Guide to North American BirdSongs

Guide to North American Bird Songs and Sounds


This guide will help you identify songs and sounds of North American birds. As you step through the guide, you will be asked whether the sound was simple or complex, musical or harsh, etc, a set of choices of sound attributes. For each choice, a list of birds whose sounds conform to this description is given. If you select one of these and click the "Go" button, you will see a pointer to a sound file of that bird, a text description of the sound you will hear, and a sonogram of the sound. The sounds, songs and sonograms that form basis of this identification guide are the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center bird songs.

At each point in the key, select the best characterization of the sound or song you are trying to identify. If you change your mind, use the navigational choices at the top of the page to backtrack to earlier choices. There is also a more complete discussion of the guide, with elaboration of the terms used to characterize the songs.


Sound or song consists of a single note. The sound or note may be repeated quickly, but it does not vary in pitch. This includes hoots, honks, chips and trills.
Sound or song consists of two notes. The notes may vary in pitch or quality (e.g., one harsh, the other clear).
Sound or song consists of three or more notes. This category includes most complicated bird songs as well as whinnies, squawks, whistles, etc.