In February 2019 I asked Twitter a question: ‘would you be interested in an ongoing thread over the next few weeks to help you identify birdsong as spring approaches?’
A lot of people said yes.
While you can find all the birds covered (they’re British birds only, as that’s where I live) on my Twitter feed (@levparikian), my posts there do get a bit rambly, so I thought I’d collate them here for those who are interested in learning more, with enough of the ramble to be helpful.
The pages are organised by week, as they come up on my Twitter feed. They’re broadly arranged by how common they are where I live, which is a bit of a disorganised way of doing it from the scientific point of view, but for a ‘day by day’ learning project seems to work quite well. The pages are here:
Week 8 – Wood Warbler, Herring Gull, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Curlew, Whimbrel, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Nightingale, Swift
If you want to search by bird name, a very rudimentary index is here.
A note about the words used. When we talk about ‘song’ we broadly mean the noises birds make either to claim territory or attract a mate. That these noises often sound to us like music, or convey a sense of the bird’s self-expression, is a happy coincidence. Some songs, the great tit’s two-noter for example, don’t sound very ‘song-like’. Others, like the blackbird’s, are complex and attractive.
Calls are different. They serve various purposes: keeping contact, attracting attention, warning of predators, chicks begging for food, just letting the world know they’re there and so on. They’re usually short, simple and potentially very confusing to us.
I’ve added some calls to each bird’s entry, but I should point out that this is by no means exhaustive. I’ve tried to keep this as simple as possible so as not to send the beginner screaming into the cellar with their hands over their ears, but sadly (or happily, depending on how you look at it) nature is a lot messier than we might want it to be. If you’re interested in exploring further, there’s a link to each bird’s page on the wonderful birdsong resource xeno-canto.org at the bottom of each section.
The Twitter Birdsong Project is a free resource. However, if you enjoy it and would like to support it, you can buy me a coffee.