Bird Songs and Calls
Many of our surveyors come in with great visual identification skills but want to spruce up their skills for identifying birds by their vocalizations. GBBO’s Dana Hartley therefore created the following wonderful flashcard program for birds of Nevada. We use it to train our surveyors, and we have found that birders around the region enjoy using it to keep in shape with their identification skills.
Most birds only sing a few weeks out of the year, and this program allows you to hear them year-round.
Please enter "grebe" when asked for password.
To look up a specific song or call, we also recommend the beautiful Xeno-Canto website, which is dedicated to sharing recordings of all birds. It is probably the largest library of bird vocalizations in the world. Xeno-Canto also has produced an app that is particularly handy in the field.
A myriad of training tools for bird identification is available online, and below we list our favorite ones. However, the most effective approach to learning bird identification is still the one that involves binoculars around your neck, heavy use of your favorite field guide (book or app), and ideally, an experienced birder next to you who can explain how come it’s this species and not the other.
Online Help for Bird Identification:
To find birder friends, we recommend contacting your local Audubon chapter or birding club and finding them on birding listserves and social media. Almost all birding clubs now have a Facebook or Twitter page, and below, we list the ones we know about in Nevada.
Find Nevada Birders on Social Media
Serious birders will also want to stay in touch with the Nevada Bird Records Committee (NBRC) webpage, because this is where you can submit rare bird sightings and find out which rarities have been confirmed by a committee of top birding experts. As you become serious about birding, we also recommend that you join birding and field ornithological societies, who will provide wonderful opportunities to deepen your knowledge of birding, bird biology, and bird conservation. Aside from staying in touch with GBBO, here are our other recommendations:
Once you become more proficient as a birder, put those skills to work on a citizen science project! Perhaps the most rewarding nationwide citizen-science effort is the annual Christmas Bird Count of the National Audubon Society. Here is where local birders get together and count birds in a 3 week period around Christmas to contribute to one of the longest-running bird data bases of the country (over 100 years!). Look for announcements on the NV Birds Listserve to find out whom to contact in your area to get involved. Even if you are a beginning birder, you are welcome to join, learn, and enjoy the exceptional camaraderie during this event.
When you become very proficient in your bird identification skills, you should also consider joining the annual Breeding Bird Survey of USGS, which is a more technical survey than the Christmas Bird Count, but a great way to put your skills toward the greater good. You are also contributing a long-running national data base, which has been the chief source for our knowledge of which birds are declining and at risk. Consider it an invaluable contribution to bird conservation science if you do a Breeding Bird Survey route.
Technical Training as a Field Ornithologist
Any bird observatory, including GBBO, and other employers who work in the field love to hear from experienced birders who are interested in going to work as a field ornithologist. Birders turn into field ornithologists when they have the skills of a great birder and combine them with knowledge of standardized, repeatable data collection protocols. These are easy to learn, but excellent birding skills are a requirement. To see whether you are interested in learning the technical skills to become a field ornithologist, please peruse our protocols under Public Resources.
These protocols might look a little mysterious at first, but not to worry. Anyone who participates in our bird surveys gets 2 weeks of intensive in-person training before we cut you loose in the field. Don’t be shy about inquiring with GBBO about these training opportunities.
GBBO also occasionally provides training opportunities for becoming a bird bander, which requires more intensive training than a bird surveyor. To get a sense of what’s involved in being a bird bander, please peruse the Bird Bander’s Study Guide of the North American Banding Council.