A few years ago my friends Scott and Amber visited me in Juneau. These avid birders live in Northern California, but they managed to identify every bird we encountered by sound alone. With the faint call of a kinglet or the song of a flycatcher, they had the species identified and were peering up at the crown of a hemlock tree, or deep into the willow underbrush.
The trick, they said, is phrases. Bird books tell you that a barred owl says, "Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all."
An olive-sided flycatcher says, "Quick, three beers,"
and a Yellow throat says, "Wichity Wichity Wichity."
The familiar American robin is known for its "cheer-up, cheerio" song.
These phrases are good reminders, but for bird calls you are trying to learn, it's best to make up your own phrases to help you identify the call. Describe the sound to yourself in words. The marbled murrelet says "Keer, keer."
Association also works as well. I've always thought of the varied thrush as the gym teacher bird, because its call has the two-tone sound of a gym teacher's whistle.
The hummingbird is named for its sound, although it's ...ot a song...but some birds are named for their songs. The call of the saw-whet owl, a small forest owl, sounds like a saw being sharpened or whetted by a file.
The familiar chickadee is named .....or its ca.....l........and so is the cuckoo.