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birdwatching by ear

Voices and Vocabularies - Three Hidden Sparrows

Some birds have a remarkable knack for staying out of sight. Often we don’t know they’re nearby, until they sing. But with a little practice, we can learn to identify birds without seeing them. Listen to the songs of the Song Sparrow, the Chipping Sparrow, and the White-throated Sparrow — like... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching by ear, sound

Voices and Vocabularies - The Basics

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... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching by ear, sound

Voices and Vocabularies - Eastern Bluebirds

A male Eastern Bluebird stands on a wooden nestbox attached to a fence post. The bluebird’s song – and his alert presence - assert his claim to this territory. In the mid-20th Century, the numbers of bluebirds in the Northeast declined to the lowest level ever, due largely to nesting... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching by ear, sound

Owls Vocalizing in Fall

Why do owls ramp up their territorial calls during fall while most songbirds have already ramped down? read more »

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Bird Songs Reflect the Environment

Different sounds travel better in different environments. The explosive notes of a Marsh Wren carry well through thick vegetation. A Common Yellowthroat's choppy, repetitive song rattles right through a stand of cattails. An Olive-sided Flycatcher sings from atop a tall tree, its song carrying at... read more »

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Three Brown Thrushes

The Swainson's Thrush, the Hermit Thrush, and the Veery are small, brown birds, but their songs clearly distinguish them. The Swainson's Thrush announces its presence in early spring with subtle, limpid "whit" or "wink" sounds. Many rate it among the finest singers. A Veery's phrases... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching by ear, sound, vocalization

Birding without Sight

It can be difficult to identify a bird by its appearance, and just as challenging to do so by its song. But birding by ear is a great way to get to know birds. A blind birder in Kitsap County, Washington, was puzzled by a haunting bird song. She thought it might be a special song of the American... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching by ear

Mistaken Identity

This Band-tailed Pigeon may sound like an owl, but it's a case of mistaken identity. The song of the American Robin could be confused with that of the Black-headed Grosbeak. And then, there's the Black-capped Chickadee. At certain times of year, the male sings "Fee-bee, fee-bee," even though it's... read more »

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