Subscribe to BirdNote

Sign up to receive a weekly email preview of the following week's shows!

Sign Up
Support BirdNote

Help BirdNote tell more stories, reach more people, and inspire action.


You are here

Bird Song ID

Can you tell what they're "saying?"

Roger Tory Peterson, the best known American figure of 20th Century birdwatching, offered help on birding by ear. Whenever he could, he provided a catchphrase to identify a bird's song. "Witchety-witchety-witchety" captures the song of this Common Yellowthroat. The California Quail seems to say, "Chicago, Chicago, Chicago." Go on a field trip with your local Audubon, and discover more bird songs. The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds supplies many birdsounds to BirdNote.

Full Transcript

Bird Song Identification
How to Recognize Bird Songs

Written by Bob Sundstrom
This is BirdNote!
[Common Yellowthroat song]
Late spring and early summer are the peak of bird song.
[Common Yellowthroat song]
And how do you go about learning to recognize the bird voices you hear? Well, Roger Tory Peterson, the best known American figure of 20th Century birdwatching, offered this help. In his field guides, he often provided a catchphrase to identify a bird’s song. For example, in the song of the Common Yellowthroat [Common Yellowthroat song], he heard “Witchety-witchety-witchety.” What better way to capture the galloping cadence and crisp quality of the song! [Common Yellowthroat song]
A male California Quail’s song can be remembered as “Chicago! Chicago! Chicago!” [California Quail crowing]
The Olive-sided Flycatcher’s distinctive, whistled, three-note song [Olive-sided Flycatcher song] has been likened to “Quick-three-beers!” [Olive-sided Flycatcher song]
How about this one? [White-crowned Sparrow song] This catchy song is often described as “Seee-meee, pretty-pretty me.” If you hear this, you’ll know a handsome White-crowned Sparrow is nearby. [White-crowned Sparrow song]
In the East, you’re more likely to hear the sweet, wavering song of the White-throated Sparrow. [White-throated Sparrow song] It seems to say “Oh-sweet-Canada-Canada.” [White-throated Sparrow song - twice]
Listen to all these songs again – and find resources to help you bird by ear – on our website, I’m Mary McCann.
Song of Common Yellowthroat and Olive-sided Flycatcher recorded by K Colver; California Quail by D.G. Allen; White-crowned Sparrow recorded by Fran Bonier.  White-throated Sparrow by W.W.H. Gunn
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2011 Tune In to           May 2011       Narrator: Mary McCann

ID# 053106songIDKPLU          sound-02b

Sights & Sounds

Related topics:

Related field notes: