Blue jays, Bohemian waxwings, and squeaky clothesline sounds

Bohemian Waxwing

Is my mystery bird a Bohemian waxwing, like this…

Really, you readers are the best. Thank you so much to those of you who responded to my plea in last night’s post and offered suggestions as to the mysterious identity of the bird whose call I think – when I hear it here at the Manse in Queensborough, on these early mornings of late winter/early spring – sounds more than anything else like a squeaky clothesline.

Thanks to you, I have learned two things in the past 24 hours:

Blue Jay

… or the decidedly less exotic (but very beautiful) blue jay?

One: The probable identity of the Squeaky Clothesline Bird. And two: The identity of a bird that it could have been, that probably does show up in these parts from time to time, and that sounds even more like a squeaky clothesline than the ones who hang their hats among the branches of the Manse property’s deciduous and coniferous trees. (Note to my long-ago elementary-school teachers: I hope you are impressed that I remembered those tree terms that you tried to get into my head.)

Several readers suggested that the bird that sounds like someone hanging out the wash on a clothesline that’s in dire need of a drop or two 3-In-One Household Oil (or a shot of WD-40) is a blue jay – which would make a whole lot of sense, given the number of beautiful blue jays that Raymond and I see every day around the Manse (as I’ve reported multiple times, including here and here and here). So I looked up “blue jay sounds” at the ever-reliable Cornell Lab of Ornithology site (brought to us by prestigious Cornell University), and learned that:

Blue Jays make a large variety of calls. The most often heard is a loud jeer. Also makes clear whistled notes and gurgling sounds. Blue Jays frequently mimic hawks, especially Red-shouldered Hawks.

Not all that helpful, although it was interesting to know that this beautiful bird has several songs in its playlist. But there are four recordings of blue-jay calls on the blue-jay entry of this excellent site, which of course I listened to, and you should too if you’re interested. The verdict? No. 1: Nope, that’s not the sound the Squeaky Clothesline Bird makes. No. 2? No, not that either. No. 3: No again. Ah, but No. 4, “Recorded by Randolph S. Little, Florida, March 1962”: I am almost certain that that is our clothesline-bird sound

So thank you to all of you who suggested the blue jay!

Now, on to another suggestion, which led to a bird that probably wasn’t ours, but that sounds even more like a squeaky clothesline. Reader Carol Anne suggested the Bohemian waxwing, and people, I will tell you honestly, I had never in my life heard of this bird. But I looked it up, and it is quite beautiful, and it hangs out “primarily (in the) states and provinces along the United States/Canada border,” according to those nice Cornell bird people, and that’s just about right, geography-wise.

Now, I think you should all click on this link to hear the Bohemain waxwing’s song. Go ahead, do it now, and we’ll reconvene in 17 seconds, when the recording is over.

Finished? Okay.

People, that is not the bird I’ve been hearing in the early mornings here at the Manse – but is that not the closest thing to a long-drawn-out unspooling of a squeaky clothesline that you have ever heard? An absolutely inspired guess by Carol Anne.

So now I think I have two missions on the bird front. One is to try to identify more of the common bird songs that Raymond and I hear every day. (And, dear readers, rest assured that I will seek your help again if I need it – which I most assuredly will.)

The second? To try to spot a Bohemian waxwing in the general vicinity. In honour of Carol Anne, thanks to whom I now know of the existence of this lovely, squeaky-clothesline-imitatin’ bird.

4 thoughts on “Blue jays, Bohemian waxwings, and squeaky clothesline sounds

  1. Hi I Live in Nova Scotia, Canada and here, Blue Jays make a squeaky clothesline sound all the time. I have also heard them mimic a crying baby and a dog. But definitely, their most common sound here is the classic squeaky clothesline. It sounds so identical to someone’s real clothesline, it is incredible. I live in a rural area where clotheslines are common, but I assume that Blue Jays in more urban settings or subdivisions where clotheslines are not permitted do not make the same sound.

    • Hi Lise, and welcome to Meanwhile, at the Manse! I am so heartened to hear that I am not alone in thinking that blue-jay calls can sound like squeaky clotheslines! And I laughed out loud about your wry observation about them probably making different calls in those benighted suburban areas where clotheslines (laundry’s gift to the environment) are not allowed. How can anyone (let alone blue jays) live in places like that? I’ll take my part of rural Ontario (or your part of rural Nova Scotia) anytime!

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