General Question

vanausdr's avatar

What's the best way to identify birds by their songs?

Asked by vanausdr (146points) March 17th, 2010

I don’t have all the time in the world right now, but as it is steadily getting warmer outside, I can hear birds and more birds. It’s about time I start learning what types they are. How would be the best way to go about it? Using a bird song CD? A website?

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10 Answers

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hopscotchy's avatar

ooh ooh, I purchased this book about a year ago—->
best bird song purchase ever made, I use it with my students at the Nature Center all the time. They love it, I love it. Well worth the money.

Trillian's avatar

I hope that @gailcalled reads and responds to this. I was going to PM her not too long ago and ask her this very question.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I have cds with bird songs specific to my area.

lillycoyote's avatar

It’s hard. Practice. I have a couple of bird call CDs. I listen to the calls of the birds I know that I have seen in my yard, I’m starting with those, because I know I have heard them before. At last count it was over 30 species either regularly inhabit my yard or are there occasionally or pass through during migration or just drop by. I actually had a great horned out swoop in, once, and only once. It was very cool. But I would say listen to, start with the the bird calls of birds you are like to encounter on a regular basis. It’s a lot like learning a foreign language because most birds have a number of different call, they have different songs, its complicated. Also, if you have an iPod or iPhone Audubon makes an app so you can have the picture and the song at the same time. I got the one for Mid-Atlantic birds for my iPod.

gailcalled's avatar

Cornell ( is famous for its collection of audio bird calls, songs and squawks. You can get them in various forms, including printed sonograms (frequency vs time.)

Expert birders do c.90% of their identifying by ear. I began to try to train my ear after too much time wading in malaria-infested swamps. Whenever I look through binocs., my mouth drops open for some reason. So, I swallow a lot of bugs.

It is very helpful to spot the bird while he is singing. If you are in the NE, you have a good window of opportunity until early May when the trees leaf out.

Start with the easy ones; the scream of the red-tailed hawk, the wolf whistles of the cardinal, the gorgeous flute-like songs of the thrushes and vireos, the who’s of the barred owl, the caws of the crow, the croaks of the raven, the white-throated sparrow, the ovenbird, the robin, the chickadee, the nuthatch, the melody of the gold finch. the sewing machine noise of the chipping sparrow ..well, you get the point.

Here’s Robert Frost’s sonnet about the ovenbird (familiarly known as the teacher bird, due to its song).

Cruiser's avatar

Go to here…
and you will be tapped into all things feathered and winged! Welcome to my world!

Coloma's avatar

A few years ago I was playing a western birds cd and called in about 4 male western Tanagers to a tree outside my window…it was amazing!

They breed in the higher elevations in California and winter in mexico & costa rica.

jazmina88's avatar

i dig the birds in my neighborhood. I sing to morning doves. There is a bird that mimicks all the other bird sounds too. But i’m new to this stuff.

gailcalled's avatar

@jazmina88: The most famous and most dramatic repetitive mimic is the mockingbird, who can also do police sirens, alarm clocks, and various odd imitations. Less virtuosic is the cat bird, who meows between the mimics, and the brown thrasher.

There are many more; here’s his highness, the mockingbird:

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