Birding is only about half watching and the other half is listening. If you want to get better at birding you will need to improve your listening skills. Although it is not a quick and easy process, with practice you will learn to appreciate birds even more.
What does the song mean anyway? A bird’s song indicates a variety of things. It can indicate whether it is male or female, its age, and if it is single or attached. Birds also make noises to convey information such as keeping predators away, to keep a flock together or even to indicate availability of food.
3 steps to bird identification
1. First you need to obtain a list of songs. This can be done through the use of a Cd or IPOD. I like the idea of using the Ipod because you can then organize the songs into playlists by family, similar songs, etc. Basically any order you find it easier to learn the songs.
2. Learn the most common birds first. Once you get some reference points you will find it easier to identify other bird songs. So, for example if you learn what the common Robin sounds like, you can then compare it to the other birds with similar sounding songs and note the differences.
3. For the more difficult ones, write down your own descriptions for what you believe the birdsong sounds like to your own ear. For example, a black and white warbler might sounds like a squeaky wheel. Although you might feel silly doing this at first, you’ll be amazed at how quickly this helps you in identifying bird sounds.
This is a great site that will help you to identify bird songs. Especially for the beginner. It divides out bird songs by a single note, two notes or three or more notes.
Below are 2 guides I like for bird song identification.
A Guide to Bird-song Identification; by Richard K. Walton & Robert W. Lawson, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990. -- $30.00
Pros: Great introduction to birding
Cons: Not much of a guide on how to learn the songs, ie not much commentary.
Bird By Ear CD
3 CDs. 64 Page Booklet.
The Disk Number and Track with duration of the recording, followed by notes on habitat and voice for each bird. Includes 85 species of birds.
Pro: Excellent recordings.
Con: Navigation for particular bird difficult.