My Best Nest: A Purple Martin Story
What kind of bird am I?
Purple Martin NestlingsEnemy #1: StarlingEnemy #2: House SparrowMartin HooligansFeeding time!Bird features"My Best Nest," the bookA tale of beginningsBibliographyUseful linksActivities for kidsStudent ExercisesFor librariansAuthor and contributorsBuy the book

In the wild Purple Martins sound like this:

The song of martins in the wild

Here is a recording of a 3-year-old martin that was hatched too late in the season to migrate, and was raised in captivity:

A captive martin doing another song

The martin was raised in the same room as an older captive common song bird of another species (that bird had been injured as a fledgling and could not fly). Here is a recording of the martin's "roommate":

The roommate bird's song

Obviously the young martin learned some of the song of his older roommate. The martin also knew his own species' calls; he had heard many recordings of those.

Here the martin starts out imitating his roomate, but stops when a person enters the room. The martin preferred to use martin calls to communicate to people! First he gives a martin greeting. But when the person tries to get the martin to move perches, he switches to the grumbling call that means "get out of my space!".

The captive martin's own song

People would also try to "talk to the birds in their own language", by whistling. They often did wolf whistles, which both birds learned to do and often incorporated into their songs.

The "roommate" bird was also played recordings of his species' song. He grew up alone his first two years, and never imitated the martin's calls after he arrived. Can you recognize the species of the roommate from his song? After you guess, the link below will let you listen to that species' wild song.

The wild song of the roommate bird's species

How well did the roomate bird learn his species' song? 

Can you imitate any birds' songs? Which ones?

See how well you can do compared to the champion North-American mimic, the Northern Mockingbird:

Northern Mockingbird songs