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gailcalled's avatar

If you're a birder, how good is your ear?

Asked by gailcalled (54577points) June 4th, 2011

Do you identify birds by only their call or songs?Experts make about 90% of their list without seeing the bird. It avoids having to wade through mosquito-infested swamps, I know. Compare the house wren with the raven, for example. Imitate the chickadee and lure others out of the trees.

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17 Answers

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Some birds I able to identify by their song.I was outside every morning,so I got good at identifying them.
I call in chickadees often and hand feed them. A few years ago,I called in a tufted titmouse.It was adorable!

bkcunningham's avatar

My father-in-law and my oldest sister are experts at identifying birds accurately by just the call. I, on the other hand get it 50 percent of the time with just the sound and othertimes need to see them and watch their behavior. I’ve kept a list for about 17 years now. How about you? Do you keep a list of birds you have spotted?

Coloma's avatar

Pretty good. I was really into birding for years and years, but less so the last 15 or so.

I can still readily identify many species by their calls.

Infact my daughter just asked me a few days ago to identify a loud buzzing, whirling trill in the woods off of my deck.

Bewicks Wren! Zing!

gailcalled's avatar

I have a life list of just over 200, I think. Having dropped my birding book into a pond last year, it is mildewed and has pages stuck together.

When I first moved to this rural NE, there were wonderful warblers, more varieties of sparrows, Eastern meadowlark, bobolink, nuthatches, and other songbirds. Today the numbers have dropped dramatically and sadly.

I no longer hear the hermit, Louisana and wood thrushes or veery at dusk, and see fewer mockingbirds, catbirds, thrashers and vireos. The numbers of nuisance birds are growing…starlings, crows, jays, robins, mourning doves, barn swallows.

Coloma's avatar


I just read a fascinating article in a ‘Smithsonian’ mag. the other day. Apparently the everglades are full of released and populating Burmese Pythons that are decimating many threatened species of waterbirds.

This biologists specialty is identifying the stomach contents of captured pythons to identify the species consumed.

bkcunningham's avatar

I have a couple of hilarious mockingbirds in my backyard here in Florida who love to perch in the live oak and broadcast how many songs they know. I can report they are alive and well. One of the birds knows seven tunes and the other knows about nine.

I witnessed two mourning doves fighting a black snake in my yard about two weeks ago. I saw the two doves fluttering about 8 to 12 inches above a bed of mulch under the oak. I thought to myself, it isn’t mating season for them. They should have nests with young. What are they doing? My sprinklers aren’t on….SNAKE!!!

Cruiser's avatar

I can mimic bird whistles pretty well but have no idea what I hear other than a Robin, Cardinal and Cedar Wax Wings.

bkcunningham's avatar

I love everyone’s answers. I am a big fan of birds. I have so many different and new species of bird here in Florida; I’m thrilled. Not just big birds like flamingos, American Bittern and Osprey; but loons, terns and any many types of owls. You should try other bird sounds @Cruiser. Or better yet, we should all try @lucillelucillelucille‘s trick of hand feeding. Wow. That is cool. I’ve almost had a couple of squirrels. They would come within two feet and I think I’m the one who freaked a little. LOL I’m thinking squirrell or rat, squirrell or rat. It has a fluffy tail but what if that sucker jumps on my face. They must’ve noticed my nervousness.

keobooks's avatar

I remember listening to NPR about a group of blind birdwatchers. They did it entirely by sound and I’m sure they had an impressive sound library in their memories.

bkcunningham's avatar

Wow, @keobooks. That is impressive. What a story.

gailcalled's avatar

My daughter both saw and heard our local pileated woodpecker at dusk tonight. She was thrilled and I had to remind myself not to be blasé,

We then had a light supper at a neighbor’s and sat on his deck. The Baltimore oriole sang for over an hour, and now I hear the barred owl’s “who ho who whooo.” The house wren is bubbling regularly during the day.

Coloma's avatar

My ear is finely tuned to mama coon sneaking in the cat door.
Just now, that ever so imperceptible ‘click’ of the magnetized flap.
Marley the mighty jumps into action, and fat mama raccoon misses her dining moment tonight. lol

My kitty Marley is very sick right now, so it was heartwarming that he still rallied to the call of duty.

Sunny2's avatar

I got hooked on birding when I was about 8 and spent an afternoon sitting on a hillside listening to a lady and a cardinal whistling back and forth to each other. I can do that. I can identify maybe a dozen birds by their calls or songs. That’s not much, but it’s what I’ve got.

rooeytoo's avatar

I don’t recognize too many but the ones I do are unmistakable, Magpies have a lovely warble, curlews a terrifying sound in the night, like someone being attacked. Plovers are raucous. Sulphur crested cockatoos are pretty noisy too. But Rainbow Lorikeets in flocks make so much racket, you can barely hear yourself think!

I am not a dedicated birder or twitcher, but it is impossible to live in the areas of Australia that I have and not be intrigued by the birdlife.

gailcalled's avatar

@rooeytoo: Who could not love a sulphur-crested cockatoo, sight unseen? I heard a magpie once in Colorado. They do not hang out in the NE US.

rooeytoo's avatar

@gailcalled – the cockies are such a part of aussie culture, but all do not love them, they sometimes will eat the side of your house or your antenna wires. But, they are so cheeky it is hard not to like them I think! The black ones with the red tail do not have nearly the personality but are beautiful in flight with that brilliant scarlet tail. The birds here are just amazing. I forgot to mention galah, they are like the 50’s retro bird with their gorgeous pink and gray coloring.

gailcalled's avatar

@rooeytoo: I love learning about the birds down under.

In my neighborhood the red-shafted flicker drills holes in my cedar siding and whangs away on my roof at 5:00 AM. Luckily, it too is a pretty bird or else it would probably become flicker en brouchette @24.99 with wild rice and braised asparagus.

Have you watched Snowball, the dancing cockatoo? Don’t skip the ending, please.

And here’s a charming galah.

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