One of the disadvantages of reading about bird songs is that you have to rely on a printed mnemonic (which almost invariably reads differently than you would have printed it). What better solution than a book with a built-in audio player?
Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song by Les Beletsky is a combination of full-color art, brief descriptive text, and audio from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It is a beautiful book that can both grace a coffee table and serve as a reference for the birdwatcher.
This book does not include all species of interest to North American birders, but it hits the most common, the most iconic, and the most intriguing. A sampling of species include:
- Common loon.
- Canada goose.
- Trumpeter swan.
- Laughing gull.
- Pileated woodpecker.
- Northern cardinal.
- Wild turkey.
- Great horned owl.
- Black-capped chickadee.
- Red-tailed hawk.
- Rock pigeon.
- Barn owl.
Navigating the book can be somewhat difficult. The birds are grouped by habitat:
- Seabirds, shorebirds, and waterbirds.
- Forest birds.
- Woodland birds.
- Open-country birds.
From there, they are organized more or less taxonomically. If you are having a hard time finding a bird of interest, check the index in the back, but keep in mind that you will have to look under C for Carolina wren, not W for wren, for instance.
Of course, each species is usually capable of making several different vocalizations. However, the samples chosen for this book are very representative, and the quality is superb.
Browsing through the book and listening to the recordings is a relaxing way to spend an evening, and it will also help you start to memorize the sounds so that you will recognize them in the field.
A lot of fun for an avid bird lover. Makes a great gift, too!
All About Birds
Perplexed by a song not in the book? This should be your next go-to resource.
Kansas Bird Checklists
A good place to find the taxonomical order of birds for Kansas birdwatchers.