As a 12 year old boy, I fantasized of
mounting a pivotal parabolic microphone on the roof of our summer house.
With it installed, I would not have to get up in the middle of the night
in order to hear all the beautiful birdsong that my father had taught me
It took almost 50 years before something
like that dream came true. Since 2004 I have been recording songbirds
(indeed any birds that make interesting sounds) in my spare time, using a
Telinga parabolic device with a Pro
5W handle and a stereo DAT microphone. Below you will find a small number
of these recordings. There is some focus on birds that imitate – they pick
up the song of other birds, or imitate other environmental sounds of
different kinds. No audio filters have been applied if not explicitly
Most of the sounds are coded directly with
the HTML5 <audio> device and their icons look like this (it is the
mistle thrush from 2019, see below):
Take care to let this page load fully before clicking on any of
these audio icons! Else the audio files may not run. Please
also note that the preset sound volume differs between recordings.
Some of the sounds are instead represented
by links to the big birdsong site xeno-canto, and more will be so in the
future. They look like this (for the same recording):
This has many advantages. If you not only
play the sound but also click on the XC link, you will find information
about the recording there. But many of my recordings are not on xeno-canto
and will never be. For these, the old-style icons will remain.
Beginning in 2010 I have also filmed singing birds, not all of them true
mastersingers, but all delightful to listen to. See the
page Birds and birdsong on film. Most of the
bird species that have audio recordings on the present page (= all that
have a visual icon), and sometimes the same individuals, are also
represented there, so that you can see how they look and behave when
singing. This adds an important dimension to the experience of birdsong.
Indeed, this is one of two main motives for
running a birdsong page at all. There are many pages where you can listen
to almost any bird you want to hear. See especially the world's greatest
repository of bird sounds: xeno-canto.
It is a marvellous site, but does not host any corresponding movies.
Another reason has to do with sound quality.
As a rule birdsong pages offer only mp3 quality, which is enough for
identification purposes. Most files on this page are also mp3 quality. But
uncompressed WAV or AIF can give a much richer experience. The videos on Birds
and birdsong on film have uncompressed sound. Moreover, I have put
some of the original audio files on SoundCloud and embedded them on this
page, so that you can compare the compressed and the original sound. This
is how it looks, click on the red arrow (if you click outside it, you will
be redirected to SoundCloud):
Spectrograms can also enrich the experience
of birdsong. With spectrogram videos, you can even hear and see the sound
at the same time. You will find links to a few below. Regular (static)
spectrograms and spectrogram videos have also been added to some of the
movies on Birds
and birdsong on film, years 2012, 2013 and 2020.
First a fair number of recordings of four great
imitators – the marsh warbler
(Swedish: kärrsångare), the bluethroat (blåhake),
Blyth's reed warbler (busksångare)
and the common starling (stare).
The first marsh warbler recording contains a
lot of other sounds from dogs, fishermen, my handling of the parabola, and
a reed warbler (listen carefully). A gentle noise filtering (5 dB) with
Izotope RX and some cuts were necessary. The second and third are almost
free of external noise except for a passing airplane (in the long one). It
was a silent night indeed. The fourth and the fifth recording needed some
noise reduction. Marsh warbler 1 (Hålanda, 2007). .
Marsh warbler 5 (Hålanda, morning of 17 june 2018, 4 minutes).
Note the nice sound of strong wind in the grass, as opposed to wind noise.
Thanks to Telinga for their wind screen!
Marsh warbler 6 (Steninge, morning of
23 May 2019, 15 minutes). Also in strong wind.
All the bluethroat recordings were made
during the same trip to Storådörren, Härjedalen in early June 2012. The
loud "noise" comes from the river Storån which was very close. If you hear
reed buntings, bramblings or willow warblers they are probably real, not
imitations (but see below!). For bluethroat videos with sonograms, see Birds
and birdsong on film, 2012! Bluethroat 1 (near Storådörren, Härjedalen, early June 2012) .
Bluethroat 2 (near Storådörren, Härjedalen, early June 2012) .
