Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bird songs and calls

Marsh WrenSinging Marsh Wren, Forest Grove, Oregon 2 June 2011 by Greg Gillson.

 

Listen. Do you hear it?

No, because this is a photo without sound. But I hear it in my mind.

Here's a link to a sample song of Marsh Wren.

O, what a quiet world this would be without birds! Well, quiet except for human-made sounds. When we think of the sounds of nature, we usually include the calls of birds.

Many birders have trouble identifying bird songs and calls. No wonder; it takes just as much (or more) work than learning to identify birds by sight. And there isn't a workable "field guide" to bird songs and calls.

However, Nathan Pieplow, on the EarBirding blog, wrote this brief guide to
describing what you hear. He writes "How to identify bird sounds in six easy steps." Great stuff.

This gives a framework for describing bird sounds. Even playing a recording of a bird song doesn't help you remember it, if you can't describe it to yourself--if you can't hear it in your own mind when the bird is no longer singing.

Michele, at Northwest Nature Nut recently recorded 50 seconds of audio at the Ridgefield wildlife refuge, in her post:Ridgefield bird songs of May. How many different bird songs and calls can you pick out? I heard 11 species and in the post's comment field recorded the first time I heard each species and the second count of the recording when it calls, so you can compare. Try it!

23 comments:

  1. I need help identifying a bird in our yard. We live on a lake in the Pacific Northwest...the sound is like a referee's whistle....no flutuations and it is very loud. The bird is only here for short time and then I have don't hear it until next about the same time frame.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have heard this same bird and I'm also trying to identifying it. It doesn't sound anything like the Varied Thrush calls I hear online. There is no buzz at all, and it''s much louder--a loud, clear glilsando from low to high. Very much like a referee's whistle.

      Delete
    2. I have heard a bird like this day and night in NE Seattle near Lake WA. Whoeet, whoeet, whoeet, whoeet. Always the same note, four times. It sounds just like a whistle. I have tried listening on all the birding sites.

      Delete
  2. That's a good start in describing the sound.

    A Varied Thrush sounds like a buzz superimposed on a whistle. It is usually a minor note on an even pitch. The song is made of single whistles all on different pitches.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hello there! I've got a new bird in our back-yard I'd like to request some help in identifying - I'm in Sammamish, WA. It's a very distinctive call and I've never heard it before. Quite loud, too. It starts low and ends high in three successive octave levels really quick (getting higher 1-2-3 and each series of 1-2-3). Do Do Do - Do Do Do - Do Do Do! Of course there is not really a D or O heard. I'm just not sure how to spell a bird call. LOL. It's wonderful, though. The little bird has been calling non-stop for the last 2 days so I expect he's looking for a mate?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Swainson's Thrush sings three upward spiraling whistled phrases: heario-heario-heario,

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the fast reply! :-) That is somewhat close, but the Swainson's Thrush song is more complex and "spirally", as you described. This song is more of 9 staccato notes put together. I am able to whistle it as description (although my whistle doesn't do it justice for tonal quality or volume). I can also try to get an audio recording of the bird itself. But I don't
      think I can attach an audio file here? Any other ideas of a bird I could listen to for a match?

      Delete
    3. How about White-crowned Sparrow? It sings a clear whistled tune with final trill with a pattern and inflection that may be rendered as "See me? Silly, silly me! Chee, cheer-cheer..."

      Delete
  4. I need to know what kind of bird this is. I would describe it as a small birds equivilant to an elk bugle. At first I thought it was a neighbor kid spinning one of the tubes that makes a sound when you spin it or some kind of slide whistle. I think I saw this bird one from a distance it it appreared to be very small.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The bird in question above is located in Everett, WA.

      Delete
    2. If there is a catchment pond nearby, as found in many neighborhoods and around commercial strips these days, it may be the red winged blackbird. They hang around amongst the cattails and reeds. You can see them - all black with bright red patches at the shoulders, about fifty feet from each other. Yes, very elk-like.

      Delete
  5. Not enough info for me to figure it out, Alex. Need tone quality and what it sounds similar to (you did a decent job). Also pattern, pitch. Nonsense word to imitate pattern and vowel sounds.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I recorded this bird whiistle, but I don't see any way to send you an attachment.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi, I recently sent you two posts regarding a bird here in Battleground, WA that sounds similar to this description, but when I went online and listened to Varied Thrush calls, they sounded nothing like the bird I heard. This is a very loud , clear glissando whistle, low to high. I have a recording if this bird to help in identification, but can't figure out how to send it as an attachment.. Did these posts get lost in translation, or did you decide not to display them?

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm hearing a single octave sound that goes da dada dah new to my oregon city location. Sounds like a flute low octive. Can you help?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi, Sat out early AM in Concrete WA , big cedars with lakes and rivers near by and heard "oooooo What " repeated 3-4 times. Sounded like a larger bird maybe in trees not so much on ground. Any guess...... never saw a thing. Thanks ! Diane G.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I am in a new home and I am seeing all the birds typical of the area. There is only one I haven't spotted yet. What bird sounds like it is hollering "HELP!" I know a peacock sounds like this, but I live on a reservation above the Elwha River and we hear this bird all around us. I have heard young crows beg for food and this isn't it either, although we have Ravens here. Any clue?

    ReplyDelete
  11. I just went to the Audubon site here in Seattle and checked the Raven call. That was it!! I guess I am smarter than I look!! :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. You did very well in describing the peacock call screaming for help. There's not much else like it. Raven could make similarly loud calls, but lower-pitched. Oh, you might try listening to Mountain Quail. They usually call at dawn, a loud Quark! from the clear cuts.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I have two birds I'd like identified. The first sounds quite strange to me and is low in town. It goes something like "Ka COW-cow"
    The second it quite high in tone and goes upward until it can barely be heard. it sound somewhat like "Tweedle a tweedle e tweep!"

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hello does anyone know this bird? The call sounds like Errrrrrrit'. The call rises at the end. The bird is near a wetlands. I don't remember hearing this before. It made the same call again and again.

    ReplyDelete
  15. My boyfriend and I have been trying to identify a bird that we hear outside our apartment on a regular basis... it is really hard to describe the sound it makes, as it is quite comical. we say that it sounds "like a weird crow", it makes a mid range "Hehhh" sound. any ideas?

    ReplyDelete