Bird song classifiers

Decision table for identifying birdsong
Pitch Melody Speed Mnemonic Features Name Description Audio
low (0-1 KHz) stereotypeMelodic slow Eurasian golden oriole (Oriolus oriolus) A soft, lowish whistling. In my opinion, the golden oriole has a beautiful voice, but no imagination as to melody - it's always the same few notes.
low (1-3 KHz) nonMusical slow cawing Carrion crow (Corvus corone) Graak!
low (1-3 KHz) nonMusical slow cawing Common raven (Corvus corax) Graak!
low (1-3 KHz) nonMusical slow rattle Eurasian magpie (Pica pica) Familiar rattle
low (1-3 KHz) nonMusical slow rattle White stork (Ciconia ciconia) The famous Klappern.
low (1-3 KHz) nonMusical fast drumming Great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) Call: Nabu: Das bekannteste Geräusch des schwarz-weißen Spechtes ist aber wohl sein kurzes, aber häufiges Trommeln. [Link]
In a sonogram I can see about 13 taps in just over half a second, but you can never distinguish so many. It's short but intense, and the second half trails off, especially contrasted with the constant drumming of the three-toed woodpecker. [[Listen here.]]
Song: Other: ‘Drumming’ is the sound that Great Spotted Woodpeckers make by hammering their bills against dead wood 10-20 times over 2-3 seconds. The sound resonates in the dead wood and can be heard over large distances. This drumming acts as an advert and is used by Great spotted Woodpeckers and other woodpecker species instead of a song. [From the GardenBird web site]
low (1-3 KHz) simpleRhythmic fast drumming Eurasian three-toed woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus) Fast drumming, constant volume, longer than great spotted woodpecker's.
medium (0-4 KHz) simpleRhythmic fast drumming Lesser spotted woodpecker (Dryobates minor) Drumming in lieu of song. Fast, constant.
medium (0-4 KHz) simpleRhythmic fast drumming Grey-headed woodpecker (Picus canus) Drumming in lieu of song. Fast, constant, somehow less harsh than great and middle spotted woodpeckers.
medium (1-5 KHz) nonMusical fast cawing Eurasian jay (Garrulus glandarius) Harsh crow-like call, or quiet questioning, 'grumbling', or plaintive cries.
medium (1-5 KHz) simpleRhythmic slow European bee-eater (Merops apiaster) BirdID says multi-syllabic, rolling phrases, although it often seems to be one syllable as well. Hope to hear it and especially see it in Maienfeld.
medium (1-5 KHz) simpleRhythmic slow Great tit (Parus major) Said to have a repertoire as a species of 50 or more different songs, albeit simple ones, up to 10 per individual. Females prefer a male with a large repertoire. One two-note song sounds like a squeaky bed.
medium (1-5 KHz) simpleRhythmic slow rasp Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) General: Bergfink - call cheep plus two ascending Grünfink squawks. Song? Grünfink squawk but not descending, every 3-4 seconds.
Song: Song very distinct; a soft, wheezing, drawn-out single note. Repeated at the same pitch in a monotonous manner. [Link]
medium (1-5 KHz) stereotypeMelodic slow Eurasian treecreeper (Certhia familiaris) Wikipedia says: The contact call is a very quiet, thin and high-pitched sit, but the most distinctive call is a penetrating tsree, with a vibrato quality, sometimes repeated as a series of notes. The male's song begins with srrih, srrih followed in turn by a few twittering notes, a longer descending ripple, and a whistle that falls and then rises.
medium (1-5 KHz) stereotypeMelodic slow Common chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) General: A medium long phrase that slowly descends (I think of it bouncing down a staircase), then usually takes a jump up before a final descent.
