Birding By Ear

Birding, or what was once commonly known as bird watching, refers to observation and identification of birds in their natural habitats.

While there certainly are many “birders” whose study of birds is strictly visual, serious birders also rely heavily on what they hear.  Visual observation is restricted to the direction you happen to be facing at any given time, but sound has no such restriction.  Your range of hearing spans the entire 360 degrees of the compass.

I have derived great pleasure from “birding by ear” since my college days in the 1970’s when my Biology professor introduced me to it by asking me to learn recorded bird sounds while my sighted classmates were busy dissecting frogs.  My final exam consisted of a walk in the woods with my professor. During which I was expected to identify some of the sounds we heard.

Birding can be a wonderfully enriching activity both for children and adults who are blind!

Over the years, my interest in birds has made me more aware of my surroundings, and it has provided a link to the outdoors and to a part of the world that most people either fail to notice at all or enjoy only by seeing.  When traveling, one of the first things I detect when I get out of the car is the sound of whatever birds happen to be vocalizing.  I’m always on the lookout for a good opportunity to record a bird I have yet to add to my sounds collection.  My enthusiasm for birding encourages me to spend a lot of time outdoors.  In my home neighborhood, there’s nothing more uplifting than the sound of the first robin in the spring or the Conqueree sound of the Red-winged blackbird announcing that winter is almost over for another year.  

Birding by ear has been fun to learn, and it has given me some common ground with sighted birders.  More than anything else, though, it has raised my consciousness and afforded me a deeper appreciation of some of the miracles of nature that can help make life on earth a truly beautiful and uplifting adventure.

Click here to hear the Yellowthroat.


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