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Voices and Vocabularies - The Basics

Identify your avian neighbors without seeing them!

Birds’ voices invite us to step into nature and learn more about the singers. Hearing what’s distinctive in one bird’s voice — compared to another — helps us identify our avian neighbors without seeing them. Amazing!  The differences between the songs of three marsh-dwellers: the brassy sound of the Red-winged Blackbird, the galloping rhythm of the Common Yellowthroat, and the sneeze of this Willow Flycatcher. 

Full Transcript


Voices and Vocabularies – The Basics
Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote.

[A sound mix that includes just the basic songs of Red-winged Blackbird, Willow Flycatcher, Common Yellowthroat – each song once] 

Three different birds are singing across a marsh. [Red-winged Blackbird, Willow Flycatcher, Common Yellowthroat] 

One bird’s voice comes across as a brassy “kon-ka-REE!” [Red-winged Blackbird song, twice]. A second sounds like a sneeze [Willow Flycatcher "fitz-bew", twice]. And a third voice has a galloping rhythm [Brisk Common Yellowthroat song]. 

Here are the three again, together. See if you can hear the differences. [Red-winged Blackbird, Willow Flycatcher, Common Yellowthroat] 

Congratulations! You’ve just made the essential step in learning how to recognize bird songs: hearing what’s distinctive in one bird’s voice, compared to another bird’s voice. 

So who are these three marsh birds we’ve been sorting out? The brassy voice belongs to a Red-winged Blackbird [Red-winged Blackbird song, twice]. A Willow Flycatcher made that sneezy “FITZ! bew” [Willow Flycatcher “fitz-bew,” twice]. And the repeated, galloping phrases? [Brisk Common Yellowthroat song] That’s the song of a Common Yellowthroat. 

Birds’ voices are an invitation. They invite us to get to know the singers better. And for a moment to step into nature. [Brisk Common Yellowthroat song twice]

Listen again, anytime, at I’m Michael Stein. [Red-winged Blackbird song]


Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Red-winged Blackbird #57196 recorded by W.W.H. Gunn. Willow Flycatcher #129025 recorded by M.J. Anderson. Ambient and Common Yellowthroat #163344 recorded by Matthew Medler.
BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and produced by John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2016 Tune In to          March 2014/2016         Narrator: Michael Stein


ID#  sound-12-2013-03-01   sound-12 


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