Song: In Bavaria the mnemonic for the typical chaffinch song is: „Ich hätte gerne ein Weizenbier“, i.e. "I'd like another Weizenbier". [DasHaus]
medium (1-5 KHz) stereotypeMelodic fast mimicry, weird Marsh warbler (Acrocephalus palustris) Weird, squeaky, urgent, more variable than reed warbler, with imitations of European and African birds.
medium (1-5 KHz) stereotypeMelodic fast weird Eurasian reed warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) Weird, squeaky, urgent.
medium (1-5 KHz) improvisedMelodic slow Sedge warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus) Constant stream of equally spaced sounds. Possibly a false analysis by BirdNet, as BirdLife Zürich says there are none here. what is it? has a sample that churrs and trills, similar rhythm to reed warbler / Teichrohrsänger, so maybe that's what it was. Listening on YouTube videos, you'd call it percussion rather than song!
medium (1-5 KHz) improvisedMelodic slow mimicry Red-backed shrike (Lanius collurio) Reminds me a bit of a Rohrsaenger with its short, varied bits. BirdID says Song surprisingly varied with many expert imitations of small passerines, interwoven with bell-like ringing and dry chirping sounds. May be confusing and hard to identify if bird not seen. Song not very loud, but phrases can be very long. 'May be confusing' - tell me about it! What's not confusing about trying to tell apart 422 species of Swiss birds! Similar to Marsh warbler (Acrocephalus palustris) (Sounds like a more melodic, less staccato marsh warbler to me, see above.).
medium (1-5 KHz) improvisedMelodic slow mimicry, whoop, weird Common starling (Sturnus vulgaris) I find their individual song amusing, with its (long) whoops and weird noises. As a group, they're just noisy!
medium (1-5 KHz) improvisedMelodic slow rasp Great reed warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) Sounds to me like croak cheep cheep! Listening on YouTube videos, you'd call it percussion rather than song!
medium (1-5 KHz) improvisedMelodic slow whoop, weird, repetitions, trill Common nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) Can be a sequence of unrelated weird but musical sounds - trills, churrs, human-like whistles - very amusing.
medium (1-5 KHz) improvisedMelodic fast Garden warbler (Sylvia borin) Hard to distinguish from mönchsgrasmücke/black cap.
medium (1-5 KHz) oneNote fast European nuthatch (Sitta europaea) Song: Song a simple series of loud notes [Link]
medium (2-5 KHz) simpleRhythmic slow House sparrow (Passer domesticus) An monotone chirping. Mainly 2-5 KHz with higher overtones.
medium (2-5 KHz) improvisedMelodic fast mimicry Black cap warbler (Sylvia atricapilla) They sometimes sing like a blackbird on speed - also non-stereotypic, seemingly improvised, in short bursts. Our local guy ends most of his songs with the same seven notes, which I find a good way to confirm the identification. In Ticino we often heard the 'Leiern' sound - the warblers would sing just the first 3 notes of a longer song, then stop. The order varied; high-medium-low I call 'Figaro' as in the opera, low-high-medium 'whiskey bar', as it sounded to me like the Kurt Weill lyrics, 'O-oh-show me-the-way to-the-next whis-ke-bar' - but the warbler usually stopped after 'way' or 'next' The British authors of The Sound Approach claim to hear 'a warblel and a whistle'. Similar to Common blackbird (Turdus merula) (So say I - similar tone, less inventive with motifs it uses most of the time (though regionally different), no high bits at end).
medium (3-5 KHz) simpleRhythmic slow trill Lesser whitethroat (Sylvia curruca) Song typically consists of two parts. An indistinct chattering and warbling, subsong-like part similar to [common] Whitethroat, which is usually followed by a dry, fast and rattling trill. The trill carries much further than the chattering part. May be difficult to identify if trill is omitted. [Link]
low-high (1-7 KHz) improvisedMelodic slow flourish Common blackbird (Turdus merula) Other: Gut zu erkennen ist die Amsel. Sie singt melodiös, erklärt Heller, «zuerst flötend und dann gegen Schluss so schnirpslig». Die Amsel singe gerne dort, wo sie gut gehört werde, etwa vor Hauswänden, die den Schall nicht schlucken. Ich wollte schauen was schnirpslig heisst, aber diese ist diese einzige Verwendung, die Google kennt! Der flötende Teil ist relativ tief, 1.5-3 KHz, der schnirpslige aber 2.5-7 KHz. (Schnirpslig ist ein schones Wort das der Redner erfunden hat - Google findet nur diese eine Webseite mit dem Wort!) [Von der SRF Webseite:]
low-high (1-7 KHz) improvisedMelodic fast weird, repetitions, rasp White-throated dipper (Cinclus cinclus) Wonderfully weird sequence of chirps, cheeps, growls. Elements often repeated twice. In a quiz, I mistook it for a starling.
