Here are three Great Tit songs (from the excellent xenocanto website). I’ve chosen Great Tit because I like Great Tits but also because their songs are quite simple. But these three songs not only sound different but, when displayed in the accompanying sonograms, they also look different.
Have a listen and a look.
The sonograms show frequency (pitch) on the Y-axis and time along the X-axis.
Great Tit songs differ in all sorts of ways, in tempo, pitch and purity of notes. Some are flutier and others buzzier, some are quick and some are relaxed, and so the differences unfold.
These sonagrams are useful but are pretty basic, on a high quality machine, with high quality recordings it’s possible to see a lot of intricate detail even in the simple song of the male Great Tit. And a Great Tit’s songs, when examined in detail, either by having brilliant hearing, or by having equipment that allows the differences to be seen and measured, are rather like fingerprints in that you can identify a male Great Tit by his songs and how he sings them. The ‘same’ song type, sung by different males, will show subtle but consistent differences between males when the different elemnts are analysed by sonogram and quantified.
Let’s look at the sonogram for a complex song: the Blackbird;
Or even more complicated, the Skylark;