The pandemic has found some of us out taking more walks than usual. In some places human noise has subsided and it’s possible to hear more nonhuman sound than usual. Perhaps you’re hearing more bird sounds and wonder what they are.
Donald Kroodsma, an authority on bird vocal behavior, believes that “seeing bird sounds” is key to comprehending them. He’s referring to sound spectrograms, which chart pitch against time, sort of like a musical score. Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides a fun tutorial on birdsong spectrograms in its new interactive learning game, Birdsong Hero.
Earbirding offers more detail on how to visualize sounds and how to describe them in words, based on the Peterson Field Guide to Birds Sounds of Eastern North America (e-book requires HawkID login). The Field Guide even has a visual index that can be used to look up bird sounds, once you’re firmly grounded in this method of bird sound description.
But if you’d just like to dive into bird sounds that you’re likely to hear in Iowa at this time of year, you can start below with links from bird species to audio recordings and spectrograms available from the massive multimedia collection of the Macaulay Library.
A simple tune we won’t hear much longer. Mnemonic: “Sweet, Canada, Canada, Canada.”
A prominent sound in the heart of town.
A complex, bubbly song from a bird found around shrubs and low branch trees.
This bird is named for one of its songs, but is also easily recognized by this two note whistle.
The distinctive song of this year-round resident is usually a series of whistled couplets or triplets repeated 3 to 5 times. The Carolina Wren also has another unique sound described as a liquid trill.
Song consists of a series of single syllabled whistles or a whistled couplet, repeated one to several times. Mnemonic: “peer peer peer” or “peter peter peter.”
This song has been described as a dry, unmusical trill.
Audubon Guide to North American Birds also offers a nice selection of audio samples for each species.
Check back next week for another short list of common bird sounds.
Thank you to Kai Weatherman for writing this ear-opening post as well as sharing his beautiful bird photography with us!