low-high (2-7 KHz) simpleRhythmic slow Eurasian tree sparrow (Passer montanus) Monotone chirping, rougher than that of the house sparrow. Most 2-7 KHz mit many overtones, i.e. somewhat higher than the house sparrow.
low-high (2-7 KHz) stereotypeMelodic fast fluting, rattle European goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) General: Hectic sing-song, quite chaotic in feeding groups. But kept as songbird, so I guess more melodic when singing solo. Similar to European greenfinch (Chloris chloris) (Higher pitched than the greenfinch, easily hitting 9 KHz rather than 6.5 KHz).
low-high (2-7 KHz) stereotypeMelodic fast rasp, trill European greenfinch (Chloris chloris) General: Sequence of 4-6 rhythmic elements at different pitches. A sort of trill is often start or end of the sequence, there are slides. Similar to Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) (Greenfinch also occasionally utters rising squawks like the brambling).
high (3-7 KHz) simpleRhythmic slow Willow tit (Poecile montanus) Songs I've heard alternate two notes and look like a sine wave on the sonogram. Apart from minor differences in diet and size, Alpine Tit and Willow Tit can only be identified by their song. The Willow Tit utters a series of long, descending notes («tyoo tyoo tyoo tyoo»), whereas the Alpine Tit’s territorial song consists of short notes on an even pitch («dee dee dee dee dee»). See more here.
high (4-7 KHz) stereotypeMelodic slow Short-toed treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla) General: It sounds to me like a 5-7 note song like 'five k low high higher'. The individual notes have the same backward checkmark shape as the call. It's basically the same across Europe.
Song: The song of the nominate subspecies is an evenly spaced sequence of notes teet-teet-teet-e-roi-tiit. [Link]
Its song is short, loud and rhythmic. [Link]
[In comparison with the visually similar Eurasian treecreeper, it] has a clearer, louder more staccato contact call of ‘sreet’ or ‘sree’ and a short ‘wit’ during normal activity [Link]
high (4-8 KHz) simpleRhythmic fast Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) High-pitched, two notes that sound like one, repeated 10-12 times, often followed by whistle that sounds higher to me but usually shows up on the sonogram as the same range. The mnemonic for the staccato song in German is: «Wie, wie, wie, wie hab ich dich lieb». See the image for dialects noted by - the most common Swiss dialect is said to be XlB, though I haven't been able to hear a higher note myself.
high (6-8 KHz) simpleRhythmic slow Spotted flycatcher (Muscicapa striata) High (6-8 KHz?) short sound repeated every half to 5 seconds.
high (6-8 KHz) simpleRhythmic fast Common firecrest (Regulus ignicapilla) Very high rhythmic repetition of about 3 seconds
low-high (2-9 KHz) nonMusical fast rattle Mistle thrush (Turdus viscivorus) General: I mistook this one for a woodpecker the first time I heard it, partly because BirdNet also did! Rattle generated in vocal tract, not with the beak! Similar to Common blackbird (Turdus merula).
low-high (2-9 KHz) improvisedMelodic slow swoop, repetitions Song thrush (Turdus philomelos) Paced like a blackbird, humorous mix of elements like a nightingale. Huge range, elements from 2-5 KHz, others 6.5-9 KHz
high (3-9 KHz) simpleRhythmic slow Common chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) Seems to consist of 3 notes repeated randomly, occasionally just 2 notes. Though says they stop singing at the end of July, I do hear their 3-note song occasionally in October, but just one or two repetitions.
high (3-9 KHz) simpleRhythmic fast slur European crested tit (Lophophanes cristatus) Higher-pitched than great tit - how distinguish from coal tit, etc?
high (3-9 KHz) stereotypeMelodic slow Common redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) I though I had these guys figured out after hearing them in Locarno several times, but they're hard to get a handle on! At BirdID they are described the first two parts of a three-part song like this: 'an ascending single note, immediately followed by a trill', whereas in Locarno I heard an initial high-low-high-low, sometimes without the final low, perhaps also a quick middle note, and no trill. Then a relatively short blackbird-like tune of maybe 5-8 notes. Listening to more recordings at XenoCanto has completely confused me now! BirdID also says the song is similar to the black redstart, which I sometimes hear at XenoCanto, but never did in Locarno! They also note a similarity to the Lesser Whitethroat (Klappergrasmücke), which I hope to hear in Maienfeld. Similar to Lesser whitethroat (Sylvia curruca) (So says BirdID), Black redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros) (So says BirdID), Common blackbird (Turdus merula) (So say I - shorter, with stereotyped beginning).
