4 Reasons to Learn to Bird by Ear

Usually when I go birding, I’ll see half of the species and only hear the other half. Many birds are shy and only show themselves for fleeting glimpses or not at all. A lot of birds prefer to hide high up in the canopy making it difficult to get a good visual.

carolina chickadee with spectrogram overlay

#1 You hear birds more often than seeing them

Usually when I go birding, I’ll see half of the species and only hear the other half. Many birds are shy and only show themselves for fleeting glimpses or not at all. A lot of birds prefer to hide high up in the canopy making it difficult to get a good visual.

#2 You usually hear a bird before seeing it

Often, a bird song or call is the first indication one is nearby. Knowing what bird may be vocalizing is helpful to know what to look for. I use Merlin to help ID birds I hear.

ruddy turnstone with merlin app in foreground

#3 It helps you better remember a bird

Literally watching a bird sing is a great way to add additional mental notes to help ID it in the future. I also enjoy reviewing the spectrograms of the audio clips I upload to eBird, to help commit the song to memory.

yellow warbler singing on branch
Yellow Warbler singing
Call of the Laughing Gull

#4 You can impress your friends

Being able to rattle off species of birds you are hearing is sure to impress your friends and other new birders. Just like recognizing someone’s voice, becoming familiar with bird sounds get easier over time and will happen organically as you birdwatch more often. Try these techniques to help learn bird songs and become a better birder.