16 Fascinating Facts About Bird Sounds

Updated: Apr. 09, 2024

Whether it's a chirp, a trill or a song, it's quite the thrill to hear the amazing sounds birds make. Enjoy facts about their special melodies.

278116718 1 Fred Ernie Anderson Bnb Bypc 2021
Courtesy Fred Ernie Anderson
Listen for red-winged blackbird sounds in spring.

Winter Bird Sounds

Most North American birds including red-winged blackbirds wait until spring or summer to belt their tunes, but there are some exceptions. Pacific wrens and northern mockingbirds in certain regions are two examples of birds that sometimes start warming up in late January or early February. After you finish reading these facts about bird sounds, check out everything you need to know about bird songs.

The Northern Mockingbird Mimus Polyglottus Is The State Bird Of Texas
Dave Welling
Northern mockingbird

Best Bird Mimics

Northern mockingbirds can memorize up to a whopping 200 different bird songs—and can imitate other sounds ranging from sirens to dogs barking.

Bickering Tree Swallows
dmussman/Getty Images
Two tree swallows in the midst of a heated argument

Not All Birds Sound the Same

When listening to bird sounds, try to note the following: the tone (is it more rich or faint?), the tempo (does it speed up or slow down?) and pitch (do the notes go higher or lower?)

What does a Baltimore oriole song sound like?

Sheila Fitzgerald/Shutterstock
Song sparrow

Many Birds Are Songbirds

It’s estimated that more than half of the world’s bird species are songbirds.

Listen for the sweet sounds of a song sparrow.

American Robin Bar1692
Bill Leaman
American robin

How to Remember Bird Songs

Clever birders have memorized specific bird songs by passing down mnemonic hints. A few popular examples: the American robin’s cheerup, cheerily, cheerio; the yellow warbler’s sweet, sweet, sweet, I’m so sweet; the Carolina wren’s teakettle, teakettle; and the tufted titmouse’s Peter, Peter.

Northern Flicker Flying Away A Tree Branch
jamesvancouver/Getty Images
Northern flicker

Funny Bird Sounds

Think you hear a bird laughing at you? It might just be a northern flicker. One of their calls resembles a ha-ha-ha sound.

Here’s what a cedar waxwing call sounds like.

bird sounds american dipper
Courtesy Gary Botello
American dipper

Singing on the Water

American dippers may act a bit like ducks, but they’re actually classified as songbirds. Both male and female dippers sing loudly to compete with noise from the babbling brooks and rivers they call home.

What does a mourning dove call sound like?

Willow Ptarmagan In Spruce Tree
Joesboy/Getty Images
Willow ptarmigan

Most Animated Bird Sounds

One of the most unusual noisemakers in the bird world, male willow ptarmigans make a funny-sounding rattle that
some say rivals the cartoon character Porky Pig, human laughter or even a toy.

Music in motion: these birds sing while flying.

Orchard Oriole Boo0358
Bill Leaman
Orchard oriole

Why Songbirds Are Such Good Singers

There’s a special reason why songbirds sing the way they do: the syrinx. It’s different than a larynx and is a voice box that allows certain birds to sing two different tunes at the same time! No other animal has an organ quite like it.

Hummingbird sounds: do hummingbirds sing?

Bewick's Wren Singing His Spring Song bird sounds
BirdImages/Getty Images
Bewick’s wren

Regional Differences in Bird Sounds

If you thought regional dialects were limited to humans, think again! Certain birds, including indigo buntings, white-crowned sparrows and Bewick’s wrens, can sound different based on where in their range you’re hearing them.

Kim Eberly Bluejay
Courtesy Kim Eberly
Blue jay

Clever Hawk Impersonator

Look twice in the trees if you think you’re hearing a red-shouldered hawk’s screech. Blue jays are infamous for copying
that sound, perhaps to scare off other birds or to warn of a nearby hawk visitor.

Learn how to identify a northern cardinal’s song.

Bnbbyc19 Keith Fife 2
Courtesy Keith Fife
Female northern cardinal

Female Bird Sounds

Widely ignored by scientists for centuries, female songbirds have come into focus in recent years. Pay attention
to female northern cardinals, Baltimore and Bullock’s orioles, and several types of warblers including the yellow, chestnut-sided and prothonotary, all documented songstresses. Learn more about the research being done to chronicle these songs at femalebirdsong.org.

Chipping Sparrow Singing In Apple Tree Blossoms
William Leaman / Alamy Stock Photo
Chipping sparrow

Sound-Alike Sparrows

Listen carefully if you’re picking up the song of either a chipping sparrow or a dark-eyed junco—their songs are easily confused! The junco’s song is described as having more of a musical quality to it while the sparrow’s is a bit more “mechanical” sounding to some ears.

Yellow warbler bird sounds
Courtesy William Friggle
Yellow warbler

Learn Bird Sounds With Apps

Let technology be your guide when it comes to better learning and recognizing bird songs. There are several apps available— including Cornell Lab’s Merlin app—with sound ID features to identify which species is tweeting nearby.

Meet the vireo bird family: sweet summer singers.

bird sounds Dickcissel
Courtesy Karen Brown

Birds That Sing Their Names

A few North American birds have songs or calls that mimic their names: chickadees, phoebes, dickcissels and whip-poor-wills.

bird sounds catbird
Johann Schumacher Design
Gray catbird

Long Lasting Bird Songs

Though a gray catbird’s most infamous call is its catlike mew-mew, its talent doesn’t end there—its songs can last for more than 10 minutes. And it can mimic sounds from frogs and other birds.

Next, meet the thrush bird family: sweet songbirds.


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