high (3-9 KHz) stereotypeMelodic slow Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) says high-pitched song that gently rises and falls.
high (3-9 KHz) stereotypeMelodic slow churr Black redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros) The song is two parts and unvarying. If it were a pop song, you'd call it ABABAB... The second part starts with a sputtering trill. The RSPB in the UK says 'warble with crackling trills.' says 'Der gepresst knirschende Gesang setzt meist lange vor Sonnenaufgang ein und ist der Auftakt für das Vogelkonzert.' says 'Einziger Sänger morgens um drei in den Häuserschluchten'. Obwohl meint, sie singen nicht mehr nach Juli, war ich angenehm überrascht sie in Oktober im Tessin zu hören.
high (3-9 KHz) stereotypeMelodic fast Willow warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus) Song similar to common chaffinch but higher, faster, tendency to descend but with more ups and downs. Similar to Common chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs).
high (3-9 KHz) stereotypeMelodic fast Dunnock (Prunella modularis) High-pitched, repetitive but complex little tune. Similar to Black cap warbler (Sylvia atricapilla), European robin (Erithacus rubecula) (Dunnock song stays around same pitch, isn't cascading).
high (3-9 KHz) improvisedMelodic fast fluting European robin (Erithacus rubecula) General: High pitched but also going low, e.g. 2.9-7.7 KHz.
Song: Only for a short period in late summer while they are moulting and inconspicuous do robins stop singing. Both sexes sing. [RSPB article]
high (3-9 KHz) improvisedMelodic fast trill Eurasian wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) High-pitched, melodic, very variable with many trills and whistles. Similar to Common chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) (Structure is similar but wren song more variable and often longer, also flatter).
high (3-9 KHz) simpleRhythmic slow trill Eurasian blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) High-pitched, often descending, occasionally ascending.
high (3-9 KHz) simpleRhythmic fast slur Coal tit (Periparus ater) Higher-pitched than great tit, with more slurs instead of pure notes. Usually 2 or 3 notes in varied order. To me it seems they have a repertoire of songs, like their 'big brothers', the great tits.
low-high (2-10 KHz) simpleRhythmic fast Marsh tit (Poecile palustris) Higher-pitched than great tit, sometimes repetitive 1- and 2-note tunes like them, sometimes simple melodies, usually pure, sometimes chirpy or raspy.
low-high (2-10 KHz) stereotypeMelodic slow Red crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) Repeated hi-low pattern...well, doesn't always sound like that. The very short beginning of my Stazersee recording before the static sets in does, as well as a song found online. One recording reminds me of cicada sounds.
high (4-10 KHz) nonMusical veryFast European serin (Serinus serinus) General: Weird hectic song, and you'll probably hear them but not see them, which is a shame, because they're a colorful yellow bird. The song seems to defy description - described variously as the jingling of a bunch of keys, like crushing glass or the pouring of broken glass (the German Wikipedia refers to a nickname 'Glasscutter'), the sound of a cork twising in a bottle (Thomas Seilnacht on, and one source I can no longer find talked about a ruined cassette tape. A Portuguese web site aptly calls it 'a high-pitched and fast rambled sum of indistinctive elements', and U. Cornell's calls it frantically fast, 'a prolonged, wheezy, chirping', 'a buzzing trill'.
Song: Das Gesangsrepertoire umfasst über 50 komplexe Silben, die in einem sehr schnellen Tempo und einer sehr stereotypen Reihenfolge eigene Lieder bilden. Starke Variationen finden sich im Übergang von einer Tour (zusammenhängenden Abfolge von Silben, also (Teil-)Strophe) in eine andere (Modulation). Das Gesangsrepertoire ist unter den Stieglitzartigen (Carduelinae) einzigartig.[1] Zudem umfasst es eine variable Menge an Silben, die auch im Gesang anderer Vögel verwendet werden. Es konnte bewiesen werden, dass die Komposition des Repertoires geographisch variiert. [Wikipedia setzt sich ernsthaft mit dem Gesang auseinander]