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PMcS 2006

 

Bird song


Go to the main birds page.

Bird song is a great way to quickly and easily identify species once you have learnt which song belongs to which bird.  Learning bird song can be achieved through hours of experience or by going out with someone in the know, or even through listening to recordings (now available on the Internet).  Of these the first option is the best and, but the hardest.

Web sites with clips of bird songs:

  • BirdForum - short clips but comprehensive list of birds - once you have chosen a bird to hear on the BirdForum site, click on the forward arrow button (the symbol for play) which appears to the left of the grey panel on your screen
     
  • RSPB - find a species from the alphabetical list and then click on the associated loud speaker icon to the right of your screen and click on the then the listen shortcut to hear your chosen bird.

Once you can recognise a bird by its song you can quickly tell what species are about, but of course it gives you no clues to the other species which are silent.

The male bird are the singers.  They sing to proclaim their territory and ward off competitors, but they also sing to attract a mate.  Different species will sing at differing times of the day.  Some sing early at dawn when their food supply is still hard to find and when their songs carry the best.  Some sing during the night (famously the nightingale) where they are the most noticeable without other noises to distract.

The table below is a starter kit for some of the more likely birds that you may come across, and some some stars of the bird world.

BirdSong descriptionMonths when they sing
BlackbirdBeautifully fluent, clear and strident song.  Phrases not habitually repeated like the song thrush or as fluty as the mistle thrush.  Likes to sing from obvious prominentaries such as trees, bushes and roof tops.  Common bird in towns and likely to be heard.
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Song ThrushRepeats its song phrases in pairs almost without exception.  Clear and strident song.
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Mistle ThrushStrident song from prominentaries such as the very tops of trees.  Seems to like to sing in wild weather and hence has another name of storm cock.
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Great TitA bird which likes to make a great many different calls which can be confusing.  However its main call which sounds like "tea-cher tea-cher" is very distinctive.  It is a good sign of spring coming.
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Green Finch A drawn out and rasping song accompanied by canary-like twitterings.  Usually made form the tops of trees and hence quite distinctive.
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DunnockUndulating warble which resembles a wren. Sings on in small bursts with no easily repeatable tune.
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RobinClear and mellow song often heard in autumn as well as spring.  Quite often sings at night where there are bright street lights.
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WrenA short whirring, penetrating and undulating trill of a song.  The loudness of the song belies the small size of the bird.  Sings in bursts from near low cover such as a bush.  Similar to a hedge dunnock but faster and more urgent sounding.
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Sky larkA beautiful golden sustained trilling song usually given on the wing as the bird flutters in mid air.  Sings in open farmland locations only.
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NightingaleThe richest and most memorable of all British bird songs.  Like a black bird song but richer and even more varied and skilled.  A summer migrant that will happily sing during the day but is famous for its night time renditions.  Usually sings from deep cover of scrub.
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Yellow hammerA hedgerow bird with a distinctive song that sounds like the phrase "a-little-bit-of- bread-and-no-cheeeeeese" in its pattern.  The last note is a drawn out and raspy.
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All images and text are copyright PMcS 2006