Ornithological Note 126

Notes on the vocalizations of Cliff Flycatcher (Hirundinea ferruginea)

Peter F. D. Boesman April 21, 2016
Section(s): Voice, Systematics

In the following we briefly analyze and compare voice of the different races of Cliff Flycatcher (Hirundinea ferruginea). We also try to quantify the extent of any vocal differences using the criteria proposed by Tobias et al. (2010), as a support for taxonomic review. We have made use of sound recordings available on-line from Xeno Canto (XC) and Macaulay Library (ML).

Song of all races is structurally very similar, a long note followed by a trilled series of notes (which highly vary in number).

There are however some notable differences:

NW group: H. f. sclateri  and H. f. ferruginea (n=9)

Length 1st note                   0.15-0.21s

min. note length                  0.03-0.05s

max. freq.                             2600-3100Hz

freq. range*                         1100-1400Hz

max. pace**                        0.05-0.088

* freq. range of fundamental

** pace is measured as period, duration between two subsequent notes

SE group: H. f. pallidior and H. f. bellicosa (n=9)

Length 1st note                   0.20-0.37s pallidior and 0.28-0.40s bellicosa

min. note length                  0.033-0.040s

max. freq.                             1810-2400Hz

freq. range                           600-1000Hz

max. pace                             0.041-0.055

Also: in about all samples of SE group the first long note seems to be connected to the first note of the trill, while in the NW group, there is a very clear separation between first long note and subsequent notes.

Differences are thus: Song of pallidior/bellicosa is lower-pitched (score 2-3), has a smaller frequency range (score 2), reaches a faster pace (score 1-2) and has a longer start note (score 1-2). When applying Tobias criteria we obtain as a total vocal score about 4.

This note was finalized on 3rd July 2015, using sound recordings available on-line at that moment. We would like to thank in particular the many sound recordists who placed their recordings for this species on XC and ML.



Tobias, J.A., Seddon, N., Spottiswoode, C.N., Pilgrim, J.D., Fishpool, L.D.C. & Collar, N.J. (2010). Quantitative criteria for species delimitation. Ibis 152(4): 724–746.

More Information: on126_cliff_flycatcher.pdf 

Recommended Citation

Boesman, P. (2016). Notes on the vocalizations of Cliff Flycatcher (Hirundinea ferruginea). HBW Alive Ornithological Note 126. In: Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow-on.100126