chuck chuck chuck-it-too-ee zhew zhew!
June 16, 2009 10:53 AM   Subscribe

So* you want to learn the Language of Birds? There's the mnemonic route and the youtube guide. You can listen to the birds in your local habitat or geographic area: New York State**, Florida, Southwestern US, Tropical America***, for example. Or, just find your favorite bird out of 104,517 audio and 33,693 video samples at Cornell's Macaulay Library, and listen.

*From this FPP linking to an article from MIT about birdbrains and song.
**Tony Phillips' site also has analysis of bird calls using spectrographs and musical notation, along with a mega-links page.
***See also this FPP.

Other sites of interest:
• The USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center has a sampling of migratory bird calls.
eNature's bird songs page sorts by bird type, as does
• Greg Kunkel has more spectrographic analysis on his page.
• Type a word in to have it translated into Nightingale. [previously]

See also these FPP's and click on the tags for more birdsounds.
posted by not_on_display (19 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Just in time!
I've been scratching my head over these birdsongs I heard in Northern Michigan over the weekend. Sounded like the Jetson space car making a steep descent, but with more of an arpegiatted trill. Kind of like a cell-phone ringtone. Blew my mind.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 10:59 AM on June 16, 2009

We have a Whip-poor-will that's nesting somewhere in our yard and it has a very loud and distinct call and its nocturnal so imagine hearing that while your trying to fall asleep every night.

I also played the Rose-breasted Grosbeak to hear it and not five seconds after I stopped it I heard one calling from outside.
posted by lilkeith07 at 11:14 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Attention cat owners: try playing around with these links and see what hijinks ensue.

I discovered this when I was playing around on a site with bird calls -- things were uneventful until I got to the one for the mourning dove. When I played that, suddenly my cat came tearing into the room, from where he had been previously napping on my bed, and made a beeline for the window where the mourning doves congregate on the sill outside and stared out, tail lashing, looking for "the bird."

I think I spent a half hour periodically playing the mourning dove call over and over again watching him go crazy running from window to window looking for where the bird was.

He MIGHT have forgiven me by now.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:21 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just one website or product purporting to teach birdsongs would have surprised me enough, but the fact there's multiple ones....I wish someone had made sure I was sitting down.
posted by DU at 11:24 AM on June 16, 2009

Bird post follows worm post. Hm.
posted by rokusan at 11:28 AM on June 16, 2009

Oh, rokusan, you beat me to the bird/worm punch.
Wait, that doesn't sound right.
posted by emhutchinson at 11:33 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Animal communication has always been a little bit of a grey area for me, especially birds since I listen to the tweet when I wake up in the morning. The third link was especially helpful to understand some of the things I have been hearing.
posted by TMcGregor at 11:44 AM on June 16, 2009

So you want to learn the Language of Birds?

Only if I can get them to do my bidding by making beautiful, elegant, soaringly impassioned speeches in Crow.

That or gossip with the pigeons. They see everything you know. Everything.
posted by The Whelk at 11:45 AM on June 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

I recently visited Cornell's Lab of Ornithology, where the Macaulay Library is located, and was really impressed with the facility. You can visit the Raven Sound Studio, which is a replication of the ones their technicians use. They also have lots of bird watching scopes available inside, as well as binoculars for you to use on the 5 miles of trails through Sapsucker Woods, their bird sanctuary. We were lucky enough to see nesting Great Blue Herons when we visited. Like I said, a really cool place and well worth the visit if you're into birds!
posted by geeky at 11:46 AM on June 16, 2009

The Owls Are Not What They Seem. The Pigeons Cannot Be Trusted. The Wrens Have Other Plans. And The Seagulls Saw You Do It, Make No Doubt About It.

-excerpted from The Whelk's new book "Paranoid Thoughts About Birds."
posted by The Whelk at 11:47 AM on June 16, 2009

This link with the sonograms & slowed-down songs reminded me of this Naropa Institute lecture at At some point in the lecture the guy plays slowed-down bird songs that sound like jazz melodies.

A lot of fascinating stuff in these links, like the description of honeyguides having trained people to do their bidding.
posted by univac at 11:54 AM on June 16, 2009

Yay for the Cornell Lab of Ornitology, only about 1/2 mile from where I am sitting now. The pleasant paths through the woods surrounding the lab are a great place to relax and contemplate nature.

And The Seagulls Saw You Do It, Make No Doubt About It.

For some reason this immediately brought to mind the XTC song, "Seagulls Screaming 'Kiss Her Kiss Her!'"
posted by aught at 11:57 AM on June 16, 2009

"Seagulls Screaming 'Kiss Her Kiss Her!'"

"Newborn whippoorwills were calling from the hills
Summer was a-coming in but fast
Lots of daffodils were showing off their skills
Nodding all together, I could almost hear them whisper
"Go on, kiss her, go on and kiss her"
posted by mattbucher at 12:06 PM on June 16, 2009

So you want to learn the Language of Birds

If I did, then all I would have to do is stay with Ian Anderson.
posted by adamdschneider at 12:09 PM on June 16, 2009

Also on the BBC
posted by Lanark at 1:58 PM on June 16, 2009

I dug down through the owl taxonomy only to find that the song I wanted wasn't yet digitzed, though I did find this intriguing note: "Stimulation for this sound was playback of its own sound." Huh.
posted by jessamyn at 7:42 PM on June 16, 2009

Just yesterday, a friend was telling me about an iphone application he had...


and jeeebus, looky what just a quick googly does.
posted by drhydro at 9:00 PM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

bird. bird. bird. bird is the word.
posted by Flood at 9:13 PM on June 16, 2009

Tierstimmenarchiv doesn't seem to have been mentioned before. They are currently digitising their analogue magnetic tape collection.
posted by tellurian at 11:24 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

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