Bird call spectrograms

To: David Adams <>
Subject: Bird call spectrograms
From: Carl Clifford <>
Date: Mon, 11 Feb 2013 11:55:55 +1100

It just needs time reading the spectrographs while listening to the sound. With 
practice you can "hear" the calls while looking at the sonogram, rather like a 
musician "sight read" music.


Carl Clifford

On 11/02/2013, at 11:36 AM, David Adams <> wrote:

> In a thread about birding apps the other day Peter Shute provided some
> links to information on understanding spectrograms of bird calls that I'll
> quote here:
>> There's a good tutorial on reading spectrograms at
> The Canyon Wren
>> spectrograms at can
> be compared to those in the
>> lite version of the app to get an idea of how much more useful they are
> when done well.
> (For reference, The app in question above is iBird Pro 6.1 for North
> America.)
> I finally had a chance to start looking at the earbirding site that Peter
> links to and just wanted to say it's fascinating. I've already confirmed
> that I don't have a great natural ear, but that's not a shock. It looks
> like it will take some time to understand spectrograms but even after a few
> minutes with the examples, it's easy to see how much this approach has to
> offer. Verbal transcriptions of calls have never helped me (ever) - and
> those of us with imperfect ears are likely to hear songs wrong. (There are
> three notes not two? It's rising and *then* falling, not the other way
> around?) WIth the spectrogram, you can "see" the sound as it plays, making
> it a lot easier to hear it right. It's a bit eerie and exciting if you've
> been hearing the song incorrectly and then start hearing the same recording
> differently. A pleasure denied to those of you with great ears. My
> sympathies ;-)
> Since the other day, I also saw a new app announced that's taking an
> interesting approach to bird sounds. Instead of trying to be a full field
> guide with plates, etc. it's an app with nothing but sounds. So, sounds but
> in a usable arrangement for people with the right kind of device. Some of
> you may be familiar with As far as I know, they're the
> most comprehensive commercial vendor of bird sounds on CD. CDs are an
> increasingly inconvenient format so Birdsounds seem to be moving towards
> downloads and now apps. There's a free "lite" version of the Costa Rica app
> (presumably the first in a series) that lets you see the features and try
> it out with a handful of sounds. They've got recordings with recoding
> information and black-and-white spectrograms. I'm hoping that they move
> forward with this approach as it would really fill in a gap for those
> locations (most of the world) where there are paper field guides but no
> electronic field guides.
> I'd love to hear more from people that have learned how to use spectrograms
> with bird calls and how it's helped them. It's hard to imagine any single
> way of becoming a better birder than becoming better at bird call
> identification.
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