Describing Variation in Bird Sounds

Bird sounds vary on many levels. When talking about variation, it would be nice to be able to distinguish exactly which kind of variation we mean. [Read more]

A Bicknell’s Thrush Critique

In 1995, in the 40th Supplement to their checklist, the American Ornithologists’ Union recognized Bicknell’s Thrush (Catharus bicknelli) as a full species, splitting it from the Gray-cheeked Thrush (Catharus minimus) on the basis of “differences in morphology, vocalizations, habitat preferences, and migration patterns.” In this post, I reassess the evidence for a consistent difference in flight calls between Bicknell’s and Gray-cheeked Thrushes. [Read more]

The Seven Basic Tone Qualities

Tone quality is the distinctive voice of a sound — the thing that allows you to tell the difference between a violin and a trumpet when they’re both playing the same note. It comes in very handy when identifying birds by sound, but people have tended to differ in their notions of how to describe it. Today we’ll introduce basic tone quality vocabulary. [Read more]

Changes in Speed and Pitch, and Multi-noted Series

Now that we’ve looked at the five basic pitch patterns and the four basic song patterns, let’s explore a couple of ways to extend and combine the vocabulary we’ve learned. [Read more]

The Four Basic Song Patterns

In the last post, I covered the five basic pitch patterns, introducing some vocabulary to help distinguish between different types of individual notes. Today I’m going to introduce some vocabulary to help distinguish between different types of groups of notes — that is, different types of songs. [Read more]

The Five Basic Pitch Patterns

The “How to Read Spectrograms” section of this blog is in desperate need of an upgrade, so today I’m starting a series of posts to help people describe and visualize sounds as simply and clearly as possible. Our first topic: pitch patterns. [Read more]

Long Calls of Gulls

Most people don’t listen to gulls much. But as I’ve paid more attention to them over the past year, I’ve realized that many species can indeed be identified by sound alone, and this fact has greatly improved my birding skills. [Read more]

Common and Hoary Redpolls

Some have argued that Common and Hoary Redpolls differ in vocalizations. I set out to verify this claim. [Read more]

The Warbler Guide

I am confident that this book will enhance the way people look at warblers. I am less confident, but ardently hopeful, that it will enhance the way they listen to warblers as well. [Read more]

Empid Mystery Solved!

Remember the mysterious two-part call of the unidentified Empid? Nacho Areta has filled in the missing piece of the puzzle. [Read more]