Loud Nocturnal Bird

kman04

This is probably a common bird, as I've heard it off and on since I was a kid, but I have no idea what bird species it is.

I live in eastern Kansas and I've only heard it at night, usually in heavily wooded areas, but about 4 or 5 years ago I began hearing it in more suburban areas with larger trees. It appears to be a summer only migrant to the area as I usually begin hearing it sometime in late May or early June and it ends around the first week of September.

The "song" isn't any kind of a whistle or smooth song like say the song of a Cardinal or Robin or something like that, nor is it a hoot or shriek like an Owl species, nor is it a whip-poor-will or a chuck-will's-widow (we have both around here and it's nothing at all like their calls). It's a repetitive series of 4, what I can only call "acks" which seem to slightly descend in tone from the 1st to the 4th. They repeat this series of 4 "acks" nonstop. They seem to begin about 1 hour or 2 hours after sunset and end sometime between 2 or 3 hours before sunrise.

As I said before the bird appears to only call from heavily treed areas and they seem to prefer to call from near the very tops of the trees. Almost always 1 bird per tree and they seem to be somewhat spread apart from each other. I've tried to see one with a flashlight but failed to do so as they're so high up in the tree.

Again, I'm betting this is a common bird in the eastern USA.

Any ideas on what it is?

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kman04

After thinking all of these birds had left my area a few days ago, one started calling up in a large tree in my back yard tonight.

It's call is a bit different than what I had described above. It's call was a series of 5 or 6 of these "ack" type sounds. It would call out 5 in a row and take a very brief pause before calling out 6 in a row and then take a longer pause before resuming with another 5 or 6 in a row followed by a brief pause and then 5 or 6 more and then a longer pause and so on.

So, it appears to be a repeating series of 5 or 6 calls in a row, brief pause (half a second of so) then 5 or 6 more in a row then a longer pause (1 second or so) and repeat.

ack is a little bit too hard of a syllable to describe the call, but it ends more in a similar ending to a brown thrasher's alarm call..or rather the call brown thrashers often let out when disturbed, especially around their nest.

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catherinet

Is it possible that it's not a bird, but rather a toad/frog/insect?
Is it more like a clicking sound? It took me a while to figure out the clicking coming from trees around my house, and it ended up being a Greater Anglewing Katydid. Google it and see if you can find a sound for it.
Also there are some crickets that can make that sound.

This post was edited by catherinet on Sun, Sep 7, 14 at 12:40

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davao45

Sounds like a chipmunk

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catherinet

chipmunks don't make noise during the night......at least not around here.

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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Maybe an American Crow? They make a lot of odd sounds and supposedly can be pretty noisy at their nighttime roosts.

Scroll down to the rattle call

Claire

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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Or a Common Raven?

Claire

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catherinet

Do crows and ravens call all night? I've never heard them.

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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

This reference from the Minneapolis Star Tribune on Bird songs muted in winter is the reason why I suggested crows.

"Their cousins, the crows, have more than 20 different calls. One of the more interesting is the rattle call, sounding like castanets, given when a crow is excited. There's the familiar multi-purpose "caw," plus a sort of "ack-ack" sound. Crows also sometimes click their beaks, like jays. At their nighttime roosts, crows make an astonishing amount of noise as they gossip with their neighbors long past nightfall."

I've never heard crows at night myself but it wouldn't surprise me.

Claire

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catherinet

A crow's rattle call is interesting. Took me awhile to figure out what it was, until I saw a crow flying across the field while "rattling". Such cool birds!

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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

I once heard a sound like a fog horn but it wasn't foggy (I live on the top of the coastal bank overlooking the bay). It turned out to be a crow perched in a tree looking out and making the fog horn sound again and again. Another crow perched near by looking patient and maybe amused.

Definitely cool birds.

Claire

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kman04

It's definitely not the Greater Anglewing Katydid as I did google the sound and it's nothing like what I'm hearing. There is no high pitched part of this bird's call at night.

It's not a bug nor a toad/frog (none of these guys in my immediate vicinity) as one time I accidentally disturbed one while it was calling and I saw it, or rather I saw the murky outline of a bird, fly to another tree and it began calling in that tree a few minutes later. Unfortunately it was so dark I could only get a very vague idea of the size of the bird. It looked to be about the size of a robin or blue jay, but that's the only detail I could see.

