The Art of Identifying Birds by Their Songs
Learning the language of birdsong is easier than you think
That magical part of the day when the night is folded up and put away, the sky blooms in pinks and golds and the birds begin their day with song. You may or may not be awake for the dawn chorus of dozens of species of birds, but at some point in your day, certainly, you have the opportunity to hear birds singing. Wouldn’t it be nice to know who is singing some of those songs?
Learning bird songs is rewarding, and not so difficult. Anyone can learn to identify at least a few of the birds that are singing right outside their door. As you hone your ability to discern subtle differences in songs, you will realize that you have mastered the art of paying attention—that is really where the effort lies.
When you can identify birds by their song, it’s called “birding by ear.” Using a few simple techniques, you can begin to recognize some of the birds you hear on a daily basis in your own neighborhood.
If you have learned to identify some songs by using words that approximate the song, you have developed the art of paying attention.
I am a horticultural therapist working with people who have developmental disabilities, dementia, traumatic brain injuries, and other mental and physical challenges. I use these techniques to teach them to recognize the birds in our garden.
Even those with many challenges have learned to enjoy the birds in a deeper way, their eyes lighting up with the joy of recognition when they hear one they know. This familiarity creates a deeper connection to the world around them and gives them a sense of mastery.
Using mnemonics to remember bird songs
The technique I use with my clients at work is a simple mnemonic device. A mnemonic (pronounced nee-monic) is a system that uses associations to assist with memory.
(Please note: I am in the eastern United States and will be highlighting birds I am familiar with in my area. If you are in another part of the U.S., or the world, your birds may be…