RING OUZEL (Turdus torquatus)

Merle à plastron

 

 

Turdus_torquatus.jpgThe Ring Ouzel is the mountain version of a Blackbird. They are found mainly from 1200m to 2600m in the mountains and are at their highest density on the wetter northern slopes. The male is black with white edges to the feathers giving a scaley appearance (and this seems quite variable) but the real visible feature is the large white collar (plastron) across the chest, the female is the same but brown with a duller collar. Like the Blackbird it usually sings from an exposed perch from where it can broadcast its song far and wide. At first hearing the song can seem somewhat boring, the books tell us it is a steady rhythmical stream of 3-4 note phrases repeated at regular intervals. It is delivered in a hesitant manner, with a pause between phrases that gives the impression that the bird is trying to decide whether to carry on or not :

 

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It isn't always 3-4 simple notes however some individuals can go up to 5-6 notes, even adding little embellishments, listen to this one recorded early morning after an overnight rainstorm with the water still dripping from the trees:

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You soon begin to pick out some feature though: each phrase is at a different pitch than the one that came before so the song seems to move randomly up and down, and at  40 secs into that last cut the bird also made its own "echo" sound by prolonging the call but declining the volume. Follow these two features in the sonogram, the video is edited so the echo sound is the last phrase at 15 secs:

The little embellishments that certain individuals add on, coupled with the 3-4 times repeated pattern can sometimes create confusion (in my head anyway) with a Song Thrush, and I find I sometimes have to listen quite carefully to be sure what it is I am hearing. But the Ring Ouzel is much more plodding and pedantic in nature - here is one that sounded a bit like a Song Thrush:

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 I have also recorded a male and female courting together when the little undertones, rather than the full notes, seemed to be the main characteristic of the courtship. Hurried little phrases almost as though he was urging her on to the final act:

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 Between 8 and 16 secs in that last cut you can also hear some loud clucking sounds, I could not see whether it was the male or female that made those sounds (although she certainly seemed to be a bit alarmed by his close attentions !), but those cluckings are the alarm call of this species. It seems a very timid bird, so if you approach one that is singing it will quite often switch to the alarm call if it spots you:

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As the level of threat goes up so the alarms can change from a regular clucking to some altogether more rapid-fire and urgent scolding calls:

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