Making Sonograms





A sonogram, or sonagram (both spellings are in use), is more descriptively called a sound spectrogram. It plots the sounds frequency against time.

In forensic science a sound spectrogram is often referred to as a voice print. It is used to study the fine differences in a sound. When birdsongs are recorded and then analyzed by a sound spectrograph, they can be carefully studied for individual and species differences.

In the field Guide(6)Birds of North America , one of the most available of field guides, a "sonogram" for most species is given. It has been shown by many investigators (1-5, 7-10) that a particular bird has several "songs", each with a specific meaning. The differences are many times so subtle that the human ear cannot detect them, but a sound spectrogram shows them easily. The sonogram can be used to identify an unknown bird, if a recording, even one of low quality is made, and then turned into a sound spectrogram.

In medicine there is a diagnostic tool called an ultrasonagraph, which uses ultra sound to produce pictures (sonograms) of internal parts of the body by the principle of wave refelection. The sonograms the ultrasonagraph produce are pictorial representations of what is inside the body, and are not related to the sonograms discussed here.


One comment - though sonogram and sonagram are both found in theliterature, technically only sonogram is the correct term, and as you indicate sound spectrogram is better. The term sonagram is derived from the trade name Sona-graph used by the Kay Elemetrics company for their sound spectrographing instruments - and by Bell Lab before them.

You can find information about sound spectrograms on our web page listed below.

The Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics (BLB) is a research and service unit of the Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology at The Ohio State University.

Sandra L. L. Gaunt
Curator, Borror Lab of Bioacoustics
Department of Zoology

I have a power you know what sound file(s) I can download in order to listen to your bird songs?

Pat McBride

Thanks for taking the time to try to find a Mac Wav app. I did a little more looking around and found a Netscape Plug-in called works great and I can now hear the bird songs. Your page is a real help!

Thanks again...

Pat McBride

I'm the co-author of Birding by Ear and have just launched a new webpage with extensive info on the series. I hope you will link to my site.

Many Thanks,
Dick Walton

…I have found your birdsongs page on the internet very interesting and helpful, and would very much appreciate it if you could tell me where the white crowned sparrows' song was recorded. I would also appreciate it if you could help me in getting more white crowned sparrows songs or sources where I could get white crowned sparrows' songs.

Thanks so much for your help.

Larissa Yager

Oregon Institute of Marine Biology
P.O. 8359
Charleston, OR. 97420

Just to say that we just discovered your web pages and we want to say "thank you." What a thrill! My husband and I are very new to bird watching and were looking for something to help up along a bit. We hoped for something, but never expected such a superb site! We will visit your page again often.

Mary Morrison

It is nice to see that someone has taken the time and effort to allow the other creatures a moment to express themselves upon the internet. I thank you, and I believe that many others, whom have not expressed it,thank you.

Happy listening,

I appreciate your efforts to make birdsongs available to people who surf thenet. Something worthwhile for us to refer young people to!

Ellen Dana

Links to other bird song Web sites


A scientific journal dealing with animal sounds, including birds, is Bioacoustics


The GRAM23 program (freeware) by Richard Horne 

A version for Windows is available at

Another Windows sonogram program is available from: Avisoft

The CoolEdit ( Cool Edit Pro is now Adobe Audition)  program is available from Adobe

The Canary (Max) and Raven (Windows) programs for the Mac is explained at The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology web site.


  1. Borror, Donald J., 1967. Common Bird Songs. Dover Publications Inc., New York
  2. Borror, Donald J., 1970. Songs of Eastern Birds. Dover Publications Inc., New York
  3. Borror, Donald J., 1972. Bird song and Behavior. Dover Publications Inc., New York
  4. Jellis, Rosemary., 1977. Bird Sounds and Their Meaning. Cornell University Press, Ithaca.
  5. Kroodsma D.E. and Miller E.H., eds. 1982. Acoustic communication in birds. Vol, 1 & 2. Academic Press, New York.
  6. Robbins, C. S, B. Bruun, and H. S. Zim. 1983. Birds of North America. Golden Press, New York.
  7. Borror, Donald J. and Gunn, William W.H. 1985, Songs of the Warblers of North America. Cornell Laboratory of Natural Sounds, Ithaca.
  8. Smith, Susan. 1991. The Black-capped Chickadee-Behavioral Ecology and Natural History. Cornell University Press, Ithaca.
  9. Catchpole C.K. and Slater P.J.B. 1995. Bird Song Biological themes and variations. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  10. Kroodsma D.E. and Miller E.H., eds. 1996. Ecology and Evolution of Acoustic Communication in Birds. Cornell University Press, Ithaca.
  11. Kroodsma D.E. ,2005,The Singing Life of Birds:: The Art and Science of Listening to Birdsong. Houghton Mifflin


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Revised November 5, 2007