Types Of Bird Songs And Calls

Bird calls are generally short sounds and serve a functional purpose such as alerts and alarms or for keeping in contact. Bird songs are often associated with courtship and mating rituals and tend to be longer and more complex as well sound tuneful to the human ear.

Singing Robin

As you begin to understand the different types of bird songs and calls it will help with your identification of birds by ear.

Alarm calls – often sharp, piercing calls that are used to warn of danger when birds feel threatened. Alarm calls are usually short, loud calls that can carry over long distances.

Begging calls – sad sounding calls made by young chicks to get attention from their parents. Begging calls are quiet sounds and can include chirps, tweets and whines. Begging calls are audible within the vicinity of a nest and may be accompanied by wing flutters.

Contact calls – when travelling in flocks birds will make contact calls to keep in touch with each other. They are generally moderately loud chirps and other simple sounds and may also be used to alert other birds to a food source.

Flight calls – musical calls that are used to keep flocks together or to announce a bird’s presence to others when flying. They are some of the most frequent type of bird call and therefore very useful to help identify birds by sound.

Bird songs – the most familiar type of bird sound, bird songs can be elaborate and tuneful and some of the easiest sounds to identify as they are distinctive to different species. Bird song is most common in Passerines (which are sometimes described as songbirds) and is used for a variety of reasons such as mating and marking territory. Read more about bird song and the Dawn Chorus.

Birds will also make a variety of non-vocal sounds such as drumming, wing beats and clapping and bill snaps.

Some birds, such as starlings, are excellent mimics of other birds, which may confuse you if you are trying to identify birds by sound.

Once you start to become familiar with the different types of bird call you can use your knowledge to help you find and identify more birds in the field. For example, an alarm call could alert you to the presence of a bird of prey, while begging calls will let you know that you are near a nest.

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