CBS Bird Songs and Calls

If you’re taking part in the Countryside Bird Survey, you’ll need to know your bird calls. Most countryside birds are detected by their songs and calls during the breeding season, rather than being seen. See below for descriptions and tips to help you learn (or refresh your mind on…) the calls and songs of twenty of the species most frequently recorded in the Irish countryside each summer.

If you’re looking to learn more species, we highly recommend the website which has a huge database of bird sounds from all over the world.



CBS ID Tip: Small, dark brown, small cocked tail. Very abundant in most CBS squares. Mostly detected just by sound and not seen. Secretive, stays low in vegetation & mostly hidden. Flight rapid & over short distance, low to ground.

Song: Surprisingly loud, quite shrill string of whistles and trilling notes, lasting a few seconds & ending abruptly.

Song from, ref XC574627, by P. Holt

Call: A sharp, abrupt “check”. Often rapidly repeated creating an aggitated churr.

Call from, ref XC581055, by L. Edenius

Click here for more info about Wrens


CBS ID Tip: Only all-black bird of this size. Longer-tailed than Starling. Males jet black with yellow bill, females browner & duller bill. Usually well visible. Cocks tail when it lands. Often sings from prominent high perch.

Song: Rich, fluty, musical series of notes, similar to Song Thrush, but softer, slower, less shrill and phrases are not repeated.

Song from, ref XC554508, by Karel H.

Call: Repeated “chack chack chack” clucking sound, followed by high-pitched “chink chink chink” when agitated. Also a soft “whuh” and thin wispy “tseep”.

Call from, ref XC528106, by J. Lidster

Click here for more info about Blackbirds



CBS ID Tip: Distinctive with orange-red breast & rounded head and thick neck. Remains very still when perched. Upright stance, occasionally cocks tail momentarily. Mostly on ground or prominent perch.

Song: Varied series of rolling notes and twitters, some drawn out, others quite rapid. Song has melancholy quality.

Song from, ref XC574993, by A. Malengreau

Call: A sharp, metallic “tick”, sometimes repeated rapidly in a continuous phrase, the sound reminiscent of winding a clock.

Call from, ref XC576979, by U. Paal

Click here for more info about Robins


CBS ID Tip: Plumage non-descript dark browns and grey, with heavy black streaking. Flicks wings and tail regularly. Can be secretive, creeping on ground in jerky movements, below bushes and hedges. Males typically sing from prominent perch, especially bramble.

Song: A two-second jingle of notes delivered loudly and rapidly at quite an even pitch. Similar to a squeaky supermarket trolley wheel!

Song from, ref XC535454, by S. Wroza

Call: A single note – a strong, loud, piping, rasping churr. Repeated many times when aggitated.

Call from, ref XC522808, by S. Wroza

Click here for more info about Dunnocks


Song Thrush

CBS ID Tip: Size of Blackbird. Plain brown upperparts, buffish white underparts with arrowhead-shaped black spots. Sings from prominent, high perch. Otherwise spends much of time on ground or low in bushes, where can be hard to see.

Song: Loud, fluty, far-carrying, musical notes, similar to Blackbird, but each phrase is repeated 2 or 3 times.

Song from, ref XC533817, by B. Sonnenburg

Call: An almost inaudible, soft “tsip”, similar to one of Robin’s calls. Occasionally a rattle when alarmed.

Call from, ref XC535524, by S. Wroza

Click here for more info about Song Thrushes

Mistle Thrush

CBS ID Tip: Larger than Song Thrush, overall paler and greyer. Whitish underside with round black spots. Typically forages well out in the open in fields. Erect stance. Distinctive flap-flap-glide undulating flight.

Song: Fluty, similar to Blackbird, but less musical and with less range of notes. Can sound a little monotonous. Delivered in hurried, quite short bursts.

Call from, ref XC546314, by P. Holt

Call: A loud, harsh, agitated, dry, staccato rattle, esp when near nest or in flight.

Song from, ref XC529044, by T. Loïs

Click here for more info about Mistle Thrushes


Willow Warbler

CBS ID Tip: Very similar to Chiffchaff, but longer-winged, often brighter yellow, has well-defined dark eye-stripe and pale supercilium. Legs usually pale (light brown or yellowish). Actively moves through foliage of hedgerows and low trees. Delicate movements. Males sing from prominent high perch.

