Train Your Ears to Listen for These Common Birdsongs

Train Your Ears to Listen for These Common Birdsongs

Birdsongs are as complex as they are beautiful, containing distinct elements like pitch, tone, rhythm, and repetition. Each species also makes many different vocalizations—both songs and calls—thanks to a special, two-sided voice box called a syrinx. According to the National Audubon Society, birdsongs generally tend to be longer and patterned, while calls are short. Different calls can mean different things, “and on any morning, there can be dozens of species singing in your backyard,” says Dr. Mike Webster, Director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Macaulay Library and Professor of Ornithology, Dept. of Neurobiology & Behavior.

Given all these factors, learning to identify species by their songs can be a little daunting for novice birders. The best place to begin? Your own backyard. “Start by learning just two or three songs of birds you can see,” says Dr. Webster. “Then, move forward by adding one call at a time.”

Below are 24 birds you're likely to spot depending on your region of the country, along with song samples shown as spectrograms—graphs that reflect the time, pitch, and volume of a birdcall as it’s played—from Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Macaulay Library. Spectrograms help birders of all levels learn songs and calls by stimulating the visual part of the brain while listening to the bird sounds. (Learn more about how they work and test your ID skills via Cornell's Bird Song Hero matching game.)

And don't worry if it takes a while to hear the difference between a sparrow and a wren. “I often say birding is really an excuse to get outside,” says Dr. Webster. “So just take your time, enjoy listening, and the learning will come.”

Listen to the American Crow

Listen to the American Goldfinch

Listen to the American Robin

Listen to Anna's Hummingbird

Listen to the Black-billed Magpie

Listen to the Blue Jay

Listen to the Northern Cardinal

Listen to the Black-capped Chickadee

Listen to the Common Grackle

Listen to the Dark-eyed Junco

Listen to the Downy Woodpecker

Listen to the European Starling

Listen to the Hairy Woodpecker

Listen to the House Finch

Listen to the House Sparrow

Listen to the House Wren

Listen to the Mourning Dove

Listen to the Northern Mockingbird

Listen to the Red-bellied Woodpecker

Listen to the Steller's Jay

Listen to the Song Sparrow

Listen to the Spotted Towhee

Listen to the Tufted Titmouse

Listen to the White-breasted Nuthatch

Credits: All illustrations by Kate Dolamore.

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