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Sonograms are a useful aid in learning about vocalizations, especially subtle differences in sound that are difficult to distinguish by ear. A sonogram is a visual representation of the sound, with time on the horizontal axis and frequency (pitch) on the vertical axis.

The sonogram below is typical of those shown in the All About Birds Online Bird Guide.

The first sonogram shows a 24-second recording of an American Goldfinch song. The song includes frequencies from about 2 kHz to 8 kHz.

The second sonogram provides an expanded view of a specific 2.5-second section of the first sonogram, noted by the white lines on the first sonogram. The greater detail reveals additional intricacies of the bird's song.

Listen to this sound.

Viewing a sonogram, you can pick out features of a sound that you might not have noticed just by listening. If you enjoy learning more about bird sounds, consider recording the sounds you hear and making your own sonograms.

For information about recording bird vocalizations, visit the Macaulay Library's page on field recording techniques. The Macaulay Library also offers a week-long Sound Recording Workshop.

You can make and explore sonograms of audio recordings with Raven software from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.


The Birds of North America Online
Cornell Lab of Ornithology Handbook of Bird Biology