The sound of birds and the music of birdsong is one of the great natural wonders of the world. Anyone who thinks that bird calls amount to little more than a chain of stereotyped whistles may be surprised by this short video clip about the amazing Australian Lyrebird, inimitably presented by David Attenborough. And this short video gives an idea of the variety of song on display... how much there is to discern outside.
The Internet lets you search, study and enjoy the songs of different species with just a few clicks.
The ability to stream or download audio recordings of so many individual birdsongs can seem quite magical. Or sometimes even comical: a recording of a Colorado roadrunner beating a hasty retreat comes from Xeno-Canto - an exciting new free community database of shared bird sounds from around the world.
Xeno-Canto already has over 6,500 bird calls on file for online listening accompanied by spectrograms to visualize the sound production. You can use the search engine to browse the database by area (using the embedded google map facility) or by species. And community membership (optional) is free.
If you're looking for more, try the massive world link collections to birdwatching and birding sites maintained by Bird Studies Canada (with search engine) and SUNY (The State University of New York). Both provide a convenient overview of birdsong resources on the web and can help you trace video clips and audio recordings of birds from around the world. A helpful interactive world map is followed by an organized list of links accompanied by brief introductions to each bird song site (if a link isn't working, try googling it).
Tucked away on the BBC site, there's an archive of informative radio programs celebrating International Dawn Chorus Day (the first Sunday of May). The programs give an introduction to the 'how' and 'why' of bird song and provide a good launching pad to get an idea of both the beauty and biology of the phenomenon. These introductory resources are well worth exploring (while another dawn chorus program got away). The excellent BBC Nature mini-site (here) contains more good bird content, including a Guide to Birdsong by Brett Westwood.
Or if you just fancy some dawn chorus loops as an ambient background, there's always birdsong radio (to start the stream, scroll down and click the play button). Note that Bird song Radio has a relaxation theme, so expect some brief announcements and a few other human incursions.
- Influential 20th century French composer Olivier Messiaen was fascinated by birdsong to the point of notating songs of individual species in the field and reworking them in his music (as in the score on the left).
- Native Americans have a wide bird song repertoire.
- Siffleur (whistler) Ronnie Ronalde (b.1923) has a music hall take.
- (to be continued)
NB: Depending on your set up, you may find you need to download and install extra codecs or plug-ins for your browser to view/hear some of the online files. More information about codecs here.
- Introduction to birding at about.com
- Bird photos by species at 10,000 birds and photobirder (more bird picture link suggestions here)
- Beautiful wallpaper collections at Surfbirds and Natures Desktop
- Birds in Encyclopedia of Life and Tree of Life (ongoing web projects; articles here and here)
- Free articles/books on birdsong.
You might want to check out these articles too:
- Remarkable Encyclopedia of Life
- Charles Darwin's 200th - Tree of Life Resources Free Online
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- 10 Outstanding Educational Websites