When birds are off in the distance or tucked away among the branches, it might be a bird's song or call that first alerts you that it's near. If you can't rely on seeing the birds, learning more about their calls is the next best thing to help you identify them.  In fact, when biologists are out in the field counting birds, the majority of species are heard rather than seen.

Here are a couple tips for beginners who want to sharpen their bird-call identification skills:

Learn from an expert

To get started, check out The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website allaboutbirds.org. Here you’ll find countless species of birds with detailed information including an audio recording of their calls. Use the search bar to find  the birds you see most often around the yard and are familiar with.  Type in the bird name and it will return a list of photos from the Bird Species Guide along with a "volume" button at the bottom of each photo. Click the button to hear the bird's song or call recording. Listen for the details and differences in rhythm, pitch, tone and repetition as this will help them become more familiar to you. You can search through over 600 sounds. Another option is to have a more experienced bird watcher accompany you on your next expedition, pointing out calls and helping you identify them.

Get the app

Did you know there’s a Shazam app for bird calls? Warblr is an app that claims to recognize the calls of 88 different bird species. The app identifies a bird and geo-tracks it, allowing zoologists and ecologists to monitor species in various areas.