Birding by Ear in the Eastern Sierra

Oct 20, 2020

Dave Marquart, an interpretive naturalist for California State Parks, joins us to talk about birding in the Eastern Sierra. When most of us listen to birdsong, it’s a pleasant sound that reminds us of nature, but when Dave hears birdsong, it’s more like a symphony of sounds and species. While it takes a certain type of person to love birding, many people can kindle a deeper connection to nature and take the opportunity to unplug through birding.

How to Listen

Dave listens to see if the birds have a very musical tone that is rich and pure or is it a song that’s raspy and course. For example, robins, chickadee and meadowlarks all have musical qualities to their songs. He also listens for elements in that song. Is there a trill in there or a tweet-tweet-tweet. Is it rhythmic all the way through or does it speed up or slow down in parts? Does it go up or down at the end? All of these little nuances help Dave remember that particular bird.

The difference between a bird call and a birdsong

A birdsong is longer and is typically used by a male to attract a mate or to define a nesting habitat or territory. A bird call is something birds issue all year to let other birds know where they are. It can be a single note, but there can be much variety in just that single note. For example, the single note can be a “chip,” or a “whit,” or a “tseet” or a “zink.” There are all kinds of different call notes.

Additional Resources

  • Bird walks every Friday and Sunday mornings from 8am – 10am at the Boardwalk at Mono Lake County Park. These tours are free and open to the public.
  • Bird Festival (3rd weekend in June every year.)
  • Birding by Ear Workshops (Late May – Early June, yearly)

For more information, visit the Mono Lake Committee website or email

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