The sound approach to birding

A guide to understanding bird sound

sound-approach-birding (2)

by Mark Constantine & The Sound Approach

Shelfmark: BL/CM/004

We’ve selected this book to mark International Dawn Chorus Day “the worldwide celebration of nature’s daily miracle”. This annual event, organised by the Wildlife Trusts was celebrated on 7 May this year. If this prompts you to refresh (or launch) your knowledge of identifying bird calls this is the book for you! As well as the 2 CDs, the printed book is full of fascinating facts about bird vocalisation and sonograms – visual representations of sound.


Learn the facts of bird sound while listening to over 200 beautiful exclusive stereo recordings from all over the world. Combining anecdote, scientific theory and practical field experience, The Sound Approach to Birding is a step-by-step guide through tone, pitch, rhythm, reading sonagrams, acoustics, and using sounds to age and sex birds. It explains how bird sounds are often the first indication of previously
unrecognised taxonomic splits, and explains how to identify them.

With The Sound Approach, you can maximise the use of sound in enhancing your field skills, and improve your standards of identification, whatever the level of your experience.

Includes two audio CDs with over 200 recordings of bird songs and calls.


Part 1: ‘I don’t do calls’

Crossing the sound barrier
Tone and timbre
Pitch and frequency
Rhythm and timing

Part 2: Put it all together and what have you got?

Simple calls
Simple song
‘Curlews’ and proportions in the sonagram
Kite and pipit calls illustrate modulation
Broadband and Trumpeter Finches
Shapes and Yellow-browed complarisons
M shapes of Common Ringed and Semipalmated
Separating stonechats by inflection
Rattles of Red-breasted Flycatchers
Gull long calls
Loudness and intensity
Comparing woodpecker drums by oscillogram
Baillon’s Crakes’ emotions
This power of a Thrush Nightingale

Part 3: Bird recording in an acoustic slum

Acoustics and why bird recordings can sound different from real birds
Degradation and Blackbird songs
Woodcock roding and mics
Forget the bird, listen to the scenery

Part 4: ‘I bird with Bill Smith’

No bird has just one call or one song
Cracking the code
Parallel lines
Different species can share very similar sounds
Lost for words?

Part 5: Hamish taught me all he knows about bird sounds

Ageing bird sounds
The egg
Call development
Learning to sing
Plastic song

Part 6: Sex, seduction and jumping the neighbour’s wife

Sexing sounds, and strategies for mates and rivals
Ultra-crystallised songs
Song matching: how birds cheat to avoid bringing up another bird’s young

Part 7: Magnus Robb and ‘The Blackcaps’

Mimicry, hybridisations, mixed singers and dialect
Mixed singers and hybridisation

Part 8: Twitching and taxonomy

How sounds define species and their importance in conservation
Redefining relationships by sound
Booted and Sykes’s Warbler’s calls
Crossbills and The origin of species

Part 9: Playback and be damned

Interacting with birds: imitating, whistling and spishing
Give a little whistle

Part 10: The sound approach to birding

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