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Learning to Bird By Ear

July 25, 2014

There are many resources available to help you identify birds by ear, as well as resources to help you learn how to identify by ear. I recently ran across, a useful, informative and free website created by Nathan Pieplow. Nathan has recently signed a contract with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to create a comprehensive field guide to bird song, The Petersen Field Guide to Bird Sounds.

Among Nathan’s many interesting postings, I want to draw your attention to a series which can quickly teach you how to listen to birds, sorting their sounds into various categories.  Sample songs are embedded in each posting. Click on them and you’ll immediately hear, and see in sonogram form, exactly what he’s writing about. It doesn’t get easier than this.

You can find these postings on the right sidebar of his website, but here they are:

1. The Five Basic Pitch Patterns:   Monotone, upslur, downslur, overslur and underslur
2. The Four Basic Song Patterns:   Phrase, series, warble and trill.
3. Changes in Speed and Pitch, and Multi-noted Series:   A song pattern can accelerate, decelerate, upslur, overslur, peak, be 2-, 3- or 4-note series.
4. The Seven Basic Tone Qualities: Whistle, hoot, click, buzzy or burry, nasal, noisy and polyphonic.

Explore the rest of his website. A permanent link to is now on our right sidebar under Bird Links.

  1. July 26, 2014 3:27 pm

    This is a wow…great resource. Thanks, Chuck.


  2. Mary Prismon permalink
    July 26, 2014 12:22 pm

    Thank you. Songs by ear, my favorite topic. I will definitely check them out as soon as time permits. Date: Fri, 25 Jul 2014. Mary


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