Press-Republican

Columns

April 2, 2012

Bird songs provide clues to identification

I've always enjoyed watching birds at our feeders around the house and the few I can spot while out on walks.

But I seldom get a good enough look to be able to identify too many of them. The books will tell you to notice features such as a ring around the eye, a white bar on the wings or some other detail that I'm rarely able to see. Far too often, the lighting isn't right or the bird is hidden behind a branch so these visual clues aren't that helpful. But I am able to hear many different types of birds, most of which I can't see at all.

So I've tried listening to bird songs on tape to try to figure out who it is I'm hearing. All those songs, one after the other, however, quickly become a blur. That was, until I was introduced to "Birding By Ear," a CD set put out by the Peterson Field Guide Series by Richard Walton and Robert Lawson. This recording takes a completely different approach from other bird song recordings I've tried. Walton and Lawson take 85 birds from eastern and central North America and sort them into learning groups of just four to eight species. They then contrast and compare these few birds, giving listeners tricks on how to identify each one.

Once they explain the particular clue to listen for, they go back and forth between a couple of birds so you have several chances to practice what you've learned. For example, the downy woodpecker has a downward chatter, while the hairy woodpecker has a similar chatter but it stays at a more steady pitch. If you heard either one alone it would be hard to tell them apart at first. But once you've heard them compared one after the other a few times, it's relatively easy to hear the difference.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Columns
  • ken_wibecan.jpg Another day in the life

    Each morning I rise from bed, slowly, as is my habit, and sit quietly on the bed contemplating the day that looms before me, writes columnist Ken Wibecan.

    August 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • PPR small talk mug 081714 Corner store is no more

    Columnist Gordie Little offers a reminder of the little grocery stores of days gone by.

    August 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • PPR skin deep mug 081714 High-end products worth the splurge

    Regardless of the price, writes columnist Felicia Krieg, she would buy the core group of her makeup products over and over again.

    August 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • paul_grasso.jpg Tax code needs overhaul

    Corporations may be criticized for exploiting loopholes, but it is the complex tax system that is at fault, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    August 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hagar_mug1.jpg Ideas about soil health changing

    New techniques like no-til and cover crops can make soil healthier than conventional tillage, according to columnist Peter Hagar.

    August 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Economy may have changed forever

    The Great Recession has reordered the workforce in a way that makes it unlikely it will ever be the same, according to columnist Colin Read.

    August 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Terry_Mattingly.jpg The dark side of fun funerals

    Something strange happened in American culture in the past decade or two: People started planning fun funerals, writes religion columnist Terry Mattingly.

    August 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • PPR fit bits mug Developing power key to success

    While strength is important, the ability to generate power is required for many basic activities in life, writes columnist Ted Santaniello.

    August 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • PPR you had to ask mug 081014 Time to reel in youth sports parents

    Do not scream at a child that he's a loser, at least not in a language he understands, columnist Steve Ouellette writes.

    August 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Treating corporations like people

    Problems arise in many areas when businesses take on the attributes of individuals as mandated by the court, according to columnist Colin Read.

    August 10, 2014 1 Photo

Peter Black: Canadian Dispatch

Lois Clermont, Editor

Cornell Cooperative Extension

Richard Gast: Cornell Ag Extension

Bob Grady

Guest Columns

Peter Hagar: Cornell Ag Connection

Health Advice
Ray Johnson: Climate Science
Gordie Little: Small Talk
Terry Mattingly: On Religion

Steve Ouellette: You Had To Ask

Colin Read: Everybody's Business

Pinch of Time