Explore the Wonderfully Diverse Sounds of Shorebirds

Red knots. (Photo: Elliotte Rusty Harold/Shutterstock)
Left to right: Greater yellowlegs, black skimmer, masked lapwing. (Photo: Tania Thomson/Robert L Kothenbeutel/clearviewstock/Shutterstock)

One of the most remarkable characteristics of any bird species is its call, and that's no different for shorebirds, some of which spend their lives migrating thousands of miles between the world's beaches, sea cliffs, marshes and mudflats.

From high-pitched chirps and squeals to throaty barks and growls, these fascinating birds represent a breadth of avian sound (not to mention the background noise of any great beach vacation).

Continue below to listen to a selection of shorebird calls, with recordings courtesy of Cornell's comprehensive Macaulay Library, which includes audio and video files.

Arctic terns

Arctic tern. (Photo: Vishnevskiy Vasily/Shutterstock)

Arctic terns (Sterna paradisaea) have a few distinct calls, including a short chittering-like "kip kip kip" and a more hawk-like "kee-eer" screech, both of which can be heard in the clip below.

Greater yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs. (Photo: Paul Reeves Photography/Shutterstock)

Greater yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) emit long strings of fast, alarm-like whistles that are fairly reminiscent of the "pew pew pew" sound effects of vintage video games.

Western snowy plovers

Western Snowy Plover. (Photo: Kristian Bell/Shutterstock)

The high-pitched trills of the western snowy plover (Charadrius nivosus) are just as cute as the tiny birds themselves.

American avocets

American avocets. (Photo: BGSmith/Shutterstock)

American avocets (Recurvirostra american) typically let out high-pitched "kweeps" and "wheeps."

Black skimmers

Black skimmers (fynchops niger). (Photo: feathercollector/Shutterstock)

Black skimmers (Rynchops niger) have a distinct call characterized by short rubbery barks.

Masked lapwing

Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles). (Photo: loflo69/Shutterstock)

The masked lapwing (Vanellus miles) is known for its diverse collection of calls, which include courtship calls, calls to its chicks, warning calls and defensive calls.

Red-legged kittiwake

Red-legged kittiwake (Rissa brevirostris). (Photo: Dmytro Pylypenko/Shutterstock)

This small gull (Rissa brevirostris) is less vocal than other kittiwake species, but it emits an exceptionally high-pitched squeal.

Snowy sheathbill

Snowy sheathbill (Chionis albus). (Photo: Dmytro Pylypenko/Shutterstock)

The throaty call of the snowy sheathbill (Chionis albus) is like a harsh, muttering cluck.