Song: A rather pure, continuous desending string of notes, starting high and seeming to fizzle out as it reaches the low notes at the end.

Song from, ref XC570523, by S. Fisher

Call: A soft “whoo-it”, similar to Chiffchaff but has subtle double syllable, with an upward inflection.

Call from, ref XC572097, by R. Slaterus

Click here for more info about Willow Warblers


CBS ID Tip: Very similar to Willow Warbler, but often duller-plumaged, has less well-defined dark eye-stripe and pale supercilium. Legs usually black. Pumps tail downwards frequently when moving through foliage. Males sing from high in trees/bushes.

Song: Unmistakable “Chit -chat” repeated for long periods, often from high in tree.

Song from, ref XC571924, by G. Elton

Call: A soft “whit”, similar to Willow Warbler but more monosyllabic. Weaker than Chaffinch’s similar but more full-bodied call.

Call from, ref XC578243, by I. Oleksik

Click here for more info about Chiffchaffs



CBS ID Tip: Male distinctive with reddish underside and blue-grey crown and nape. Female duller. Both sexes have diagnostic broad, white wing-bar. Feeds mostly on the ground. Male sings from prominent, high perch in tree or hedgerow.

Song: A loud, flambuoyant descending jumble of “bubbly” notes, often ending in a wolf whistle-like fluorish. Repeated many times.

Song from, ref XC580722 by A. Malengreau

Call: Several. A sharp “pink pink” (Great Tit has similar call). A thick “weejz” with upward inflection. A repeated “whit”. Also a softer “chup”, often uttered in flight.

Call from, ref XC560948, by J.A. Neila Ballesteros

Click here for more info about Chaffinches

Great Tit

CBS ID Tip: Colourful. Bright yellow underside with black band running down centre of breast. White cheek patches bordered by black. Largest of the tits. Active & usually obvious, moving rapidly through foliage with jerky movements.

Song: Far-carrying “teacher, teacher” and other variations.

Song from, ref XC548400, by K. Deoniziak

Call: Scolding chatter, often interspersed with Chaffinch-like “chink chink”. Also variations of “whooit” and “chew chew chew”.

Call from, ref XC568269, by E. Realinho

Click here for more info about Great Tits


Blue Tit

CBS ID Tip: Colourful. Yellow underparts, blue and green upperparts. White cheek patches. Always active, on the move, jerky movements, especially head from side to side. Usually obvious and in the open.

Song: Cheerful “tsee-tsee chitta-chitta” and other variations, interspersed with scolding chuckle (as in the call).

Song from, ref XC574971, by E. Realinho

Call: Scolding “chuckle”, especially when aggitated. Also a variety of high-pitched “seeps”.

Call from, ref XC560670, by J.A. Neila Ballesteros

Click here for more info about Blue Tits

Coal Tit

CBS ID Tip: Like small, dull version of Great Tit, with similar black head markings. Distinctive white, oval patch on nape. Underside greyish-buff (not yellow). More common in coniferous woodland. Often picked up by call. On size, could be confused with Goldcrest if seen poorly.

Song: Repeated “wee-chou, wee-chou…”, weaker than Great Tit. Likened to the sound of a bicycle pump.

Song from, ref XC575995, by Sidney M.

Call: Strident “tchou” and variations and rasping nasal buzzing sounds.

Call from, ref XC511262, by M. Sotowiej

Click here for more info about Coal Tits


Long-tailed Tit

CBS ID Tip: Unmistakable with small body and long tail. Muted plumage colours – black, white, grey & tinges of reddish pink. Active, constantly on the move through hedgerows and trees, clinging acrobatically to twigs and leaves. Detected mainly by call.

Song: Same as the call, but extended. Not often heard singing.

Song from, ref XC449181, by E.A. Ryberg

Call: Abrupt “prrt prrt”, often followed by drawn-out high-pitched trills.

Call from, ref XC573673, by G. Elton

Click here for more info about Long-tailed Tits


CBS ID Tip: White rump when seen flying away is most distinctive feature. Male very striking with red salmon on breast & black crown, female duller. A bit secretive. Typical hedgerow species, often detected first by call. Almost always in pairs.

