The Bird Wide Web™ is an independent, objective survey of birding resources available to anyone with an internet connection and an up-to-date web browser. Sites, apps, downloads, and other online offerings described here are all tested for the broadest compatibility with different devices and operating systems. Nothing on the web is perfect or guaranteed, but due diligence has been done, and suggestions for improvement to this site are always welcome.

March 2019

Naming That Song

Part 2: Learning

Clearly, the best way to learn a bird's vocalizations is to see a bird you recognize and to have it sing or call directly in front of you. Second best is to have a knowledgeable birder identify distinctive sounds in the field often enough that you remember them on your own. Online tutorials and apps offer an advantage over classes in that you can study and learn at your own pace and on your own schedule. Where to begin?

Cornell again leads the way, with an excellent How To Learn[1] tutorial section on the All About Birds site, and even a free Academy[2] feature with videos and soundtracks. In addition, there's an online fee-based course, linked from the pages just described. National Audubon offers an engaging free series[3] in 8 parts with carefully selected sound samples, explanatory descriptions, memorization techniques, and much more. Each section focuses on a different aspect of the endeavor, authored by well-qualified experts.

As can be expected, there are also commercial resources, mainly for mobile devices. Fortunately, the good folks at Cornell have investigated them thoroughly, and their review[4] on the All About Birds site describes the benefits and drawbacks of the two best, Larkwire (344 species) and Chirp! (240 species, iPhone only). Both use Macauley Library recordings, and like Cornell's free 50-song Bird Song Hero[5] (a Favorite) are game-based.

Larkwire[6] offers a free, web-based demo with 21 sounds, including Black-capped Chickadee, which can sound nothing like our Chestnut-backed. Chirp! allows you to choose a location for songs included, but user reviews note that it lacks winter calls. And choosing California songs as a set, for example, can add or leave out common species unhelpfully.

As both Audubon and Cornell remind us, using recorded songs in the field can be inadvisable unless we are quite certain what the bird sounds we are broadcasting are saying, and know whether the live birds around us might respond in negative ways. This is similar to the question of whether "pishing", which simulates a passerine alarm call, is appropriate, even if it does bring curious (alarmed?) birds closer to the viewer.


February 2019:

Naming That Song - I

Bird song recognition, using websites, mobile apps and searchable online audio collections.

January 2019:

Lists and "Listers"

Explanation of how birding email lists work, and how text-based "alerts" give more rapid notice of rarities.

November 2018:

Birding Blogs

A survey of useful, entertaining, and regularly updated online commentary about birding and the birdwatching world.

October 2018:

"Birdy" Podcasts

Description of selected audio journals about aspects of the birding lifestyle, both web-based and designed for broadcast.

September 2018:

iBird Lite

A mobile birding application available in a very useful though limited free mode. Paid version is complete.

The Bird Wide Web™ will be publishing a new article at the beginning of each month.

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February 2019


January 2019


November 2018


October 2018


September 2018


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