[Tweeters] Least Sandpiper beer noises

Gary Bletsch garybletsch at yahoo.com
Sun Sep 12 13:38:44 PDT 2010

Dear Tweeters and Dennis,

Yesterday I heard some odd vocalizations from some Least Sandpipers. Here are my field notes from this observation of a flock of about ten birds:


Least Sandpiper ::: West Ninety
September 11, 2010
; foraging near Baird's Sandpipers on bch by dike, odd hissing calls

Besides making their usual "kreet" calls, these birds repeatedly gave a
different vocalization, audible only at close range when the birds would fly
by me. It was a soft, hissing click, somewhat like that of a bottle of cold beer
being opened, "tsss!"


I knew at the time that I'd read about an odd vocalization by this species, and when I got home, I finally found it in Dennis Paulson's "Shorebirds of the Pacific Northwest." In the book, Dennis poses this as a curious behaviour to be looked for, saying that he'd heard foraging birds making a similar noise, possibly as a warning.

I was close to the flock of foraging Leasts yesterday, but I only heard the noise when they were flying, not when they were on the seaweed mat. They did it two or three times; each time, the small flock would take off, fly right by me, and make the noise. I couldn't tell how many birds were doing it, nor could I see any bills opening.

To be more specific in the description, the sound is not like that of a well-shaken can of Schlitz being popped open. It is more the sound you hear when the screw-off cap of a cold, non-agitated bottle of beer is turned just slightly, allowing a modicum of gas to escape. At least (pun intended), that is what it sounded like to me, as I walked around out there in the hot sun, while wearing one too many garments.

Yours truly,

Gary Bletsch   Near Lyman, Washington (Skagit County), USA   garybletsch at yahoo.com    

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