Tuesday Tune: Chat With A Chat

video by Brian Willson

Yellow-Breasted Chat by Brian Willson

What does a Yellow-Breasted Chat sound like?
“toop-toop-toop-toop-toop toop toop, toop;
chook;
terp;
jedek;
chrrr chrrr chrrr…”

Yellow-Breasted Chat by Brian Willson

Yellow-Breasted Chat by Brian Willson

Further evidence of climate change? Or just another wayward bird?

On my visit to Beech Hill Preserve last Sunday, I hadn’t expected to run into a yellow-breasted chat. This extra-large New World warbler—some would say “alleged” warbler—rarely gets this far north, and hardly ever in breeding/singing season. Not only was this the first chat I’d ever encountered on Beech Hill, it’s the first I’d encountered ever. I couldn’t have dreamed up a more entertaining “lifer.”

Yellow-breasted chats are famous for their wacky voices. They’re also famously shy, preferring dense, low growth and hedgerows, so it follows that I would hear it before laying eyes on such an exotic thing. And I knew I’d never heard that odd collection of notes and chitters—at least not in the field. In his eponymous Field Guide to Birds, David Allen Sibley understates its call as “extremely varied” and then goes on to make an attempt to translate the sounds into words: “toop-toop-toop-toop-toop toop toop, toop; chook; terp; jedek; chrrr chrrr chrrr…”

The chat did eventually appear and pose for photos and a video. I even saw it again yesterday morning. But its absence in afternoon suggests it might have moved away.