Has anyone else noticed that the birds seem to be singing more enthusiastically this summer than ever before? I don’t know if it’s because I’ve slowed down enough to truly hear them, or if they’ve added more songs to their repertoires. I just know they seem to be sounding a symphony of song this summer—especially at dawn’s early light when they all crescendo, “It’s morning! Time to get up!”
A computer search on bird calls opened up a whole new world of ornithological information to me. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website “All About Birds,” when a bird sings it is telling you what it is and where it is. I’m sorry, but the only bird I can identify in that way would be the one chirping right in front of me from our deck railing. Even then I might not know what it is, but at least I would know where it is!
I blame my lack of an ability to identify birds by their tweets on the fact that I grew up in Tennessee where the official state bird is the Mockingbird. It got its name from, you guessed it, mocking the calls of all other birds! No wonder I’m an epic fail at deciphering bird song.
What I learned from my research, however, is that many people out there in bird land take identifying birds by the songs they sing extremely seriously. The comments on one website reminded me of the old PBS radio program “Car Talk,” where Click and Clack, the Tappet brothers, would ask callers to describe the noises their malfunctioning cars were making and get responses like: gurgle-gurgle-hiss, screeeeech, or clang-clang-clunk.
An actual comment from one birder asking for help in identifying a bird call was: The best I can describe it is like a “twotty twotty twotty twwwEEEEEEEEE….twa twa twa twa.” The “twwwEEEEE” part goes up in pitch, the twa’s are back down in pitch, sort of around where the twotty’s were in the beginning.
OK. Got that? What’s your guess?
I also learned that on birding websites, and even on YouTube, you can click on the name of a bird and listen to its actual song. Listening to bird calls on your computer all afternoon is not only somewhat interesting, it’s also a wonderful way to confuse and bemuse your cat.
Suggestions online for beginning birders on how to identify birds by their songs include: listen and watch, learn from an expert, say the sound to yourself (see above), and pay attention to details like rhythm, pitch, tone and repetition.
I think ornithology would be a wonderful vocation or avocation, but I’m not sure it’s for me. I’ll just continue to enjoy all the melodies I hear and wonder why the winged wonders warble at the same time instead of taking turns like on American Idol. And I’ll never figure out what genre each bird has chosen. Oldies? Praise songs? Reggae? Rhythm and blues? It sure sounds like a mix of all of them.
Whether birds sing to announce their whereabouts or to attract a mate, I’m just glad they sing. When ladies in my assisted living Bible study tell me that they can’t sing, I often quote Psalm 100 and tell them to just, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord!” The summer songbirds I love to hear seem to be doing just that.