Learning bird songs

Thanks – my phone isn’t set up to share with iNat from that app, but I’ll figure it out.

Heh, in myself I call that “bird fever”, but that’s a topic for a whole new thread probably. ;)

Meanwhile @judyk45 since you have Ring cameras I guess at your home, you end up creating a daily “birdscape” that makes me remember how my relatives taught me to birdwatch*:

-First, listen for your “friend” birds, the ones that are around with you in your yard, so that you get familiar with them- their songs become the “baseline” in your birdscape. Whether or not you can tune out the baseline a lot or a little probably depends on the person, but at least it gets “predictable” each day.
-Once you know your friends, start listening for the strangers and then it gets interesting.

*well, birdlisten- I couldn’t see very well when we started


Sometimes it is difficult to identify a bird song if it tends to mimic. I was stunned once when I heard the Brown-necked Raven making a new call, something I never heard before, which felt more like clicking of metal tools. Also the White-crowned Black Wheatear was singing about 15 m away from me when the song turned suddenly to a Pied Wagtail fluttering song. Have I not seen it while mimicking, I would not believe it to be the same bird. This is yet another challenge to IDeeing the songs.

1 Like

That probably explains why some field guide song descriptions can seem outright wrong. White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys), the field guides all say, sings “Old Sam Peabody-Peabody-Peabody.” That always seemed wrong to me, because I only ever heard “Old Sam Peabod-Peabod-eee-brrrr.” Different syllables, different cadence. Turns out it was because I was hearing them in western Washington. When I came to California, they sang very differently.


Hi Judyk45

Nice thread and some very nice pointers.

Where I am, greater Himalayas, 60% or more of my first contact with a bird is their sounds. So knowing bird calls is an essential tool to be a good birder.

Secondly i cannot carry a tune or even repeat it - its really hard - am totally not musically inclined. However over the years of listening and practising am now ok with bird calls and certainly better than most.

This is what I have been doing

  1. Before a trip I access a checklist and listen to all the probable bird songs / sounds. Especially of new ones and of groups that sound similar
  2. Record as much as I can with whatever tool I have (Zoom H2 recorder, Android Phone using a suitable App [my case I use rec-forge ii] , i also have a Tascam DR-100 MKIII recorder with a wildtronics parabola). I usually upload to ebird and have started uploading to inaturalist as well. (Sadly it is way easier to record than to post process and upload so am way behind )
  3. I Look at the spectrograms especially of bird sounds that I have a hard time with and try and figure it out. Listening and looking at multiple bird sounds works well and I often try and seen recordings from close by- because as some one mentioned earlier there are different dialects and in some cases the same species of birds separated far apart can sound dramatically different and maybe even have some sets of sounds not heard in another region.
  4. Reading about the bird calls descriptions or any mnemonics or repeatable keys give (many examples provided)

The hardest birds to record are the doves, pigeons, owls and flock birds. The flock birds because it hard to draw out a single source of sound.

On a side note I wish inat could implement a spectrograph kind of feature for sounds



I liked this article that helps with learning some of our warblers (and I have quite a hard time with learning Acrocephalus songs).


This is beautiful, thank you for sharing.


In india the Merlin app is great - It not only has great range of calls but beautiful pictures as well

Birds of the Indian Sub-continent - ebook has calls / songs but the new version available on the google playstore seems to be missing the calls.


“when not skulking in deep cover”. Perfect! Why is it that so many birds skulk? What are they up to? Nothing good probably…


Definitely nothing good! Today I saw two Blyth’s and one was sitting & singing in the open as if it was a Whitethroat and one hiding in every branch or grass patch possible, while sitting in 5 metres from me, they definitely can’t behave as normal birds!
Main thing that is kinda amazing for me from that source is that Reeds mimic African birds, it makes sense but never though about it before!

1 Like

My book says that mnemonic for White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) and I’ve heard them say it (here in east Texas). It says seeee sitli-sitli te-te-te-te-zrrrr for White-crowned and mentions many local dialects. I’ve never heard a White-crowned Sparrow sing here. We only have sparrows in the winter so they don’t usually sing. I occasionally here the White-throated Sparrows sing not long before they leave to head north.

I love BirdNet. But never figured out the sharing. Now I know how. Works great. Much thanks!

1 Like

Can you provide advice on the sharing of a BirdNET recording to iNat? (I use an iPhone 7.) I went through the various settings on both apps and couldn’t see a way. The iNat app doesn’t seem to allow uploading of existing audio recordings, just real-time recording observations.

I’ll add to @psweet’s comment. We learn to recognize human “voices” i.e. many of us can identify people we know just be their voice. It doesn’t matter that they always say exactly the same sentences. Likewise a conductor would know an oboe from a clarinet regardless of the song.

A mistake beginning birders make I think is trying to memorize a specific series of notes or even counting the “syllables” in the song (at least it was a mistake I made). When I started to have more success with calls and songs I realized I was cluing in on the pitch, rhythm and timbre (especially timbre) of the call. Tough to teach any of this in writing. I think you just have to hear them a lot and confirm the ID somehow–either through stalking them until you can see them or using one of those new fangled apps! ;-)


I think in the iPhone you would need to add existing recordings to an observation using the web app.

I don’t know how birdnet works, but if you can save or move the audio clip to your iOS Files utility, you can then select it to upload on the web app. It feels clunky, but it works (assuming you can save birdnet to Files).

1 Like

You can then add saved recordings from your phone to a new or existing observation. Select the “+” on the app to make an observation then select “Choose Sound” to select an audio recording from your phone (at least that works on Android).

I never record audio for observations using the app. I use a separate audio recorder app on my phone because I like to turn up the gain and crop the recording.

@teellbee is right, the iOS app only has a “Record Sound” option. It lacks the “Choose Sound” option that is available on the Android app. Hopefully the developers will add it soon.


Thanks for clarifying! iPhones generally make file access more difficult I guess.

1 Like

Not sure how BirdNet behaves on iOS, but in Android, when you open an observation, there is a “share” button (the symbol that shows the dots splitting into a “less than” sign.) If I press that, it opens a list of apps to share the observation. iNat is one of those. If I select iNat, it starts a new observation with the audio file attached.

As stated above, none of the metadata is imported, so I have to select ID, time, date, and location. I assume this is because BirdNet does not store that metadata in the audio file.

Hopefully that helps. I used to use RecForge for my audio observations because it can make WAV files and has a rudimentary clipping tool. Once I discovered the BirdNet sharing function, I never went back.


nicely said

also yes patience and repeating hearings of bird calls and sounds is fairly important.