This week, we invite participants to try birding by ear. Practice identifying five species common to your area by their vocalizations. The Sound ID feature of the free Merlin Bird ID app can offer suggestions for which species are calling or singing around you. (People who are deaf or hard-of-hearing may find Merlin’s spectrograms helpful as visual representations of the sounds.)

Tell us: If you’re an experienced birder, share tips for identifying birds from their sounds. And if you’re trying this for the first time, let us know how it goes.

Michael Hurben, 56, first got into birding in his 20s. He also got interested in Claire Strohmeyer, who happened to be a more experienced birder. On their third date, when she mentioned that she was going on a walk with the Audubon Society, Mr. Hurben knew he had met the woman for him.

“I just lost it, because she had been doing this her whole life,” he said. “That was our instant bond. I wasn’t going to let her go after that.” They were married in 1993, and birding became the activity they did together, eventually taking them to 45 countries to see new species.

But just as Mr. Hurben’s interest in birding, and in Ms. Strohmeyer, was blossoming, his vision began to deteriorate. “It was nasty timing,” he said. “It used to really bother me to not see birds. I had to come to grips with that eventually.”

Although Mr. Hurben can no longer see at night and has no peripheral vision, he found a love of birding by ear. With a powerful microphone, he could identify and capture recordings of many birds without having to see them: “I said, ‘If I hear this and I get a recording of it, even if I don’t see it, I’m going to be happy with that.’

Mr. Hurben has now observed nearly half of all bird species in the world and recorded the vocalizations of nearly 1,000. His auditory birding skills are very finely tuned. “Eventually, they start becoming like human voices,” he said.

Many birders rely heavily on their ears to make identifications. “​​It is a living-in-the-moment experience,” Jocelyne, a summer birding project participant in Quebec, wrote. “I am totally concentrated on sounds, especially in summer when the foliage is often too thick to observe birds visually.”

Another participant, Barbara, who lives in California, writes: “I’m a singer, so the idea and process of training my ear to identify birds came naturally. I use Merlin to identify birds I haven’t heard before and to verify my guesses.”

Mr. Hurben noted that the Merlin Bird ID app can listen for bird calls and identify the likely source. But the time-tested method of birding alongside an experienced auditory birder was still golden, he said.

However you do it, birding by ear can be rewarding. “I’ve really had no choice,” Mr. Hurben said. “You don’t need to have a visual impairment to listen harder. You just have to make the effort.”


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