Identifying Birds By Sound

Birds are very talented vocalists. They recognize each other over long distances and through thick shrubbery, using their voices. With a little practice, humans can also learn to recognize birds by their songs or calls.

Bird-watchers often identify birds just by their voice. This is usually because birds are more often heard than seen. But in some bird species, even a good look won’t help you identify them. For instance, North America’s Alder and Willow flycatchers look identical, but have very different voices. Most observers can’t identify them until the bird begins to sing.

Hunters and scientists also learn bird calls- to lure in ducks or to tally what bird species live in the area.

Interested in learning bird voices yourself? While your written field guide may describe the sounds, it’s best to learn by ear. Obtain a tape, CD, or online resource that has recordings of the birds in your area. Start by listening carefully to recordings of the most common birds. Then head outside to see if this helps you recognize these birds.

Once you have the common birds down, you can begin to work on more unusual songs. It takes practice. But you may soon be able to recognize your local birds as easily as you recognize a friend’s voice on the phone.