Our guide to birdsong

A Robin resting on a fence post
Listen out for the robin National Trust Images/Ross Hoddinott

The sound of birdsong in our gardens and green spaces is always a source of delight. But how can you identify the different birds in a chorus of birdsong?

We've asked ornithologist and ecologist Pete Brash to guide you through a recording of birdsong. Pete has made a note of the time at which you can hear a different bird. Before you know it, you'll be picking out the call of the chaffinch, chiffchaff and their feathered friends.

Robins' reverie

A robin sings first until 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 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.


The chaffinch is best heard in isolation from 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. There's a few plodding steps, picking up speed and then a crescendo as the cricketer bowls.

Jenny wren

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.

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 - the chiffchaff and song thrush.

The chiffchaff sings its name, so it's easy to recognise. Listen out particularly between 2:18 -2:20 and again at 2:26-2:29.

Songbird serenade

The song thrush has a varied song broken into clear sections of a note or phrase which is repeated four or five 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, the goldcrest, can be distinctly heard giving its very thin song at 0:12 and again at 1:02.

Watch a video about our birdsong research project: