If you’re trying to get to know the birds in your neighborhood, learning their sounds is really helpful. Most birds are small and can be easily hidden by leaf cover, making them hard to see, but their songs and calls ring out everywhere. Learning to distinguish bird songs makes it much easier to identify the singer, even when you can’t see them.
There are plenty of apps and online resources to help you learn what your favorite birds sound like. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s online game, “Bird Song Hero” makes bird education fun.
To commit bird sounds to memory, try using mnemonic phrases - pairing words and phrases with a specific bird song - it’s an old technique and an effective memory tool.
For example, there’s a little bird whose song sounds like “cheeseburger.” Sadly, it’s not a common visitor to the backyard barbecue, nor do its sounds come out sounding anything like the words “cheese” or “burger.” Someone just decided that the rhythm of the word “cheeseburger” matches the rhythm of the Mountain Chickadee's high-pitched three-syllable song. The real song sounds more like, “fee bee-bee.” Have a listen here.
Of course, you can come up with your own phrasing system to help you remember the songs and calls of birds but, here is a list of the classic mnemonic phrases and the birds they are paired with. Follow the links to AllAboutBirds.org, have a listen and see if you agree whether they came up with the right words to these bird songs.
"Teakettle" — Carolina Wren
"Drink your teeeeeeea!" — Eastern Towhee
"Potato chip" — American Goldfinch
"Peter-peter-peter" — Tufted Titmouse
"Cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up" — American Robin
"Oh, dear me" (Alternative, "I'm so tired") — Golden-crowned Sparrow
"Here; here; come right here; dear" — Baltimore Oriole
"Cheer, cheer, cheer! Birdie, birdie, birdie!" — Northern Cardinal
"What! What! Where? Where? See it! See it!" — Indigo Bunting
"Where are you? Here I am!" — Red-eyed Vireo