[BIRD SONG HERO: Seeing Sound] Here’s your chance to become a bird song hero by playing the bird song ID game that starts from square one and trains you how to visualize and remember the songs that catch your attention but, don’t always stick. Time to show what you’re made of and become a better birder at the same time. First let’s get you trained. Birders get up before dawn, not just because there’s that kind of obsessed but, also because that’s when most birds are singing their hearts out. This Northern Cardinal song is a common early morning sound across much of the U.S. so you might already recognize it. What’s amazing is that the bird is performing impressive feats of vocal gymnastics with those repetitive whoops spanning more pitches than a piano in just a tenth of a second. Visualizing a cardinal song helps you fully appreciate the vocal genius. Here on this spectrogram you see time from left to right and pitch from high to low and the brighter it is, the louder. [Northern Cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis] Spectrograms stimulate the visual parts of our brain and help us commit song patterns to memory, that’s why many birders use them. Now that you’ve got the basics, you’re ready to train your visual brain with birdsong hero. To get started we’ll play this Tufted Titmouse song three times. While you listen, compare the three spectrograms and decide which one is the correct match. Then we’ll reveal the answer. Here goes: And here comes the answer: [Tufted Titmouse, Baeolophus bicolor] the correct answer is B, titmice repeat the same notes in a series. Compare that with A; [American Redstart, Setophaga ruticilla] notice how the American Redstart changes things up at the end? And C, [Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura] the Mourning Dove starts with a little flourish. Now let’s try the Carolina chickadee. Ready? The correct answer is A. [Carolina Chickadee, Poecile carolinensis] Carolina chickadees sing four distinct notes that step down in pitch. Let’s hear the others for comparison. [Verdin, Auriparus flaviceps] First B: the Verdon sings four notes but keeps them all at roughly the same pitch. and now C: [Golden-crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla] the Golden-crowned Sparrow steps down in pitch but only sings three notes. Now try the Eastern Meadowlark. Ready for the answer? This time it’s B. [Eastern Meadowlark, Sturnella magna] Eastern Meadowlarks’ songs have big pitch sweeps and a nice rhythm. Compare that with A. [Eastern Wood-Pewee, Contopus virens] The Eastern Wood Peewee sings without any rhythmic breaks. [Black-capped Chickadee, Poecile atricapillus] And C, the Black-Capped Chickadee has a compact song with no pitch sweeps. Here’s something a little more complex: The Carolina Wren. And the correct spectrogram is, A. [Carolina Wren, Thryothorus ludovicianus] This Carolina Wren repeats its pattern five times. [Common Yellowthroat, Geothlypis trichas] In B, the Common Yellow-Throat only repeats its pattern three times. [Painted Bunting, Passerina ciris] And in C, the Painted Bunting song is overall, a little less organized. Now for the final question listen to the song of a Wood Thrush. It goes by fast but, it has a lot of character. Did you get it? It’s C. [Wood Thrush, Hylocichla mustelina] Wood Thrushes are a favorite of many birders because they’re more haunting and musical than most. [Eastern Towhee, Pipilo erythrophthalmus] In A, the Eastern Towhee has a similar trill at the end but a descending slide comes first. [Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia] And in B, the Song Sparrow puts its trill in the middle instead of at the end. Interested in more? It’s fun, right? There’s more where that came from. Be a better bird nerd. Take the full bird song hero challenge. [Bird Song Hero: More Birds, Free Songs, More Interactives] Learn everything there is to know about bird song and download free bird songs at Birdsonghero.org. Learn everything else there is to know about birds at, AllAboutBirds.org.

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Be a Bird Song Hero.

In this five-question video quiz you’ll listen closely to featured songs and match each with the correct sound visualization. Bird Song Hero is a quick and fun way to learn bird songs and transform your experience of the outdoors.

For the full challenge, including the Bird Song Hero Ultimate round and free bird song downloads try the interactive web version.

You can also practice identifying birds using real soundscapes and learn birding-by-ear tips in this self-paced, online course: How to Identify Bird Songs