Tuesday, October 7, 2014

NFCs- An Expert's Perspective, from a Very Special Guest

Nocturnal Flight Calls: the most accurate and conclusive method of identifying species of thrush, warbler, sparrow, rail, etc. during migration, or any time of year, for that matter. Through many years of intensive research, Dr. N. Seeper has formulated a multitude of theories associated with Nocturnal Flight Calls. Read his in-depth account here, a Birder's Conundrum special guest! Note: We here at TBC do not condone the information presented here, nor do we agree with it.

Dear birders: I am here to clear something up. I have been slighted, intimidated, and belittled by some members of the birding community, and some of these members are professional people. I will have you know that I can be considered a true expert due to my prestigious education as a former student athlete at UNC-Chapel Hill. I know very little of NFC. But in my 18 years of living with NFC, I have learned their ways. Let me teach you all about NFC - so here, eat this!

Theory One: The Thrushold means you got a thrush!
Formerly known as the Thrushhold, the AOU Committee on Words recently voted to take out the second "h" saying that it was "unnecessary" and that it "made the word look made-up." Anyway, The Thrushold is the most important theory that I have developed. After poring over hours and hours of spectrograms, I have deduced that there is a threshold of sorts delineating thrushes from other migrants. The dark band of white noise located between 4 and 5 kHz acts as the dividing line between all thrush NFCs and all non-thrush NFCs. To put this into one definitive statement: If a call lies beneath the 4-5 kHz thrushold, then it is a thrush, if it lies above the thrushold, then it is not a thrush and is probably a warbler, sparrow, heron, trogon, owl, etc. 

Note the dark thrushold.

Theory Two: Light Rain means a good night for calls!
View the map below. Those clusters of green are a smattering of light showers picked up by the Doppler radar. This amount of light rain directly corresponds with heavy migration and, therefore, good flight calls. However, this is not only true during migration. Any time there is light rain, there will be beautiful migration and abundant flight calls, even if the rain occurs in February. It seems that much of this rain (rather mysteriously, I might add) does not make it to the ground, and the stars are even visible! It is a strange effect that I have a hard time explaining.

See all this rain? This shows that there was a good flight on 10/5/14.

Theory Three: Mourning Flight - the "Experts" have it all wrong!
If you are an "educated" birder, you may read about the so-called Mourning Flight from bird-rich places such as Cape May. These experts are mistaken, however.  The only species I have seen perform true Mourning Flight is Zenaida macroura, the Mourning Dove. After all, this is the very reason it is called Mourning Flight!  I was walking through a field mid-February at dawn, when a hundred or so Mourning Doves flushed from the ground. It was spectacular to actually witness Mourning Flight first hand, and is a memory that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Exemplary Mourning Flight as seen in Southern Indiana.
(photo credit: almostdaily news)

P.S. I definitely recommend purchasing The Guide to the Common Towhees of the Carolinas and Virginia - I love that book! I use it for all of my towhsss identification problems when I visit NC!


  1. We have massive MoUrNinG FliGhTs here in Phoenix as well, despite our MODOs being resident.

    The thrushold almost makes too much sense to be true. But wait...there's more?

    1. Oh those doves need not be "migrants" to qualify for Mourning Flight!
      The thrushold is the result of hours of data analysis, therefore it must be true.