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I want begin learning how to identify birds by sound. I know it will be a long process. Does anyone have any recommendations on apps or other tools to assist with this?

Thank you.

 

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I've used an app called Larkwire.  It's pretty good, in its way.  I think there's a version for both Apple and Android devices.

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I took Cornell's online class but I didn't get as much from it as I'd hoped.  It's very good in teaching methods to break a song down into its components, and demonstrating how to read a spectrogram.  This makes it easier to accurately describe a song to someone else.  But I didn't come away knowing how to make the connection between a song I heard to a specific bird.

I don't learn very well from videos.  If I'd know most of the course content would be in video form, I probably wouldn't have ordered it in the first place.  At least I can retake it for free to see if I missed something.

 

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THE best way to learn bird songs/calls is to find the birds that are calling.  Listening to recordings and such helps, but there is nothing like watching the bird make the sound.

My tool of choice would be a camera.  You can use it to record the song (in a video) and take photos to help you identify the bird once you find it.

I use this forum, allaboutbirds.org, and xeno-canto.org to confirm IDs, learn variations, etc.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, The Bird Nuts said:

THE best way to learn bird songs/calls is to find the birds that are calling.  Listening to recordings and such helps, but there is nothing like watching the bird make the sound.

 

21 minutes ago, Jefferson Shank said:

Experience in the field is one of the best ways to learn. Just get out there, listen, and identify the birds.

Excellent suggestion but it requires finding the bird.  :classic_biggrin:

I'm thinking about using eBird to generate a list of the 50 most commonly listed birds in the county, then downloading their songs.  The Cornell class did come with access to an audio library of songs and calls.  Maybe I can create some kind of audio flash cards.

Edited by Charlie Spencer

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10 minutes ago, Charlie Spencer said:

Excellent suggestion but it requires finding the bird.  :classic_biggrin:

Yes, it can be difficult and take years to know the songs of certain, elusive species.  But if you go birding enough (and feed the birds), you'll learn the more common species quickly and eventually see many others.  If you really, really want to learn, go birding when you have the time.

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Thank you all! I took that class too but now want help memorizing calls. My problem is remembering them especially since many sounds I only hear in spring and summer. I have to train that part of my brain! I think I’ll remember but then I don’t or when traveling and out if context I get really confused. I think some memorization drills, like the flashcard idea, will help solidify some songs and in turn build my ability to remember sounds better. 
Thanks again!!

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Posted (edited)

Mnemonic devices, which can be found on allaboutbirds.org, are VERY useful for memorizing some bird calls. For example, when I hear an Olive-sided Flycatcher's song, I first think of quick, three beers! and then remember what species is associated with this phrase. After some time, you can skip the middle step.

Edited by akandula
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I know maybe a dozen songs and yet for those, I have never found a suggested mnemonic that sounds anything like them to me.  Sure, the number of beats, but the actual words don't trip anything. 

45 minutes ago, akandula said:

and then remember what species is associated with this phrase

And I absolutely stink at that part of it.

Just me; obviously they work for a lot of people.

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If you have the time to do memorization drills - don't. Spend that time out in the field birding. When you hear a song or call, ask yourself what it is, do your best to guess. Then seek the bird out visually to see whether you are right or wrong. Learn a few common birds first - start in your backyard, or in a local park. Go in the morning when birds are most vocal. Once you learn the common birds, unfamiliar sounds will jump out at you more, and you can begin working on learning the less common birds.

There is no point in spending time listening to tapes when that time could be better spent listening to real birds. Experiential learning always trumps rote learning.

 

The only exception to this is when you are pursuing a specific target bird you are unfamiliar with - it is good to listen to the song beforehand in that case, so if you hear the bird vocalize, you will recognize it.

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3 hours ago, AlexHenry said:

When you hear a song or call, ask yourself what it is, do your best to guess.

I'm not following you at all.  If I'm not going to listen to identified recordings of songs or calls, where do I begin guess an unfamiliar one?  As an analogy, it sounds like you're recommending turning on the radio and guessing who I'm listening to without heard any of the artists before.

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9 hours ago, Charlie Spencer said:

I'm not following you at all.  If I'm not going to listen to identified recordings of songs or calls, where do I begin guess an unfamiliar one?  As an analogy, it sounds like you're recommending turning on the radio and guessing who I'm listening to without heard any of the artists before.

If you hear an unfamiliar call then you seek the bird out visually to find out what it is.

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