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Central Park Birdsong Mystery
The Case of the Invisible Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler
© John Heidecker
2001 Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York.

April 9, 2001 -- As spring comes to New York City’s Central Park, so does an ornithological mystery. For the past few years, birdwatchers heard the song of the Black-throated Green Warbler (“Zee zee zee zoo zee”) several weeks before the bird's seasonal return to the park.
Black-throated Green Warbler

White-throated Sparrow
© J Woodard 2001
Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York.

Careful birdwatchers noticed that the warbler’s song was alternating with that of the more common White-throated Sparrow (“Oh Sam Peabody, Peabody”). White-throated Sparrow

The mystery was solved when a veteran birder realized that there was a treetop mimic -- a single white-throated Sparrow was singing both its own song and that of the Black-throated Green Warbler.

the Central Park mimic Listen to the Central Park mimic.

the Central Park mimic Listen as commentator Brad Klein tells the story for All Things Considered. (Warbler recording: © 2001 Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds, Ithaca, New York. Recordist: Geoffrey A. Keller.)