Originally Posted by Hauksen
- From the German forum: The brain usually learns bird song recognition very well if you find the bird in the field, identify it visually, and listen to the song. (Partially because in many cases, that's easier said than done, and if you manage to do it, it creates a memorable light-bulb effect.)
Like most people who started birding before the time of portable sound players and when any bird recordings were hard to get, I learned local bird sounds this way. However, as Hauksen pointed, it is often very slow or impossible to find the singing bird. Especially that novices are inexperienced in finding birds hidden in vegetation, too! This is a very good way, but very slow. When I travel to remote parts of the world and I am again a novice, surrounded by many unknown bird sounds, this would not get me far.
Perhaps I omitted the obvious part, so.
1. Get a bird book or a bird app and actually read bird song descriptions and their pointers. They are written for a purpose.
In Europe, the standard is Collins Bird Guide, which also exists as an app. Second would be Lars Jonssson's book, to have two different descriptions of one sound. BTW, Collins has some bird calls wrong, but this does not concern the common songbirds. You will learn identification points, for example Chaffinchs high and low ending, Wood Warblers accelerating twitter, or Redstarts start with one tone followed by a series of louder level tones.
2. Listen to recordings and find these identifying points in the recording. This way you also become familiar with listening to new birds.
3. In the field, play the sound to compare it to the reality (Do it quietly or in the earphones! Don't call the birds, this is very disturbing to them!).
4. Then describe the song in words, and even better, write this down. For a beginner it is much more memory-efficient to remember few words than a complex sound. I heard there is a small minority of people with a musical ear who very easily memorize bird songs, but I have not met any.
5. By listening to the sounds at home, and by playing it randomly back to you, you will become familiar with bird sounds in general. So you may already narrow the unknown song in the field to several species only. Then you could check these with your recording (quietly, again!). So when I am in South America, I at least know that tinamous have all whistling sounds, hooting sound is usually some pigeon and so on. In Europe, squealing in the woods is a raptor or a woodpecker or a jay. Etc.