All About Birds Blog

Learn How to Bird by Ear With Our New Bird Song Hero Game

By on Monday, June 2nd, 2014 - 2 Comments

Watch the video above for an introduction to our new interactive learning feature, Bird Song Hero. This new module in our All About Bird Biology project aims to help people make the important move into birding by ear. Learning bird songs and calls is an indispensable skill for birding in many habitats. It also helps your overall birding, because when you recognize the sounds around you, it’s much easier to cut through the chaos and focus on one or a few birds of interest.

The only catch is knowing how to get started. Mnemonics (the germany-germany-germany of a Carolina Wren, for instance) will take you only so far, and other attempts to describe sounds in words are even harder to learn. The Bird Song Hero approach works better because it brings the powerful visual side of your brain to bear on the task.

With the Bird Song Hero matching game, you can train your brain to recognize and remember more than 50 bird songs. You’ll listen closely to featured songs and match each with the correct sound visualization, or spectrogram. By representing the sound as a picture, spectrograms harness your visual abilities to help you recognize the unique qualities of each song.

Bird Song Hero helps you build up your skills with three sections:

Bird Song HeroBird Song Hero Tutorial
This short video introduction to Bird Song Hero trains you to interpret spectrograms, the sound visualizations scientists use to help them understand sound patterns. Spectrograms are used in the matching game to enlist your visual brain in identifying bird song. After two short minutes you’ll be ready to play Bird Song Hero.

Bird Song HeroBird Song Hero Challenge
The first round of Bird Song Hero introduces you to more than 20 remarkable bird songs. When you’re done you’ll have new bird ID skills and possibly some catchy bird tunes stuck in your head.

Bird Song Hero-Round2Bird Song Hero Ultimate
After completing the first round, continue to the Ultimate round where the questions get harder and the songs more complex. When you’re done, reward yourself by downloading a collection of free bird songs.

Bird Song Hero Ultimate takes the bird song matching game to the next level with more complex songs and trickier answer choices. You’ll have to listen more carefully to answer correctly. The reward? This kind of practice is great preparation for figuring out who’s singing in your backyard and beyond.

We hope you enjoy this free interactive from the Cornell Lab’s All About Bird Biology project. In addition to launching this as a web interactive, we’ve made a five question video version available as a bonus feature on the DVD of A Birder’s Guide to Everything, a 2014 feature film about teenagers growing up, going birding, and chasing after a possibly extinct species. In a nod to the importance of ear birding, the film’s director worked with our Macaulay Library to make sure that all the bird sounds in the movie were accurate.

More about bird songs:

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2 Comments

  1. Kendra says:

    Just tested it all out and was immediately picking up on reading the spectrogram. Round 2 was a little buggy after question 4. It might have been my computer but it wasn’t playing the question when I clicked on “play.” I’ll be checking back in! Keep it coming!

  2. Mya Thompson says:

    Hi Kendra,
    Thanks and glad that you are enjoying the spectrograms. That seems to happen for a small percentage of people using the Firefox browser. We’re on it. In the meantime, updated versions of Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Safari are good options if you have them.

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