Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Urban Bird Watching and Listening

The Bewick’s Wren is a frequent visitor or our backyard. Click the image to link to The Cornell Lab and hear the sound.

We are lucky enough to have several large trees in our yard, which means we often hear the sounds of birds. I’m really terrible at spotting them, so I often can’t tell which birds are in the yard. Recently, I learned about Merlin, a nature app developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University to help bird listeners like me make identifications.

The Sound ID feature of the app listens to the birds around you and shows real-time suggestions for who’s singing. It’s available for birds in the US, Canada, Europe, and common birds of Central and South America. Based on what I’ve read in “Wild LA,”  the LA County Natural History Museum’s field guide to urban nature in Los Angeles, the observations seem accurate.

As I was writing this post, I stepped outside to listen. The app captured sounds from the California Towhee, a very common bird brown bird found in parks and backyards. Also the House Sparrow, another frequent visitor to our yard. (It’s the stout little bird that we often see eating food in parks.) But by far, the most frequently identified bird in my yard is the Bewick’s Wren (pronounced like the car “Buick”), a scrappy little bird that loves exploring the thick tangles of the large Lady Banks rose growing on the side of our house. I can often hear it, but only catch a glimpse of it.

Cornell Labs describes Bewick’s Wrens as “master vocalists belting out a string of short whistles, warbles, burrs, and trills to attract mates and defend their territory, or scold visitors with raspy calls. Bewick’s Wrens are still fairly common in much of western North America, but they have virtually disappeared from the East.”

I’m learning a great deal more about our local birds, many of which are thriving here. But the survival of birds around the world is threatened because of habitat loss and climate change caused by humans. Becoming aware of birds in our local habitat is an easy first step to galvanizing support for conservation.

Below are screenshots from the Merlin App showing the local birds. You can click the links to learn more about the birds and your observations can be shared with worldwide bird databases that help scientists record biodiversity.

If you’re spending time outside this weekend, you might want to take a moment to listen and see who else is spending time there too. Please note, bird listening can become rather addicting!

Every now and then, I’m quick enough to capture a visitor to our yard.

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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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