Another one was in a large tree across the street from me tonight and it mixed up the repetition of the call some more. It started off with 1 or 2 "acks", then the very short pause followed by 2 or 3 "acks" followed by the very short pause (again maybe 1/2 second or so pause) and repeated the 2 or 3 "acks" between pauses several times in a row before I accidentally made some loud noise and it immediately stopped calling for a couple of minutes until starting again.

These are solitary birds in each tree. I've never heard more than 1 in a tree (yet?) and they don't sound like any vocalization I've heard from a crow. It's definitely not a group of roosting birds being noisy so I don't think it's crows or ravens. I haven't actually seen a raven in my immediate vicinity ever either.

Thanks for the suggestions.

I'm going to try and record one if I can and maybe figure out a way to post it online. My powers of description may just be so poor that you all already know what it is but couldn't figure it out from what I've posted. LOL

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catherinet

If it just had more variety, it could be a mockingbird........but they always seem to chatter all over the place.
I wonder if it's some sort of heron?.....like a green heron? Look up their Kak...kak....kak call.
Do you live near water?

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catherinet

Don't leave us hangin' Kman. Have you figured it out yet?
Inquiring bird-people want to know! :)

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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Continuing with the heron theme, how about Black-crowned Night-Heron? See link for calls. At least the bird is nocturnal.

Claire

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catherinet

That's a good possibility Claire. We can only hope that kman returns and we get to solve this mystery! I can't sleep at night until we do. :)

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kman04

haha!

Sorry for the delayed response here, but I don't believe it's a Heron of any kind as I don't really live near water. These calls are very repetitive over long periods of time and lower toned. Also, I think I would have seen the Heron up in the tree with my l.e.d. flash light (boy are those things bright!) if it were one. Thanks for the suggestions though!

Other than an occasional Great Blue Heron flying over or a couple Cattle Egrets wondering in, the closest thing we've had actually hang around my immediate vicinity is a migrating American Bittern that hung out in a clump of my neighbors Surprise Lilly foliage for a couple of days one spring. He made no noise (except when he left for good), but that was a funny one!

As I've heard these birds every summer in my lifetime in heavily wooded areas at night, I'm sure it's a very common bird. Maybe I can refine my description of the call a bit...the "acks" aren't sharp clean "ack" type sounds (ack may not even be the best descriptor but I can't think of how else to put it!), but more that muddled or non-crisp like sound a Cat Bird makes when it's making its "mew" call. These "acks" though are not nearly as high pitched as a Cat Bird's "mew" call is in the beginning, but closer to the ending of a Cat Bird's "mew" call.

Anyone know where I could post a sound file for people to listen to? 2 seem to be sticking around my place still while most others seemed to have left about 2 weeks ago and I got a good recording of 1 a week ago.

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catherinet

And this sound is in the middle of the night?

How about this.........can you find a sound on a birding site online (like allaboutbirds.org) that comes closest to the sound you're hearing, (even though you're sure it's not that specific bird). and then just give us the link to that page?

I'm being driven nuts by some birds in big bushes here that almost sound like what you're hearing. I've been wondering if they are catbirds, but I don't think so. I just can never see them, and it's only at dusk, not in the night. (Well, I'm not over there in the middle of the night, but I'm pretty sure they go to sleep).
I wish I could tell you how to post an audio here. I've wondered how to do that myself, but I still don't know.

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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

I've never done it myself, but this link tells you how to convert an audio file into a format that will work on YouTube.

You could then just link to YouTube.

Claire

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kman04

That's the first thing I did, was listen to all of the supposed "nocturnal" birds on sites like allaboutbirds.org and nothing really sounded close at all. That's why I came here.

I usually only hear these birds starting about an hour after sunset until sometime between 3AM and 5AM. I was out at a friends place last week who lives out in the country and for the first time I heard one in daylight. It called briefly about 10 minutes before dusk. It only called up for about 30 seconds though and was too far away in the top of a tree in a neighbors thorny scrub forest to see it.

I wonder if there's any website where you can post sound files and just create a link to it from here if you can't post sound files here.

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catherinet

I know it probably isn't a yellow rail, since you're not near water........but how does your bird's call compare to the yellow rails? (Click on the 'sound').