Bluethroat 3 (near Storådörren, Härjedalen, early June 2012) .
Bluethroat 4 (near Storådörren, Härjedalen, early June 2012). .
Bluethroat 5 (near Storådörren, Härjedalen, early June 2012) .
Bluethroat 6 (near Storådörren, Härjedalen, early June 2012) .
Bluethroat 7 (near Storådörren, Härjedalen, early June 2012) .
reed warbler (sv: busksångare) is a rare guest in Western Sweden, but in
June 2017 I had the opportunity to record one individual that stayed in
Grästorp's community for several weeks. The three sequences that follow
are originally parts of same, longer recording, but some noisy parts have
been cut out. The remaining "noise" comes from the nearby stream. It has
been said that the imitations of other birds that Blyth's reed warbler
does are more exact than those done by the marsh warbler. I cannot judge
this issue. When it comes to imitating other sounds, he matches the
bluethroat. In these recordings, you can hear him imitating running
water as well as cow (or goat or reindeer) bells, like the bluethroat. –
Or is it a quite different kind of bell? See below!
Blyth's reed warbler 1
(Ås, Västergötland, June 27 2017)
Blyth's reed warbler 2 (Ås,
Västergötland, June 27 2017) .
Blyth's reed warbler 3 (Ås,
Västergötland, June 27 2017) .
Well, is it a cow or goat or reindeer bell? Listen to this gently filtered
version of 13 seconds of song – not from any of the above sequences –
where he repeats the same introductory signal followed by a bell six
. Is there not something
like a Doppler effect in the bell's sound, especially in the two first
"bars"? Also look at the downward slope of the ringing sound as shown in
the spectrogram (left channel) of these bars:
A similar effect can be heard – maybe even more clearly – after 3:35 in
the second recording above, and after 1:42 in the third. My theory is that
the bird imitates the bells at a railway crossing that he has passed
during his flight!
The Common Starling (sv: Stare) is
still a very common bird although its favourite habitats in open rural
landscapes are shrinking.
Starlings have an immense sound repertoire
and are fond of imitating and good at it. But they also have very
characteristic sounds of their own, as for example the glissando (gliding
note) that the first recording begins with and the castanets
(kastanjetter) starting at 0:25. The recording is the
soundtrack of a movie at Birdsong on film,
Hålanda 21 March 2016 with some gentle filtering added, and you
hear more than one starling. Note
row of imitations starting around 40 seconds: Common Blackbird/koltrast,
possibly Common crane/trana (could be real), Whitethroat/törnsångare,
In the following recording, one or more
starlings imitate a Redwing (sv: Rödvingetrast). You first hear a flock of
maybe 1000 starlings at a distance of some 200 meters, then a smaller
group of around 30 that moved to a tree in our garden. Different versions
of the falling sequence characteristic of the Redwing are heard faintly in
the first part and strongly in the second and third, beginning at 1:55. No
Redwing was seen in the small flock and I am 95% sure that it this is an
imitation. For more info see the description on xeno-canto.
There you can also find a lot of redwing recordings.
There are many starlings on my movie
page, and more sound recordings will appear here in due time.
Robin and redstart
Both the European robin (sv.
rödhake) and the redstart
(rödstjärt) are close relatives of the bluethroat, something that is
rather apparent in their colours.
The European robin
(rödhake) is a common and brilliant singer with a large register,
specialist on very high notes. He sometimes sing in mid winter even in
Sweden. My very first recording with the Telinga parabola is of a robin
singing at midnight in Göteborg around 20 December 2004. The city is
rather silent but there is a regular noise from the light control at a
nearby pedestrian crossing.
Next recording is from the evening of April
2013 in Hålanda. In the background: a song thrush.
The Redstart (sv: Rödstjärt) – not a prominent imitator – usually
sings very early in the morning. This recording is from Steninge Kyrkby,
Halland at 03.00, 7 June 2016. In the background a common blackbird
See also under Blackbird below!
