Bird Feeder Hub is reader-supported. When you click and buy we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you.

9 Birds Named for Their Unique Calls or Sounds

In this article, we’ll explore a list of birds named for their unique calls or sounds and how these sounds inspire their names. This straightforward naming method aids in recognizing and categorizing different bird species. For instance, the ‘cuck-oo’ sound gives the cuckoo its name, while ‘bob-white’ identifies the bobwhite.

Such distinctive sounds simplify identifying birds. We’ll learn about birds with unique calls and how these sounds deepen our understanding of avian species. This highlights the significance of sounds in nature and the study of birds.

1. Northern bobwhite

Northern bobwhite
Northern bobwhite | image by cuatrok77 via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Colinus virginianus

The Northern bobwhite, named for its “bob-white” call, is a bird found across the United States and Mexico. It lives in grasslands, forests, and fields, adapting well to different habitats.

This bird is small and camouflaged, blending into the ground where it searches for seeds and insects. Northern bobwhites are social, forming groups for warmth and protection, especially in colder months. Their distinctive call helps people identify them easily.

2. Killdeer

Killdeer with worm
Killdeer with worm | image by marneejill via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Charadrius vociferus

The Killdeer is another bird named after its call, a loud “kill-deer” sound that echoes across its habitat. Found throughout North America in open areas like fields, parking lots, and shores, Killdeers adapt to both wild and urban environments.

Notable for their dramatic “broken-wing” act to distract predators from their nests, Killdeers showcase a unique behavior for protecting their young.

These birds lay eggs in simple ground nests, blending them into the surroundings to keep them hidden. The Killdeer’s ability to thrive in various habitats and its distinctive protective actions make it a fascinating species, easily identified by its call.

3. Poorwill

common poorwill
Common poorwill | image by Alan Schmierer via Flickr

Scientific Name: Phalaenoptilus nuttallii

The Common poorwill, named for its haunting calls that sound like “poor-will,” is a nightjar found in North America, particularly in open, arid landscapes like deserts and brushlands.

This bird is unique for its ability to enter a state of torpor, a form of hibernation, to survive cold nights and food shortages, making it the only bird known to do so.

At night, it hunts insects in flight, using its wide mouth to catch prey. The Poorwill’s camouflage plumage blends into the rocky ground, aiding in its concealment from predators.

4. Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe
Eastern phoebe | image by Fyn Kynd via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Sayornis

The Eastern phoebe is a small songbird known for its repetitive “fee-bee” call, from which it gets its name. This naming practice, based on distinctive sounds, helps easily identify and categorize bird species. Found across the eastern United States, phoebes prefer wooded areas and near water, often building their nests on human-made structures.

They are early migrants, heralding the arrival of spring. Unique among flycatchers for their tendency to wag their tails when perched, eastern phoebes feed on insects and are adept at catching them in mid-air. 

5. Whip poorwill

Eastern whip-poor-will
Eastern whip-poor-will | image by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Antrostomus vociferus

The Eastern whip-poor-will, named for its continuous “whip-poor-will” call that rings through the night, is a nocturnal bird found in forests across eastern North America.

This call not only helps in identifying the bird but also in categorizing it within the rich tapestry of avian species. Whip-poor-wills prefer dense woodlands and are masters of camouflage, with their mottled brown plumage blending seamlessly into the forest floor.

The Eastern whip-poor-will catches insects in flight with its mouth. This bird is more often heard than seen, mainly because it is active at night.

6. Pipit

American pipit
American pipit | image by Becky Matsubara via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Anthus rubescens

The American pipit is a small bird known for its delicate “pipit” calls, a characteristic that contributes to its name and helps in its identification among bird species.

This bird inhabits open tundra and mountain meadows in the north during summer and migrates to fields and coastlines in winter, showing a versatile adaptation to various environments. American pipits are often seen walking on the ground, bobbing their tails as they search for insects and seeds to eat.

7. Cuckoo

common cuckoo
Common cuckoo | image by Andy Morffew via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name:

The Common cuckoo is well-known for its distinctive call that sounds like “cuck-oo,” which has inspired its name and helps people recognize and classify this bird among others. This bird is famous for its unique breeding behavior, where it lays its eggs in the nests of other bird species, relying on them to raise its young.

Common cuckoos can be found across Europe and Asia, preferring woodland and open countryside as their habitats. Their diet mainly consists of insects, caterpillars being a particular favorite.

8. Towhee

California towhee
California towhee

Scientific Name: Melozone crissalis

The California towhee, named for its distinctive “tow-hee” call, is primarily found in California. It thrives in chaparral and bushy areas and is a common sight in backyards across the state.

Known for its habit of scratching the ground with its feet to uncover food, it mainly feeds on seeds and insects. The towhee’s dull brown plumage helps it blend into its surroundings, making it less noticeable despite its relatively large size for a sparrow.

9. Laughing gull

Laughing gull
Image: paulbr75 |

Scientific Name: Leucophaeus atricilla

The laughing gull, named for its unique sound that resembles human laughter, is commonly found along the coasts of the Americas. This bird is easily recognizable by its black head in breeding season and its loud, laughing calls.

Laughing gulls are versatile feeders, eating everything from fish to insects, and are often seen scavenging near beaches and human settlements.

They breed in large colonies on coastal islands, where they build their nests on the ground. Their habitat ranges from beaches and salt marshes to parking lots and dumps, showing their adaptability to different environments.

2 thoughts on “9 Birds Named for Their Unique Calls or Sounds”

  1. Enjoyed your blog on the website. You did a wonderful job. Very informative and the pictures you have are wonderful. I have always enjoy pretty flowers and birds. Each species is special.

  2. One of my favorite things to do is sitting by the pond next to the ranch house and watching the painted buntings that use it each day. I have always thought this was one of the most beautiful birds on my Ranch. Each year there seems to be more and more of them. My wife loves fishing there and watch them come and go. Cardinals also frequent there each day and she loves them also.


Leave a Comment