The Songs of Wild Birds

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Overview

The Songs of Wild Birds is a unique introduction to the voices of more than fifty native birds. Along with beautiful songbirds, the book features owls, rails, bitterns, snipe, and a host of lesser-known birds that make strange, curious, or bizarre sounds. The informative text and outstanding photographs are accompanied by memory phrases and sonagrams that provide phonetic and visual representations of songs. In fifty essays, Lang Elliott shares his favorite stories about these birds, with emphasis on the unusual ...

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Overview

The Songs of Wild Birds is a unique introduction to the voices of more than fifty native birds. Along with beautiful songbirds, the book features owls, rails, bitterns, snipe, and a host of lesser-known birds that make strange, curious, or bizarre sounds. The informative text and outstanding photographs are accompanied by memory phrases and sonagrams that provide phonetic and visual representations of songs. In fifty essays, Lang Elliott shares his favorite stories about these birds, with emphasis on the unusual aspects of their singing or calling behavior.

The accompanying sixty-five-minute audio compact disc presents samples of all the songs and calls discussed, along with narrated introductions by the author.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618663989
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/11/2006
  • Edition description: BOOK & CD
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 1,440,335
  • Product dimensions: 8.40 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

LANG ELLIOTT is a sound recordist, writer, and photographer. He is the author of The Songs of Insects, The Songs of Wild Birds, and many other book/CD packages.

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Read an Excerpt

Preface

Birds make a plethora of sounds, ranging in quality from musical whistles, resonant hoots, and sweet twitters, to nonmusical clicks, thumps, rattles, and churrs. The variety is astounding, and birds can be heard sounding off at all hours of the day and night, especially during the spring and summer breeding season. Our native birds are certainly noisy creatures, but why are they making all these sounds?
Nearly all bird sounds that we hear are communication signals that convey information to members of the same species, and sometimes even to other species. This is accomplished by the production of both vocal sounds (made with the aid of a voice box) as well as nonvocal sounds that are produced with wing feathers, the beak, or other anatomical structures. In the title of this book, the word “song” is used in a very general sense, referring to any significant sound a bird makes. Scientifically speaking, however, “song” usually refers to specific vocalizations made by songbirds, especially the musical singing of males used to attract mates and defend territories. Other vocalizations are referred to as “calls.” For a technical discussion of these distinctions, refer to “All About Bird Sounds,” on page 116. Also, for additional information, be sure to check out my support Web site: www.songsofwildbirds.com.
In this book, I share some of my most amazing recordings, gathered over many years as I traveled about the country to remote places where it was quiet enough to record. What might appear to be an odd assortment of birds is really the result of careful planning. Since I already introduced fifty common and well-known species in Common Birds and Their Songs (Houghton Mifflin, 1998), I was not concerned about including everyone’s favorite bird. Instead, I chose species based on their story potential, on the sheer power of the sounds they make. This book gave me the chance to showcase recordings that I have not featured before: a chance to tell new stories and to have some fun.
Within the constraint of a short essay format, I include descriptions of experiences I’ve had in the field, along with historical references and quotes of poems and prose. In the essays, you will be introduced to a number of special kinds of bird songs, including flight songs, dawn and twilight songs, night songs, and courtship songs. You will encounter numerous examples of auditory interactions between individuals, such as countersinging, song-matching, duetting, and imitation. You’ll learn about local dialects in bird songs. And you will be exposed to other unique and interesting sounds, such as nest-alarm calls, hawk-alarm calls, and the begging calls of young.
As you read through the essays, listen to the corresponding tracks on the compact disc. There, you will hear examples of what is discussed, accompanied by my narrated introductions to the recordings. Relax and enjoy the show—what better subject than the songs of wild birds!
Copyright © 2006 by Lang Elliott. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.

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Table of Contents

Contents Foreword—8 Preface—11 About Sonagrams—12 The Compact Disc—14 The Fifty Essays—15 All About Bird Sounds—116 Acknowledgments—121 Sources and Further Reading—122 Photo Credits—126 The Sound Recordings—127 Index—128

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 2, 2009

    Beautiful music!

    I really like this book and CD for someone who wants to familiarize himself with some basic bird songs. It isn't and doesn't purport to be comprehensive but it is an excellent beginners' guide. Well worth the money!

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