Many warblers (sångare) beside the marsh
warbler and Blyth's reed warbler are excellent singers.
warbler (härmsångare, gulsångare) is a good imitator with a
beautiful voice. Here is an 8 minutes long continuous recording. Some
filtering had to be done and there is still some wind noise, also two
passing airplanes and a few more disturbances. Icterine warbler (Steninge
Kyrkby, 9.30 AM, 22 June 2016).
Here is the Reed
warbler (rörsångare), a
close relative of Blyth's reed warbler (busksångare) and similar in
appearance. It is not as varied as a singer and not a great imitator, but
still fascinating to listen to.
The time for the first recording was not
well chosen and I had to filter out some traffic noise. Reed warbler (Hålanda, 9 PM, June
voice + dynamic sonogram, gohere (link presently not
Reed warbler (Steninge Kyrkby,
Halland, 8.30 AM, 22 June 2016). Better conditions. Three minutes from a
15 minutes continuous recording, warbler starting at 0:26. A lot of other
voices: cuckoo, skylark, woodlark, swift,... and, as I remember this
morning but cannot hear now, a competing reed warbler (outside the
parabola's focus, to the right).
The Willow warbler (sv.: lövsångare)
is Sweden's commonest bird, and its simple song performed with a lovely
soft voice is an invaluable component of the bird choir from April to
Willow warbler, Byrum, Öland on 28 May
2017. In the background a bullfinch (bofink), a thrush
nightingale (näktergal), and more.
There are four willow warbler videos on the
film page, from 2011 on, and the above is
the soundtrack from the latest one.
Chiffchaff is the onomatopoetic name of
a common singer that in Swedish is called Gransångare. It is closely
reated to the willow warbler and looks similar. Its simple song sequence
is repeated every 8th second or so in this recording from Hålanda, 20
April 2019. You can also hear a common blackbird (koltrast) and the nearby
If you listen for long (longer than this
minute) to a chiffchaff, you will learn that its song has many variations
and a nice timbre.
The Common Whitethroat (sv:
Törnsångare) sings a rather stereotype tune with great force.
The Garden warbler (sv:
Trädgårdssångare) has a strong voice and a varied song that is often
characterised as "bubbling". Here is a recording from Hålanda on 23 May
2019, where the singer competes with the bubbling from a nearby creek.
The garden warbler's phrases vary in length.
In the following recording from Hålanda, 5 June 2019, it sings
continuously for 30 seconds from 2:15.
The Blackcap (sv: Svarthätta) is a
relative of the garden warbler and has a similar appearance and a similar
but much more regular song. It has a most beautiful voice and usually
sings its easily recognizable tune with small variations several times.
Here is a short and somewhat noisy (wind and
traffic) recording from Steninge, Halland on 24 May 2019. A chaffinch
The following recording from Hålanda, 5 June
2019, was done under better circumstances. A willow warbler is also heard.
Blackcaps are also heard on several other
recordings on this page. Regrettably I still do not have a good video of a
singing blackcap, but see Birds and birdsong
on film, 2011.
The thrush nightingale (sv:
näktergal) is also a good imitator. The first two of the following
recordings had to be gently filtered because of traffic and other noise.
The third one is unfiltered, the sound of the sea (and some wind) is
prominent, and I think it gives the best feeling of reality of the three.
Thrush nightingale (Steninge, Halland, June 2010, 6+ minutes.
Thrush nightingale (north-west coast of Öland, 1 June 2016), 6+
Thrush nightingale (north-west coast of Öland, recording
direction towards the sea, 1 June 2016), 6+ minutes.
The song of the Common nightingale
(sv: sydnäktergal) is generally considered to be superior to that of its
northern cousin. Here in a soundscape from a small village in Sardinia. Common nightingale (Sardinia,
April 30, 2010)
Common blackbird (koltrast). His
voice is wellknown to most and loved by many.
Here is a very long recording for his real
fans, 18 June 2017 near Hålanda:
The blackbird has other sounds on its
repertoire. Its warning sound is often heard and well known. And in the
beginning of the next recording which features a Blackbird and a Redstart,
West coast of Öland late on 31 May 2017, you can also hear – best from
around 30 seconds – a repeated, fine, falling tone that is probably a
distress sound from the blackbird. It is perhaps more easy to see it on
the spectrogram from the first minute than to hear it!
