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Get Outside Like Minna- Why Do Birds Talk So Much?

April 4, 2019
by Becky Ferrigno

Spring might finally be here!! Wahoo! We have had enough gray and cold and dark to last us for a whole year! My favorite part of spring, besides my birthday, is walking outside and hearing the birds sing. This year I decided to answer the question I have wondered about for a long time!

To answer this question, I turned to my go to source for everything bird-. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

According to the Bird Academy Experts, birds talk for the same reasons humans do!

  • To warn others about danger (Scary bully is on the playground!)
  • To let their family know where they are (Mom, I’m at Val’s house!)
  • To claim territory (Hands off my stuff!)
  • To let others know where the food is (Mrs. Jones has the best snacks!)
  • To find a mate (“Excuse me, Do you have plans tonight?)

So now that we know why birds talk so much, let’s see if we can find out who is talking in our backyards! Are you ready for our Bird Song Detective Get Outside Like Minna (GOLM)?

GOLM#4: Bird Song Detective

Step 1: Gather the list of materials below:

  • Bird song Detective Template
  • Rain Boots or other shoes you don’t mind getting muddy if the ground is soft
  • Recording device (phone or tablet will work!)
  • Pencil
  • Download the Free Voices of Backyard Birds Audio Guide for your region of the United States.

Step 2: Go Outside!

  • If you see birds that you recognize, then write them down in the template. Count and record how many you see.
  • Sit quietly and record any bird calls you here. Here are some things to think about:
  • Does the call go from high to low or low to high?
  • Does any part of the call repeat?
  • Are any parts of the call louder or softer?
  • Try to draw a pictorial representation of the call. Here’s an example! One of the Chickadee’s calls has one higher pitch and then two lower pitches. It sounds like the bird is saying “Hey Sweetie!” Here’s what I might draw to show that.

Step 3: Detective Work

  • Now that you have recorded material, the detective work begins. Fill in the names of the bird calls you already know on the Bird Call Template.
  • Download the Free Voices of Backyard Birds and listen to the included birds to see if any match your recordings. You can also download an app like ChirpoMatic ($3.99) which will take your recording, run it through its database and give you a list of possible matches.

Final Question?

Well, I am glad you asked! Bird songs and calls can get very complicated and hard to navigate fast. Bird songs are much longer and calls are shorter and simpler. All songs and calls convey messages, which is important for any bird song/call detective to know!

Bird watchers use spectrograms to keep all of their information on a particular species straight and organized. Spectrograms are pictures of the actual sound waves birds produce when they sing. They help the collector see the pitch, volume, and length of the sound.

For a fun game that uses spectrograms to identify birds calls, go to Bird Song Hero Challenge and see if spectrograms help you to identify bird calls.

For more information on birds check out Dale at https://chipperbirds.com/beautiful-birds/


As always, make sure to share your results in the comments below! Until next time, happy exploring and make sure to Get Outside Like Minna!

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