Tutorials

Anything you need to know to participate in this project, you should hopefully be able to find here!

  1. Finding white-throated sparrows
  2. Recording white-throated sparrows
  3. Transferring recordings to the computer (optional)
  4. Converting recordings to mp3
  5. Uploading recordings to Xeno-canto

1. Finding white-throated sparrows

Where?

To find white-throated sparrows you first need to know if exist in your area.

Range maps are a great way to see if sparrows frequency your area. But even better are eBird maps. These are created by compiling observations made by birders in your area. This way you can see in a very detailed map where white-throated sparrows can be found. The only draw back is that if you live in a remote area, the eBird map of your neighbourhood may not have any submissions, not because there are no birds, but because no one has participated.

map

When?

If white-throated sparrows are found in your area, the next thing you need to know is when they are usually seen. That is, do they breed in your area? Overwinter? Or only migrate through? Once again, your eBird maps are very helpful, as you can filter by summer or winter. You can also check out our coarse migration maps.

If you live in their breeding range, the best time to go looking for them is in the spring, just after they’ve arrived back from their wintering grounds. The main month of migration is May, but you may see birds arriving as early as March. Once again, your eBird maps are very helpful, as you can see when the first sightings of the year generally occur in your area.

If you live in their wintering range, you may have a harder time finding individuals singing, but we’re definitely interested if you do! Recording overwintering males is something new to us, so we’re not certain when is the best time, but let us know how it goes!

If you live along their migratory routes, chances are you might hear them best during the spring migration, but they won’t stick around for long. If you do hear them and get a recording, we’d love for you to share it!

Habitat

In the breeding season, white-throated sparrows can be found in forested areas, particularly around openings in the woods. However, in the winter or through migration, they are more likely to be found on the edges of forests and in low vegetation. White-throated sparrows are not shy of urban areas and can be easily found in backyards, parks and around the edges of cities, although you probably won’t find them in highly urban centres.

Still not sure?

Ask around: white-throated sparrows are loud and conspicuous, so if you have them in your area, any naturalist or birder friends should be able to let you know. Consider talking to your local naturalist club. You may be able to join them on outings where they’ll show you exactly where the sparrows are to be found!

If all else fails, send us an email and we’ll see if we can’t help you figure it out!

2. Recording white-throated sparrows

Once you’ve found the white-throated sparrows, now it’s time to record them. These guys are very loud and you should be able to get close enough to record them with your smartphone, camera or microphone without too much trouble.

Smartphone recording apps

There are many apps for recording sound on smartphones. If you’re recording on your smartphone, consider an app with the following features:

  • Save to MP3 (for uploading to Xeno-canto, but you can always convert it on your computer)
  • Good for distance recording (i.e. not just for close up talking)
  • NO noise cancelling (or the ability to turn it off)
  • NO filters (or the ability to turn them off)

Don’t be afraid to try out a couple of different apps and see how they work. If you have a favourite let us know.

3. Transferring recordings to the computer (optional)

If you prefer to upload your recordings to Xeno-canto via your computer, or if your app of choice records in another format than .mp3, you’ll first need to transfer your recordings from your smartphone or tablet to your computer.

Generally transferring files can be done using a USB cable and connecting your device to your computer. Your computer will recognize the device and you should be able to navigate to the folder containing your recordings. Copy or cut your recordings to where you would like to store them on your computer.

4. Converting recordings to .mp3

Next, if your recordings are not in .mp3 format, you will need to convert them. There are many free programs that allow you to do so. We recommend Audacity. Audacity is multi-platform (meaning it works on Linux, Windows and Mac) is free (as in beer and as in speech) and allows you to cut, view, and convert your files (and you can see how your recordings look!).

Note: Xeno-canto can only accept mp3 files up to a maximum size of 10mb. So if your recording is long you may need to choose a lower quality or split your file.

To convert your file:

  1. Open it in Audacity
  2. Go to File > Export
  3. Choose “MP3 Files” from the drop-down menu
  4. Click on options and choose a quality
    • Higher is better, so preferably 256 kbps and no lower than 128 kbps
    • 5min at 256 kbps will be ~10mb
    • 10min at 128 kbps will be ~10mb
  5. Choose where on your computer you wish to save it

If you need to split your recording:

  1. Use the mouse cursor to select the first half of the recording
  2. Go to File > Export Selection
  3. Continue as above and repeat for the second half of the recording

5. Uploading recordings to Xeno-canto

Details:

  1. Sign up or Log-in to Xeno-canto
  2. Click on “Upload Sounds” on the menu
  3. Find your location, click “Next”
    • Type in your GPS location (Latitude, Longitude)
    • Then zoom in on the map until you see the place where your recording was made
    • Click on the location on the map
  4. Attach your file
    • Click “Browse” and navigate to the recording on your computer, select the file and click “Open”
  5. Enter data about your recording and submit
    • Required
      • Species: White-throated sparrow
      • Recording Date: Date on which you made the recording
      • Time of Day: When you made the recording
      • Sound Types: Song for sure, and possibly call if you heard other vocalizations
    • Optional
      • Background species: If there were other species singing/calling and you know what they are, it’s nice to include that information as well.
      • Bird Seen: Did you see the bird?
      • Playback Used: Did you use a playback of the bird’s song to lure him into singing?
      • Recording Quality: Where A is high and E is low
    • Comments
      • Important! Add “For the whitethroatsong.ca project” so we can keep track of active participants
      • For our purposes, we’re particularly interested in whether you have more than one recording for the same individual. If so, please make a note of it.
      • Any additional comments are really important as they provide a lot of extra details that others can find useful for understanding the context of your recording. Xeno-canto provides a good list of things to consider when writing your comments.
  6. If you wish you can add extra details about the characteristics of the vocalizations.
  7. Confirm your submission and submit (click Finish)!
  8. For more recordings, use your submission as a template, that way you only have to tweak the details and choose a new file.

And you’re done!
Thank you so much for your hard work!