Different species are often distinctive for the sounds they make: calls, which are single notes or short series of notes; songs, which tend to be longer, more complex vocalizations used for specific purposes, such as to advertise territory; and alarm calls or contact calls. This section of Costa Rican bird sounds is classify by family.
Tyrannidae – Tyrant flycatchers
Tyrant-flycatchers are highly diverse both in appearance (from drab and cryptic to colorful and boldly patterned) and general behavior (secretive to conspicuous). They also inhabit a wide range of environmental niches; the richest diversity of species occurs in the South American tropics, as a result of specialization in microhabitat and foraging habits.
Troglodytidae – Wrens
One of the most familiar of the bird families, wrens are smallish, compact birds with a tail that, in many species, is cocked upward. Generally very active birds, many are noisy and conspicuous, although some give their presence away only when they sing. Songs are loud, powerful, often complex, and beautiful.
Trochilidae – Hummingbirds
Hummingbird vocalizations are generally not melodious, consisting largely of high-pitched squeaks, squeals, chips, chirps, and buzzy or chattering notes. Although males of many species perch in the open and advertise their presence using simple vocalizations, few species are considered to actually sing.
Icteridae – Blackbirds
Generally loud and obvious. The songs of blackbirds and grackles can be rather unmusical, while those of orioles and meadowlarks are sweet and melodious. Some of the orioles and caciques are fine mimics. Certain oropendola species, when displaying, produce two different sounds at the same time, one descending and one ascending; this effect creates a distinctive, complex, cascading song.
Psittacidae – Parrots
A large and diverse family that includes well-known birds such as parrots, macaws and parakeets. Members of this family vary greatly in size, shape, and coloration, with many being admired for their attractive or even dazzling plumage. Psittacids are very vocal birds with a highly complex repertoire of calls and songs, mostly nonmusical in nature, which may be given both from perches and while in flight.
Ramphastidae – Toucans
Loud, with a large repertoire of songs and calls – generally a monotonous series of hoots, growls, yelps, whistles, and trills. In many species, pairs duet, or groups counter-sing. Toucans may also produce nonvocal sounds such as taping or drumming on hard surfaces and Ramphastos toucans also make loud “wing rustling” sounds using their two modified outer primaries.
Turdidae – Thrushes
Thrushes are among the most accomplished and versatile songsters. They have a series of melodic, rich, fluting, whistled, or warbled songs, given either as a succession of pure notes or repeat in short phrases. Their repertories of spiraling, flutelike phrases, ventriloquial cadences, modulated whistles, buzzes, and trills create an extremely evocative sense of true wilderness in the other wise silent forest.
Strigidae – Owls
Owls rely heavily on vocal communication, particularly species that are nocturnal and live in dense forest where visual communication es difficult. Calls are used primarily to advertise territorial boundaries, attract and pair-bond with a mate, or advertise a nest site. Larger species produce booming hoots and barks that may carry for several miles, while smaller species give higher pitched hoots, whistles, peeps, and rhythmic trills that often sound similar to insects or frogs.
Cotingidae – Cotingas
The cotingas are an amazingly diverse Neotropical family ranging from inconspicuous to spectacular birds, adapted for a wide variety of habitats and life styles. Songs are given by males, and cover an enormous range of simple sounds, from loud, piercing squeaks, quacks, and clangs, to deep, booming groans or mooing, and resonant, clear whistles.
Thamnophilidae – Antbirds
Most species are highly vocal. Typical vocalizations are simple sounds given by both sexes, defined as loudsong (a long, stereotype series of notes, typically metallic, nasal, or whistled in quality an ascending , descending, accelerating, or decelerating) or softsong (a quiet, hummed version of the loudsong).
Trogonidae – Trogons
Both males and females vocalize. The primary songs are generally a series of “coos” or whistles, which vary between species in pattern and tone, and are sometimes quite harsh. Trogons are usually loud, with the sound carrying through the forest for great distances. Calls are usually softer, resembling a churrrr. The birds often cock and lower their tail slowly while calling.