Most people start off by just enjoying watching birds, then progress to identifying a few different species by learning from others or checking pictures in one of the many bird books available. Sometimes this can be relatively easy when telling a Great Tit from a Blackbird but not so easy when trying to decide if it's a Chiffchaff or a Willow Warbler!
What I'll try and do in this section then is show you a few of the techniques you can use to aid identification ie books, smartphone apps and also a bird sounds website so you can get to know the calls - very handy with the Chiffchaff/Willow Warbler ID above!
Finally, I've added a few Bird Calls to give an insight into the differences between them.
As a start, it's handy to know the different parts of a bird so you can tell what a supercilium is etc - the following pics may help:-
Books - I'm sure many birders will have large collections with some detailed editions and magazines etc. For info, the ones I use the most are:-
Field Guide... "The Mitchell Beazley Birdwatcher's Pocket Book" - small enough to take with me, good coverage + had it since the 70's!
Reference.... "Britain's Birds by Hume", "Collins Bird Guide" & "The Crossley Guide" - all excellent books for checking back at home.
Bird ID..... "Bird Identification" & "Birds ID Insights" - good for explaning the differences of Marsh & Willow Tit + Chiffchaff & Willow Warbler etc.
Gulls.... Almost a whole world of its own but "Gulls of the World by Klaus Malling Olsen" is just about the best helpful Gull guide I've come across.
Where to See Birds.... I particularly like "Yorkshire - Best Birdwatching Sites" for the local stuff + "Where to Watch Birds in Britain" for rest of UK.
Smartphone Apps & Websites - There's probably many more but here's a few useful ones I've come across:-
ID Guide.... "Merlin by the Cornell Lab" - take a photo of the bird (or use description), put it on Merlin with a location & date and it gives suggested ID. Quality of ID depends on quality of picture but often correct + gives alternative ID's with explanations. App is free on Android & iphone .
Reference & Bird Calls.... "Collins Bird Guide App" - £12.99 on Android or iphone but well worth it - includes all the birds you're likely to come across with pictures and also "Songs & Calls".
Bird Calls..... "www.xeno-canto.org" - Website with every bird song/call you could think of to download in mp3 format - free of charge.
If you still need an identification after all of the above - I'd send a photo or description to the
Birds make sounds for many reasons - to attract mates, give alarms, show its their territory or simply just to let others know they're there etc.
Getting to know these songs and calls can therefore be a great help in trying to locate them and, in many cases, it's easier to hear them than see them. Plus, sometimes the birds are so similar in appearance - it's easier to tell them apart by sound rather than by appearance!
Bird Info (inc Sounds) from the RSPB Website:- (Click on Link then "Audio" button for song etc)