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​How to Identify Bird Calls This Summer

Posted by Amanda Joest on

The beautiful sounds from our feathered friends are just part of what make birding a joy. Although lovely, when a bird sings, it isn’t simply a sweet song, it is actually an indicator of the type and location of the bird. Because birds are often hidden in the trees or brush, learning bird calls is a great way to know what species of birds are near. Whether you’re birding on a nature hike or gardening in your backyard this summer, the following tips will help you recognize birds from Blue jays to owls. 

Look with Your Eyes, Hear with Your Ears

While it may seem obvious, one of the best ways to connect the type of bird with its voice is by visually seeing it. Although this is often difficult in excess foliage, if you can see a bird singing, you will better instill in your memory the song with the species.


Bring an Expert with You

Tackling bird calls without any experience can be very difficult. When possible, go birding with an expert who can help guide and share their knowledge with you. If you don’t personally know an expert bird caller, then look to join a local bird club or join a nature hike sponsored by your local Audubon chapter.


Listen to Recordings

Make note of the birds you regularly see and then look up their sounds online. Luckily, we live in a digital age that allows for excellent recordings of thousands of bird species. In fact, there are now smartphone apps that can help teach you bird calls from the palm of your hand. Of course, while it will still take lots of practice to commit the birds and their calls to memory, these apps can certainly help quiz you as you practice.


Three of the Top Rated Bird Calling apps include:


Audubon Birds Pro: This app available via iTunes, Google Play and Amazon is free and perfect for beginners and experts alike. This guide offers information on appearance, behavior, habitat and birdcalls. There are up to 8 hours of bird calls, which are differentiated by region and season.

Merlin Bird ID app from Cornell: This free app helps users easily identify birds with a step-by-step method. In just 5 questions given to the user, the app will come up with a list of possible matches to identify any unknown bird. Great for beginners or intermediate bird watchers, this app is perfect to bring along on your next hike.

Birdsong Identiflyer: Although not an app, learning birdsongs quickly is a breeze with this easy-to-use tool. Small enough for your pocket, you can learn 10 bird songs in 10 minutes! It contains 40 Birds on two 2-sided Super Song Cards.

Put Words to the Song

It may sound silly, but adding a few lyrics to the bird songs you can help you remember them. As you listen you’ll notice that some bird songs actually sound like words, so this type of activity will be a real advantage in associating the song with the bird.

Pick At It

That’s right, pick the song apart and try to notice as much as you can. From its rhythm and pitch to tone and repetition, the more you study the song (and the recordings of the song) you will begin to identify the various features and unique traits of each one.

Ready to go on a bird calling adventure of your own this summer? Don’t forget to bring your binoculars so you can get a good look at each species!

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