How to Record Bird Sounds

Written by keith allen
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How to Record Bird Sounds
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Recording bird songs and other sounds is an expansion of the birdwatching hobby that involves some specialised equipment. Compiling an indexed set of recordings of birds helps bird-watchers review the sounds they hear in the field. This can aid in the identification of birds on future trips afield.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Parabolic reflector
  • Condenser microphone
  • Digital recorder
  • Headphones
  • Sound-editing software

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  1. 1

    Acquire the equipment needed. In most instances, the recordings of bird sounds will be made from a distance. Ideally, a parabolic reflector and a condenser microphone are used for bird sound recording. Adequate microphones are available from many sources, while a parabolic reflector, a large dish-shaped plastic or metal device meant to reflect sound to the point where the microphone is mounted, might require shopping at a speciality shop or online. Attach a recording device, tape or digital, to the microphone mounted in the parabolic reflector.

  2. 2

    Go to the field where the birds are. The bird-watcher will use many of the same skills in observing birds as recording their sounds. If you can hear the birds, point the parabolic reflector at the sound, and start the recorder. Monitor the recording with a set of headphones. Note the track number of the recording and the species of bird for future reference.

  3. 3

    Edit the sounds with computer sound-editing software. Audacity, an open-source software, is available on the Internet. Use the editing software to trim the recording to just the bird sounds. Don’t adjust pitch or tone, which would create a false bird sound recording.

Tips and warnings

  • Recording bird sounds requires more attention to the surrounding area than bird watching. Watch birds near roads or urban areas for the most success. However, recording bird sounds in these types of areas might include distracting background noises.
  • Digital recording equipment allows an easy transfer to a computer for sound editing. Other recording equipment, such as cassette recorders, usually requires playing the tape with the device connected to the computer through the line input port or jack. Software on the computer records the sound as it is played. The process usually results in good sound quality but is more time-consuming than transferring a digital file.

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