Listen to the Birds of North America
NOTE: Links on this page are external and will open in a new window.
Sometimes birds are easier heard than seen. Identifying birds by their songs or calls can enhance your birding experience.
Clicking the links on the bird names will take you to the species accounts at the Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter where you can then click to hear the individual bird songs.
"Songbird" usually refers to one of the passerine or "perching birds" so common to our surroundings---the
Northern cardinal, Carolina wren, or Eastern
towhee. However, almost all birds use some sort of song, call, or note to communicate. Thrushes are generally considered among the finest of songsters while the egrets and herons utter little more than guttural croaks.
Generally the best time to hear birds singing is in the early morning hours from dawn to mid-morning. Of course, dont
forget the nighttime vocalists like barred
owl and Chuck-wills-widow.
Even the Northern mockingbird which mimics
the calls of other birds may be heard singing on moonlit nights during the nesting season.
Certain birds are easier to identify by their songs since their common name is an interpretation of their song. Birds like
the Northern bobwhite, Eastern phoebe, and Eastern
wood pewee all say their names. Most bird sounds give no hint towards their names so studying recordings or viewing
singing birds in the field are the only way to associate the songs with the songster. You can use mnemonic devices to help
remember the songs of different species. For example, the song of the white-throated sparrow is often described as saying Poor Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody.
Birdsongs vary in length and complexity. The
Acadian flycatcher has a brief two note song which may be repeated only a few times in a minute while the red-eyed vireo may repeat the phrases in its song almost continually earning the colloquial "preacher
Songs of the same species can vary with individual birds from region to region. Listen not only to the individual notes
of the song but the overall pattern. The common
yellowthroat is known for the variations in its song but overall pattern is consistent.
Long, short, simple, or complex the calls and songs of birds add greatly to our outdoor experience.