Review: Peterson Field Guides Birding by Ear (Eastern/Central)

The 1st disc starts with a “dawn chorus” that is also a nice little quiz once you work your way through the CD’s! The credits mention that it is taken from an album for which I can’t track down an electronic recording, but it has been generated from more recordings than that, based on a quick scan of the track list. I assume the other sounds are from the other cited sources on the CD set booklet.

The intro is dated (1990) with the term “Indian” being used for Native Americans, and a simplistic mention of what the earliest inhabitants of the continent might have gleaned from bird song. From that sparse overview, though, I was led to personally flesh out some of the claims on how Native Americans interacted with birds. For instance, the narrator mentions that bird songs may have signaled food or a predator approach. A concrete example of that is the “chachalaca,” a bird name imitative of its call that originated from Nahuatl-speaking tribes. This bird is still a game bird today. As for predator approach, the first thing that comes to my mind would have been an enemy tribe, and I can think of how birds flush from me in the woods or otherwise respond with vigilance. Birds are also known to mob mountain lions (Morgan & Young 2007).

Here’s the track list…

Disc 1

  1. Introduction
  2. Mimics
  3. Woodpeckers
  4. Sing-songers
  5. Hawks
  6. Chippers & trillers
  7. High-pitchers

Disc 2

  1. Whistlers
  2. Owls & a dove
  3. Simple vocalizations
  4. Complex vocalizations
  5. Name-sayers
  6. Warbling songsters
  7. Commoners

Disc 3

  1. Wood warblers & a warbling wren
  2. Thrushes
  3. Unusual vocalizations
  4. Miscellaneous

This was my introduction to learning bird song, so I’m quite sentimental about this CD set! It taught me a skill I didn’t know I could acquire when I was younger, and helped launch me into my passion of birding. Since it meant a lot to my learning to identify birds, I’m not sure I can be wholly objective about it. It’s my favorite bird song learning tool, though.

I plan to continue to think about how we can learn, and how to teach, bird song. What worked for you? Do you have a favorite resource? Let me know in the comments!

Literature Cited

Tiffany Morgan, Jon Young. 2007. Animal Tracking Basics. Nature.

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