Birdsong Terminology

Song structure

element/note: smallest unit in a song
syllable: unit in a song constructed from notes separated by silent intervals
series of syllables (identical or different) occurring in a pattern
repertoire: set of songs known by a bird

Singing interaction

countersinging: answering neighbor song with a song, replying back and forth
matched countersinging:
answering with the song in his repertoire that most closely matches what neighbor sings
type match/song matching: respond to neighbor’s song with same song
repertoire match; respond to neighbor’s song with another song they share
ranging: obtaining cues to distance from a neighbor’s song which is part of a shared repertoire

Song types and development

subsong: soft rambling sound, initial vocalization from which song emerges (similar to human babies babbling)
plastic song: rehearsal of memorized song, stage of development that follows subsong
crystallization: stereotypical (“frozen”) song, stage of development that follows plastic song
whisper song: quiet, complex vocalization from adult birds


sonogram/sound spectrograph: visual representation of the frequencies of a sound across time
syrinx: organ in birds that produces sound (voice box)