Accented ending: A final note (or notes) that is emphasized.
Averages: Describes the general tendency of a song or call. This term is used when there's overlap between two species, as in Dark-eyed Junco and Chipping Sparrow. The junco trill "averages slower and more musical." That is, on average it is slower and more musical, but there's a great deal of variation and overlap.
Breathless: Non-stop; as if the singer should need to stop and take a breath, but doesn't.
Bubbly: Series of liquid notes that remind of bubbling water. See Liquid.
Burry: A type of roughness. See Pure vs. Rough tones.
Buzzy: A type of roughness. See Pure vs. Rough tones.
Continuous: See Smooth (rhythm).
Descending: See Falling.
Delicate: See Full.
Doubled: Given in pairs.
Emphatic: Having notes that are strongly accented (emphasized).
Explosive: Having abrupt, loud onset or onsets.
Extended: Covering a relatively long duration.
Falling: A sound in which the pitch is slurred downward. (See Learning to hear pitch, below.) A phrase or song may also be said to fall if it starts with higher pitches and ends with lower pitches, even if it has ups and downs in-between.
Full: Rich and robust, rather than delicate.
Grating: A type of roughness. See Pure vs. Rough tones.
Hard vs Soft: Hard notes are strong and well-defined, soft notes are weaker and less defined.
Harsh: A type of roughness. See Pure vs. Rough tones.
Hollow: An echoing quality as if produced across an empty container.
Husky: A type of roughness. See Pure vs. Rough tones.
Inhale-exhale: An alternating (push-pull, ebb-flow, back-and-forth) rhythm.
Lazy: Given at a relaxed pace.
Liquid: Pure-toned notes that sound as if made with water in the mouth.
Lisping: Having a soft, hissy quality.
Metallic: Combination of hard and ringing.
Modulated: Not pure-toned.
Musical: See Sweet.
Nasal: As if uttered through the nose.
Note: Simplest unit of sound. For example, this Black-capped Chickadee recording contains four songs, each of which consists of three notes. The third note is a repetition of the second.
Phrase: Grouping of notes that forms a distinct part of a complete song or call. See Note. For example, this American Robin recording contains four songs. The first two songs each have four phrases and the second two each have three phrases.
Pitch: The aspect of a sound (specifically, it's frequency of vibration) that causes it to be perceived as "high" or "low" relative to other sounds. (See Learning to hear pitch, below.)
Plaintive: A quality of mournfulness, usually from a falling tone that resembles a cry. For example, the Rough-legged Hawk has a plaintive call:
Pure vs. Rough tones: Birds make sounds that range from extremely pure to extremely rough-sounding. Here are a few examples:
Rich: See Full; see Vibrant.
Ringing: A quality of sound that is more resonant.
Rising: A sound in which the pitch is slurred upward. (See Learning to hear pitch, below.) An entire phrase or song may also be said to rise if it starts with lower pitches and ends with higher pitches, even if it has ups and downs in-between.
Rough: See Pure vs. Rough tones.
Scratchy: A type of roughness. See Pure vs. Rough tones.
Sharp: High, clear, and crisply enunciated.
Sibilant: See Lisping.
Slur: A sound in which the pitch changes smoothly or multiple notes blend together without enunciation. Slurs can be rising, falling, or any combination of both.
Smooth (quality): See Pure vs. Rough tones.
Smooth (rhythm): Without breaks or choppiness.
Staccato: Notes or elements that are shortened and detached from each other. In the example, below, listen for how the staccato notes stop more abruptly.
Stutter: Quickly repeated notes that seem to be uttered involuntarily compared to other parts of the song.
Sweet: A quality of sound that is relatively melodious.
Syllable (two-syllabled, three-syllabled, etc.): Distinct part of a sound consisting of a single note or slur.
Three-parted: see Two-parted.
Three-syllabled: see Syllable.
Two-parted: Consisting of two distinct parts. In the example below, there are four Nashville Warbler songs. The first part of each song has a series of two-syllabled notes; the second part is a faster trill. The one-parted example has four Common Yellowthroat songs, each of which has one continuous part.
Two-syllabled: see Syllable.
Vibrant: Quality of sound that is strong, full of energy, with rich, resonant tone.
Wavering:: Not steady. May be used of pitch, tone, or loudness.
Weaker ending: See Accented ending.
Learning To Hear Pitch: As you study bird sounds, your ability to notice changes in pitch will develop. Beginners sometimes worry that they are "tone deaf" or otherwise incapable of hearing these differences. If you speak English, you are already a skilled perceiver of pitch. Below are four different uses of the word "what". Can you hear the difference in meaning? If so, you are perceiving pitch change.
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