I’ve been reading Bernd Heinrich’s Summer World lately and was struck by his description of the song of the Red-winged Blackbird as “oog-la-ee.” For some reason I had thought that the universal representation of their song was “Honk-a-ree.” Being a bibliophile I had another bird book in reach, Pete Dunne’s Essential Field Guide Companion, and I checked his description and was surprised to come up with “tur-a-leee.” This clearly required more research!

What follows is a rundown of a dozen different authors’ take on the song of the Red-winged Blackbird. Please note that no one uses the exact transliteration that I thought was universal but one does come close.

Bernd Heinrich “oog-la-ee”

Pete Dunne “tur-a-leee”

Richard Crossley “get-me-teeee”

Roger Tory Peterson “konk-la-ree” or “o-ka-lay”

John Kieran “konkaree”

Kenn Kaufman “aawnk-ah-rrreeeeeeee”

Bill Thompson “conk-a-ree!”

Norman Arlott “ok-a-leee”

Bob Levy “konk-la-ree”

Herbert Job “conk-a-ree”

Calvin Simonds “Honkaree!” or “Belongs to meee!” – a subjective description as a bird was stealing his newly planted corn

David Sibley “kon-ka-reeeee”

What do you think Red-winged Blackbirds say?

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Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy, their son, Desmond Shearwater, and their indoor cat, B.B. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.