Song: The same whistle note of the call, repeated with occasional churrs or foloowed by a single lower note.

Song from, ref XC574302, by C. Bodin

Call: A soft, muted, single-note whistle, sounding like a rusty, squeaky gate.

Call from, ref XC574303, by C. Bodin

Click here for more info about Bullfinches



CBS ID Tip: Unmistakable. Colourful – red face and large flash of yellow on wing. In flight yellow wing bars are obvious. Active & usually obvious. Often in small flocks. Feeds on ground and seed heads. Sings from prominent perch.

Song: Fairly quiet song, a chatter of rapid trills & twitters with a liquidy quality. Reminiscent of Swallow’s chatter.

Song from, ref XC572995, by S. Risch

Call: Short, liquidy chirps, which are brief snatches of the longer song. Usually calls in flight.

Call from, ref XC558270, by A. Dalton

Click here for more info about Goldfinch


CBS ID Tip: Robust finch, thick-necked, with stout bill. Male bright yellow green, female browner. Long, yellow streak of yellow along wing. Usually well visible in the open. Often sings from prominent high perch or in distinctive erratic, zig zag song flight, with wings flopping seemingly randomly in various directions.

Song: A jumble of bubbly whistles & twitters, which include elements of the call. Often interspersed with a very different, almost comical wheeze. Often sings in display flight.

Song from, ref XC562593, by H. Norelius

Call: Abrupt “chupp”, often repeated rapidly, becoming a trill. Calls frequently in flight.

Call from, ref XC535615, by S. Wroza

Click here for more info about Greenfinches



CBS ID Tip: Grey and featureless except for cap (black on male, reddish brown on female). Bulkier looking than most other warblers. Secretive, hard to see. Most often picked up in CBS by song. Usually sings from perch concealed by foliage .

Song: Hurried jumble of flutey notes, seemingly sung at random. Occasional notes with a rasping, scratchy quality. Bursts of song can be loud and full on.

Song from, ref XC57823, by B. Sonnenberg

Call: A sharp, tutting “tak” . Repeated every second or two when agitated.

Call from, ref XC5558208, by S. Wroza

Click here for more info about Blackcaps


CBS ID Tip: Non-descript brown & pale buff with black streaking. Crest on head usually raised. In flight distinctly bigger (& more “wingy”) than Meadow Pipit. Most often seen in song flight, towering into the air, audible but not always easy to see.

Song: Prolonged, continuous jumble of musical notes, usually delivered from the air as it first ascends to a considerable height, then decends, singing all the while. May last for many minutes without break. Occasionally sings in short bursts from a low perch on the ground.

Song from, ref XC557005, by Brickegickel

Call: A short, rolling, “prrrr”, like a snatch of the more elaborate song.

Call from, ref XC568881, by J. Matusiak

Click here for more info about Skylarks



CBS ID Tip: Smallest Irish bird. Muted green & buff tones with small white wingbars. Crest hard to see. Often hard to see, staying high in trees or concealed in foliage (esp conifers). Most often detected by sound.

Song: High-pitched (like call), sounding like a repeated, jaunty “see-saw, see-saw, see-saw…” .

Song from, ref XC575455, by J. Calvet

Call: Very high-pitched, wispy “tseep, tseep, tseep”. Almost inaudible at times.

Call from, ref XC581898, by L. Edenius

Click here for more info about Goldcrests

Lesser Redpoll

CBS ID Tip: Neat, small finch. Thin buffish white wingbar distinguishes it from Linnet. Typically seen hanging from alder cones or singing from high in tree. Calls frequently in flight & often best detected by hearing call.

Song: Same as call, a repeated “chit-chit-chit” with an occasional metallic / nasal “shreeee” reel. Often delivered in the air in song flight.

Song from, ref XC55413, by C. Bock

Call: Metallic “chit-chit-chit”, repeated several times, especially in flight.

Call from, ref XC288884, by R. van Bemmelen

Click here for more info about Lesser Redpolls


Countryside Bird Survey

Monitoring Ireland's breeding countryside birds