Strange Robin call

Hi all I'm pretty well versed in bird song of most of our garden and woodland species, but for the last week or I've been hearing an odd bird call that I couldn't place. It sounds like the most pitiful one-note whistle with a slight downward tone at the end and for the life of me I couldn't ever see what it was - it's one of those notes that sounds like it's all around you! Finally today I worked out that I think it is the female Robin that has paired up this summer with Mr Robin, who has been my loyal companion for the last 18 months since I moved in! I then had a Google and the only recording of the sound I can find is here - there is a link to the audio on the page http://cadensa.bl.uk/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=robin03.wma&library=ALL Has anyone else ever heard a Robin making this particular call and/or do they have any idea what it means? Is it a companion call? Or a warning call? She always just does the call on it's own, without the usual tick ticking meaning "cat" that you can hear on this audio too. Would love to know if anyone else has heard this!
  • Hi Gillian,   I will leave this one to our resident robin guru on the forum (Monkeycheese) to answer more fully but yes, it is the sound of robins,  the clicking sound (maybe male) and the other high pitched squeaky/whistle single call sound, probably by the female.    All will be explained in more detail I am sure by Paul (MC) once he sees this post.    

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    Regards, Hazel 

    "Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again" 

  • Hi Gillian, it's a call that I have heard my Robins making over the years and I have yet to find a definitive meaning for it. I have seen it described as a warning indicating overhead predators, but I have mostly heard it in other circumstances. I have mostly heard it after my Robins have paired up and it doesn't seem to be specific to male or female. In relation to overhead predators, such as Sparrowhawks, I have heard my Robins make this noise after the Sprawk has gone. I most recently heard it from my male Robin (HTR) while he was in the kitchen collecting live mealworms. Several Sparrows had gathered outside the door and as HTR hopped up onto the doorstep he saw them and made the mewling noise. No predators in sight.

    As far as the ticking noise goes, or 'ditting' as I call it, several of my Robins have made that noise when I give them mealworms. HTR has even made this noise while he's in the kitchen and there are no cats there either. In fact, the Robin at the college where I work was ditting at me while he was eating his mealies this afternoon. I thought he was going to choke on one! I have also noticed that ditting is very much a part of the early morning ritual of male Robins from January onward and seems to precede their initial bout of territorial singing.

    I'm sure you are no more the wiser now than before you started reading this. I find that the best way to figure out these things is to watch the Robins and try to work out what is going on around them each time it happens.

    As ever, I'm only basing all these comments on my own observations, so I wouldn't say they were definitive.

    Unicum arbustum haud alit duos erithacos

    (One bush does not shelter two Robins)

    Zenodotus (3rd Century B.C.)

     

  • In reply to monkeycheese:

    Hi Gillian

    I would describe it as a contact call, I've seen the Robins out on my patch doing it, only the other day I saw a Robin at a tree where I have feeders making the call with a beakfull of food (pastry) as if it was trying to locate either some young or its partner.

    I've also seen and heard Blackbirds making the same call.

    I think the high pitch call travels further than a normal call.

    My Flickr photos

  • In reply to Alan.:

    Alan W said:

    as if it was trying to locate either some young or its partner.

    Well reminded Alan! It's also something I have noticed, especially during the pairing up time from late December through February. BR used to make this noise quite a lot when Mrs BR was out of his field of vision.

    Clear as mud eh?

    Unicum arbustum haud alit duos erithacos

    (One bush does not shelter two Robins)

    Zenodotus (3rd Century B.C.)

     

  • In reply to monkeycheese:

    That's really interesting, thanks Paul. I always find it more interesting to hear people's personal experiences rather than read something from a text book. I've heard it a lot over the last week and then this evening heard the female very loudly from across the garden and Mr Robin next to me doing it more softly back to her. I went to investigate her and she got very loud - like you, I read the aerial threat thing but there definitely wasn't any aerial threat around. Then I thought maybe I was the aerial threat (!), but then I've heard it at other times not related to me. So a bit of a mystery, like you say. They do have chicks in the nest at the moment, so could possibly be in connection to that.

    I also find it really interesting what you say about the ditting - I've only ever seen them do it in relation to the cat so assumed that's what it meant, but sounds like not.

    Mr Robin for the first time yesterday (and today) has now been brave enough to come and sit firstly on the boot of my welly when I have my legs crossed and then up onto my knee, after his usual worms. I've noticed he, the blackbird and the blue tits all get much braver when they have chicks to feed.

    I'm definitely going to keep a close eye on them and see if I can shed any more light on the strange call, thanks for your advice!

  • In reply to GillianW766069482:

    And thanks Alan too! I posted the above before I saw your response, so sounds like I'm on the right track. Perhaps she wondered what her partner was doing sitting on the knee of a human :)

  • In reply to GillianW766069482:

    What you also have to think about is we might not hear the call same as another bird does due to our range of hearing, I think someone a few years back taped a call and slowed it down as was surprised just how complex the call was and how many notes we couldn't hear.

    My Flickr photos

  • Hi Everyone
    This is a very old thread, i’m not sure if it’s still active but I found it on google whilst looking for an answer?
    We had a pair of nesting robins and I heard one of the pair making this a one note whistle over and over with no response. I can’t actually get the link posted above so not sure if it sounds the same. As a human it sounded very ‘sad’ like the bird was in despair (a human take on it!). I then went out to the garden to look about as it sounded so sorrowful and found the chicks had fallen out of the nest and died.
    The pair began adding to the nest I assumed to lay again and then a week or so later (yesterday) I heard the same song from one of the pair, no sign of the other. They have now both gone and I have not seen them at all.
    I guess I am asking because I feel so bad about what could have happened, what does the song mean? Could anyone shed any light, i’m aware there’s nothing I can do but I can’t stop thinking about it.
    Thank you
  • Hi,

    Like Olivipe, I found this thread after hearing this call a lot and finally tracking it down to our resident robins. We have cats so very familiar with the ‘ditting’ sound but had been hearing this whistle for weeks without knowing who was making it.
    So sorry to hear about the fate of you robin chicks Olivipe, I really hope ours have not suffered similar hardship.