Here is a link that might be useful: yellow rail

This post was edited by catherinet on Fri, Sep 19, 14 at 16:29

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catherinet

Here's a sample of a short-eared owls call. But go to the "bark in flight" sound.

Here is a link that might be useful: short-eared owl

This post was edited by catherinet on Fri, Sep 19, 14 at 16:32

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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

I posted this at about the same time kman04 posted again so he may not have seen it.

I've never done it myself, but this link tells you how to convert an audio file into a format that will work on YouTube.

You could then just link to YouTube.

Claire

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Charlee_MO

Try the website whatbird.com. I first thought it could be a mockingbird, too.

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catherinet

I've never heard a mockingbird just stay on one note..........but I suppose it could happen. (Maybe if it had a frog in its throat. ;))

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tmff

I also live in Eastern Kansas and I am pretty familiar with the birds around here. I know what it is not (Common Raven, Short-eared Owl), but I am hesitant to wager a guess on what it IS without actually hearing this call. Running out of time, kman04! This cold frontal passage we just experienced overnight will bring a good chunk of our migrants out of here.

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catherinet

LOL.............you can't say we haven't tried! :)

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Maureen Vaughn

Was this bird puzzle ever solved? I have the exact same bird in Missouri in a heavily wooded area. Such a strange sound, especially at night.

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catherinet

I wish you could record it and post it here!

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Maureen Vaughn

I wish I could too. The sound is sporadic, random. The bird is solitary because nothing answers back. The sound is loud but not so much to indicate a large bird. As described above, it is an "ack" sound, sometimes lifting up at the end as "aahh...ick." Whatever it is, it flies, because the sound moves around, but isn't made often.

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Barry Will

I know exactly what kman04 is talking about--have been hearing this bird exactly as k-4 describes it in country lake settings in lower Michigan and suburban settings in Ohio. But I also do not know what it is. I am listening to one now calling from a tree behind a neighbor's house across the street where it's been for several summers and autumns now (it is 10:20 pm). My father in law in Michigan called it a snipe, but the behavior, habitat, etc., doesn't fit that kind of bird. The ack-ack call is somewhat raspy, like rubbing a popsickle stick on a rough file. The patterns repeat continuously with little variation. It would be nice if someone could clear up this mystery.

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wanda_llsn

Kman04 is correct.

I started hearing this animal approximately a month ago. I finally saw it tonight, a large bird of some kind. Much larger than a crow, it's more the size of a mid sized Hawk or a bird of that category, the wing span is large.

We are close to the woods and we are flanked by large trees, I watched it glide from tree branch to tree branch until he was high in the tree.

I'm so pleased to read someone has experienced the wonder. I will be more prepared the next time I hear it, I'm going to have my binoculars handy.

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catherinet

Sure wish we could figure this out after so long! Maybe it's a one-of-a-kind remnant of prehistoric times?? ;)

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

No one has suggested a nighthawk yet?

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Common_Nighthawk/sounds

According to Cornell, males make an "auk auk auk" sound during courtship.

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Maureen Vaughn

The call of a Nighthawk is 'dainty' by comparison. I believe it is a Barn Owl, at least here in my forest in Missouri. At the edge of the forest is an abandoned farm building. And there, they roost.

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catherinet

I've never heard nighthawks at night. I know that sounds silly, but I've only heard them in the evenings. To me, their call is a lot like that of a woodcock......sort of a "peent" type of call. Barns owls have a very airy/raspy call.

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catherinet

I just read your link, Zach, and I guess I've never heard the "auk" sound from them.

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Sky Winebaugh

I came on here to figure out what bird I just heard outside my house in Missouri and the one I heard sounds exactly like a barn owl. Maybe that's what yours is as well,kman. Have you figured it out yet? Its been years. Lol Thanks Maureen for mentioning the barn owl. :)

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Maureen Vaughn

I didn't know what it was 2 years ago...it was so sporadic and I never saw the bird. Then I saw its outline one night. It is a strange non-owl sound, dry and singular 'ack'. They are beautiful birds and rare.