(taltrast). One of my true favourites, a good imitator and sometimes very
funny. Below are three recordings.
thrush 1 (Hålanda, 2007). Running water nearby.
Song thrush 2a and Song
thrush 2b (Hålanda, 2007).
This is actually a perceptual experiment. The first file is the original
recording of a choir of birds, including a song thrush duelling with a
common blackbird (or possibly a mistle thrush), all accompanied by a
chainsaw. In the second file the thrushes (and other birds) are in the
left channel and the chainsaw in the right (the separation was easy
because the frequencies do not overlap). Use headphones for clearest
effect. Song thrush 3 (Hålanda, 2010, 2+ minutes). Listen to – what could
be – the imitation of the wind after 35+ seconds.
The Mistle thrush (dubbeltrast)
is very like the song thrush visually, but bigger. The darker field on its
breast is characteristic.
Its forceful song its varied and can be
difficult to identify. It is generally like the blackbird's in its
beautiful timbre, but more like that of the song thrush in its phrasing.
As far as I understand, it is not nearly as fond of joking as its cousin
and does not imitate so much.
thrush (Hålanda, 8.00 on April 28 2019, 4+ minutes). A common
chaffinch (bofink) also makes itself heard clearly.
is a 6 minutes+ video of the same individual later the same day.
A few other singing birds
The Whinchat (buskskvätta) thrives in traditional, open rural
landscapes and is therefore becoming rare in many places.
Its song is simple but varied. Whinchat,
Hålanda an early May morning 2019, with several accompanying voices:
The Pied flycatcher (sv: Svart-vit flugsnappare) is familiar to
Its sings a tune with small variations but
does it very forcefully. Here one recording from the same May morning.
wren (gärdsmyg) is another energetic and likable singer. Eurasian wren(Hålanda 2007).
I have chosen this short recording because of the thrush (probably a
mistle thrush) doing scale exercises in the background, most clearly heard
between the two performances of the winter wren.
Here is a longer, recent recording. A
chaffinch, a blackbird and a blackcap are also heard.
The (European) Greenfinch (sv:
Grönfink) is not only nicely coloured but also a competent and original
singer. It has often been likened with the canary (kanariefågel).
Here is first a recording from our garden in
Hålanda, July 2010.
Then a more recent recording that also
briefly features a blackcap (svarthätta) and a blackbird (koltrast).
The Common Chaffinch (bofink),
Sweden's next to commonest bird, is heard on many of the recordings on
Its song is somewhat similar to that of the
willow warbler (lövsångare) but not as soft and with a more forceful
ending. Here is a short recording from Grönån near Hålanda in April 2016.
Finally (for the moment) the beautiful, soft
song of the Woodlark (trädlärka).
Woodlarks (and some other voices) at Piano Zucchi, Sicily,
early May 2015, 6+ minutes.
For a movie from that occasion go here.
Woodlark, Steninge, Halland 23 May
Do you miss the Skylark (sånglärka)?
Sounds of other
Here is the bewitching night performer, European nightjar
(nattskärra, Hålanda 2007). Also the characteristic sound of a northern
lapwing (tofsvipa) towards the end.
The Pied avocet (Sv: skärfläcka)
has a surprisingly large sound repertoire.
Its most well-known sound type is a
distinct, short call that comes in several versions, depending on the
situation in ways that are not quite clear. But is also has a soft and
varying "chatting" sound that may be characteristic of friendly social
interactions. In this recording from a group of four birds (probably two
couples), this social sound dominates, but there are also some distinct
short calls between 0:10 and 0:15. At least one skylark
(sånglärka) is heard very clearly during much of the time.
The avocet calls should be seen, not only heard. The above recording is
the first part of the soundtrack of a small movie, see Birds
and birdsong on film, 2015. For another avocet movie where
many – not quite friendly – calls are heard, see the same page and date.
More pure voices will follow. In the meantime, pay a visit or two to xeno-canto.