Game News - November 2020 - 21
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Pennsylvania Game News - November 2020 - 25
Pennsylvania Game News - November 2020 - 26
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Pennsylvania Game News - November 2020 - 60
Pennsylvania Game News - November 2020 - 61
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Pennsylvania Game News - November 2020 - 64
Pennsylvania Game News - November 2020 - Cover3
Pennsylvania Game News - November 2020 - Cover4
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