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kman04

I've never figured it out. These things are all over my area now. Virtually always only 1 per tree and they're at or near the top of the tree. The trees are also almost always larger trees to, at least 50' or 60' tall or taller. I'm beginning to think they're some sort of tree frog even though they sound nothing like the tree frog sounds I've listened to online. Also, the nearest source of reliable water around is about 1 mile away and it's a small creek. But, I did find out someone about 1/3 of a mile away from me built a somewhat large garden pound. I guess 1 of those could be where they are coming from if they are indeed tree frogs. Never seen a tree frog at anytime during the day in my area though.


Strangely enough, I was watching an older movie a couple of months ago and the exact same animal was calling in the background noise. Don't recall exactly which movie I was watching, but I think it was Deliverance. LOL I do recall the scene was shot near a large pond with forest all around, except the boat dock area they were talking on. So, at least the scene in the movie I was watching matched the habitat they occupy in my area also, except without the water here at my place.


Oh, and don't think this is any large bird. I surely would have seen 1 by now as I've used my powerful LED flashlight to try and illuminate one of these things and have never been able to, unless it's quite small and I just couldn't see it 50' or 60' up in the tree at night with my flashlight. It's also definitely not a Barn Owl or Nighthawk. Lots of Nighthawks around here, and their calls are quite different and much less repetitive than the calls I'm hearing. These things drone on for hours with only small stops in between.


I know these things have to be very common and widespread. I recall hearing these same animals when I was kid on camping trips here in KS or down in the Ozarks of Southern Missouri.


Not sure why none of the calls for night birds nor tree frogs supposedly found in my area match up at all so far. Maybe I need to go through them all again?


Thanks for all of the responses!

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Maureen Vaughn

Your sounds must be different from mine. The sound I hear is a dry single 'ack' and not repetitive. Whatever makes the sound moves from tree to tree before it makes another single 'ack'. You may have a frog of some kind. I hear green frogs here, same size as a bullfrog, and they make a guitar plunk sound, which is different.


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ackhanolkar

I suspect we have the same type of bird in front of our house. Here's a link to a video of its call; as kman04 said, it stays too high in the tree to be seen from the ground, but the video did a good job of capturing the call. The closest thing I've heard on All About Birds was the black-crowned night heron, but it's not identical. If you recognize it or have an educated guess, please leave a comment on the video as well as a reply here. Thanks.

https://youtu.be/xApU5w5uYVA

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Maureen Vaughn

I believe it is a bug, or perhaps frog. Not the 'ack' sound I have heard.


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catherinet

ackhanolkar............are you referring to the katydids? Or are you talking about that one sound around .14 into the video? It was the only other thing I could hear....just once.

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ackhanolkar

No definitely the repetitive call. That sounds at 14s is me shifting the camera.

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ackhanolkar

So not a bird? Then I guess my sound may be different from kman's.

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catherinet

No, those are katydid bugs. One of my favorite August night sounds.

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Olychick

Do you have Great Blue Herons in your area? Or another heron? GBH land in trees here at night and they will sometimes emit a single aack...never sure quite why.

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Maureen Vaughn

I just listened online to a Blue Heron croak, and it is close. If there were one making a single sound like that, then it could have been a Heron.

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kman04

Well, at least some of what I heard appears to be a couple of Night Herons as I finally saw one while making the call. It looked like a Yellow-Crowned Night Heron as I thought I saw a strong black and white pattern on it's face, but it was low light so I could have been mistaken. It and it's partner both took off almost as soon as I saw them too, so I only got a fleeting glimpse of them.

Strange though, the call was much more repetitious than what I read or heard online. It also was lower than most of the calls I listened to online.

I also don't know what they're doing up in tall trees most of the night instead of down by some body of water hunting. Maybe it's something about the environment around here in my part of eastern Kansas? LOL

We do have a lot of Seagulls but they're almost always flying up high at between about 200' to 500' zig-zagging around non-stop all day it seems. The only time I see them down on the ground is in or near 1 of the large reservoirs here in Kansas, but those are some 75 to 100 miles from my place.

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Lisa Bryant

I realize this is an old discussion - maybe everyone knows the answer. The sound is a Common True Katydid. I heard it last weekend while camping in SE KS and spent quite a while searching for that answer! You can find the sound recorded if you search around the internet.

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Maureen Vaughn

I found out that mine was a Barn Owl, and someone else found out their sound was a Night Heron......so funny!

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HU-652141551

It is a male Katydid.

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