Before we start examining the possible songs, let’s take a minute to examine the structure of our target song. First, it clearly has three distinct Sections. Sectional boundaries are created by obvious changes in pitch, speed or type of Element. The first Section has 3 similar Elements, the second has two and the last is one down/up Element.
These Elements sound very bright and high. To be more specific, they are fairly Expanded, meaning the pitch range of the Elements is wide. The Elements are also short, which emphasizes the brightness of the song.
Now let’s examine our possible suspects. Hooded Warbler’s song is of a similar length. However they sound lower and less bright. Again this is because the Elements have a much less Expanded pitch range. This is also emphasized by the length of the Elements, which are longer, giving our ear time to hear all of the pitches: thus they sound more “musical” or mellow.
The other three candidates are very similar, which explains why this song is often confused in the field.
American Redstart has one characteristic that is very helpful in identifying this species. In addition to singing a multi-Section song, similar to our target song, Redstarts very often alternate their primary song with a much simpler, one-Section song.
This combination of alternated simple and more complex songs is a very good ID point for American Redstart, and separates it from our target song, which is repeated regularly, as stated in the description.
The Elements are also less Expanded, and so sound less emphatic, or thinner, than our target song.
There is one other important distinction that is very easy-to-hear in the field and can help us solve this quiz. American Redstart, Magnolia Warbler and Hooded Warbler sing songs with 3 or more Sections, just like our target song. However the second Section is always only 1 Element: they never repeat an Element in this second Section.
Magnolia Warbler’s song only has 1 Element in the second Section
Yellow Warbler, on the other hand, always repeats the Element in its second Section twice, and often several times. Our target song has two Elements in the second Section, nailing down the ID to Yellow Warbler.
In The Warbler Guide, the master pages of any of these species will contain these similar species, with notes on how to separate them.
Yellow Warbler’s Master Pages include comparisons with all similar-sounding species