Our guide to birdsong

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Enthusiastic ornithologist and ecologist Pete Brash talks us through the feathered musicians on a short extract of birdsong - so that you can hopefully start to recognise the distinctive chatter of our garden visitors.

It's really simple to use our guide, just hit play and read on. (iPhone and iPad users listen here). Pete has made a note of the time in which we hear a different bird. Before you know it, you'll be picking out the call of the chaffinch, chiffchaff and their feathered friends...
Listen now

Things kick off with a robin, (up to about 1:20). Robins have a variable warbling given in short phrases with longer gaps in between. The phrases can be quite piercing or sweet and syrupy.

Next there are two different species which seem to be competing, chaffinch and wren.

  • The chaffinch is best heard in isolation at between 1:49-1:51. The song starts out with a few slow clear notes (chip, chip, chip) before speeding up and then finishing with a real flourish. The rhythm has been likened to that of the footfall of a medium paced bowler, a few plodding steps, picking up speed and then a crescendo as the cricketer bowls.
  • The wren has a very loud, excited and hurried song. They are capable of belting out over 700 notes per minute. it's an incredibly loud song for such a tiny bird.
  • Whilst it's a chaffinch that begins to sing at around 1:26 it's the wren which carries on up to 1:30. It's a wren that kicks off proceedings at around 1:38 but again the chaffinch interrupts at 1:40!

A blackbird can be heard giving its melodious and mellow song throughout the section from 1:20 to 2:10.

Two birds with repetitive songs dominate the rest of the recording. Chiffchaff sings its name, listen out particularly between 2:18 -2:20 and again at 2:26-2:29.

Song thrush has a varied song broken into clear sections of a note or phrase which is repeated 4 or 5 times. Listen out for these slightly different phrases repeated at 2:15, 2:24, 2:34, 2:47 and 2:52.

Other species that I can hear include wood pigeon, carrion crow, blue tit, blackcap, mallard, pheasant, coot and great-crested grebe.

Our smallest bird, goldcrest can be distinctly heard giving its very thin song at 0:12 and again at 1:02.