CNMN > Projects > Birdsong Course

Frédérique Drolet

  • Voice
  • 5 to 12 years of age
  • 13 to 18 years of age
  • Adults
  • Seniors
  • Intergenerational

60 - 90 minutes workshop

  • Education
  • Community associations
  • Ecology
  • Family

Birdsong Course


Bird­song course

Designed and imple­ment­ed in Plai­sance by Frédérique Dro­let and Mar­i­ane Lacroix (2022)

1. Con­text

The bird­song course was designed by Frédérique Dro­let (sopra­no) and Mar­i­ane Lacroix (nat­u­ral­ist from Parc nation­al de Plai­sance) in 2022. The activ­i­ty was cre­at­ed specif­i­cal­ly for the Grand défi ornithologique des parcs nationaux, orga­nized on June 11, 2022 by the Sépaq net­work, the mag­a­zine Québe­cOiseaux and the bird watch­ing clubs of sev­er­al regions of south­ern Que­bec. It has been devel­oped for an inter­gen­er­a­tional fam­i­ly audi­ence, suit­able for bird­watch­ing enthu­si­asts or neophytes.

This work­shop was designed to combine :

  • The edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion of the Park regard­ing the con­ser­va­tion and pro­tec­tion of biodiversity
  • A cre­ative artis­tic approach through the explo­ration of the voice
  • The goal is to make art in nature and to sharp­en our sense of obser­va­tion of nature, thus open­ing us to the infi­nite source of inspi­ra­tion that it offers us.

2. Edu­ca­tion­al objectives

To dis­cov­er a num­ber of bird species in Que­bec (in par­tic­u­lar the breed­ing birds of Parc nation­al de Plaisance)

To learn spe­cif­ic infor­ma­tion about these birds with the help of :

  • pho­tos
  • sci­en­tif­ic data
  • sound record­ings
  • warm-ups and play­ful vocal exer­cis­es inspired by their songs, their approach­es, their characteristics
  • Learn to rec­og­nize bird songs using the human voice
  • Explore the dif­fer­ent sounds of our voice
  • Dis­cov­er our cre­ative potential
  • Intro­duc­tion to cer­tain musi­cal and the­atri­cal con­cepts such as rhythm, pitch, tim­bre, nuances, phys­i­cal­i­ty, etc.
  • Col­lab­o­ra­tion and social­iza­tion through inter­gen­er­a­tional teamwork

3. Gen­er­al course of the work­shop (90 minutes)

  1. Wel­come and pre­sen­ta­tion of the activ­i­ty to the participants
  2. Ice­break­er game in a cir­cle to get to know each oth­er and estab­lish the group dynamic
  3. Vocal, body and rhyth­mic warm-up activ­i­ties inspired by birds
  4. Dis­cov­ery of the breed­ing birds of the Parc nation­al de Plai­sance (between 3 and 5)
  5. Activ­i­ty of cre­at­ing imag­i­nary bird songs
  6. Con­clu­sion

4. Warm-up activities

Most of the warm-ups are inspired by birds from here and else­where, whether by their song, their call, their gait, their phys­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics or cer­tain char­ac­ter­is­tics of their habi­tat or behaviour.

To elab­o­rate these warm-ups, we can be inspired by the obser­va­tion of birds in our envi­ron­ment, but also by videos, record­ings (the Mer­lin Birds appli­ca­tion is a real trea­sure!), books and pho­tos. Here are some examples:

  • Stretch­ing and mobil­i­ty exer­cis­es: wrig­gling, mov­ing only your eyes like a pigeon, spread­ing your wings
  • Rhythm exer­cis­es (walking/body per­cus­sion): with fun sounds, such as mov­ing in a hoop doing the “chick­en cha-cha” (123-pock-pock-pock) or doing a courtship with coloured scarves
  • Breath­ing exer­cis­es (low/rhythmic breath­ing with walk­ing): rap­tor glide (exhale on tsss… as long as pos­si­ble while extend­ing arms)

Bird inspired vocal warm-ups:

  • Wild turkey (ah! Gobble-gobble!)
  • Amer­i­can Bit­tern (wood­block, water sound, tongue click, imi­tate cat­tail in the wind)
    Singing spar­row (brrr…)

5. Dis­cov­er­ing nest­ing birds

This sec­tion was devel­oped joint­ly with Mar­i­ane Lacroix, nat­u­ral­ist of the Parc nation­al de Plai­sance, with the goal of intro­duc­ing par­tic­i­pants to some of the breed­ing birds of the Park or the sur­round­ing area, which they could then iden­ti­fy dur­ing their future walks.

The selec­tion of the few birds was made by Frédérique, from a long list pro­vid­ed by Mar­i­ane. To repro­duce bird songs with the voice (and not by whistling) requires many hours of lis­ten­ing to the songs (on the Mer­lin Birds appli­ca­tion, for exam­ple), of vocal explo­ration and… imag­i­na­tion! The goal is not to per­fect­ly repro­duce the bird’s song or call, but to make sure that the par­tic­i­pants will be able to rec­og­nize the bird’s song in nature after hav­ing prac­ticed it while hav­ing fun. For this rea­son, the birds to be pre­sent­ed in this sec­tion must be care­ful­ly selected.

Pro­ce­dure for each of the birds chosen:

  • Singing quiz: the artist-medi­a­tor does a free imi­ta­tion of the bird in ques­tion, with­out reveal­ing its name to the par­tic­i­pants. The par­tic­i­pants try to guess the name of the bird in question.
  • Pre­sen­ta­tion of the bird (name, habi­tat, bio­log­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics, pho­to, etc.) by the naturalist
  • Lis­ten­ing to the bird’s song/cries on the Mer­lin Birds application
  • Vocal exer­cis­es and fun games inspired by the bird, sound speci­fici­ties: briefly dis­cuss cer­tain musi­cal con­cepts such as tim­bre, pitch, rhythm
  • Learn­ing the bird’s song (voice and stag­ing): break down the dif­fer­ent parts and cre­ate a fun lit­tle choreography!

6. Imag­i­nary Bird Activity

Fol­low­ing the pre­vi­ous dis­cov­ery activ­i­ty, which con­tains both infor­ma­tion about exist­ing birds and their nat­ur­al habi­tat, and musi­cal exer­cis­es, par­tic­i­pants are now invit­ed to cre­ate their own imag­i­nary bird song.


  • Form teams of 2 or more people
  • Explain the process
  • Give the instruc­tions to be respected:
  • The song must be repeatable
  • The song must be short
  • The song must be teach­able to the oth­er participants
  • You must find a name for your bird
  • Give an exam­ple with cer­tain para­me­ters cho­sen at ran­dom or giv­en by the participants
  • Invite teams to pick up col­ored scarves dur­ing their prepa­ra­tion, if they wish
  • Dis­tri­b­u­tion of para­me­ters to teams

The para­me­ters writ­ten on paper are pre­pared either by the medi­a­tor in advance, or by the par­tic­i­pants them­selves dur­ing the work­shop (this can be a prepara­to­ry activ­i­ty for the cre­ation of imag­i­nary bird songs, see point #7 below).

Teams can there­fore receive a “coconut” with para­me­ters already defined inside, or they can draw the para­me­ters from con­tain­ers. If there are 3 dif­fer­ent para­me­ters, 3 con­tain­ers will be pre­pared and the teams will be asked to draw one or more papers from each con­tain­er, depend­ing on the estab­lished parameters.

The teams have 7–10 min­utes to cre­ate their bird song. If they wish, they can also find a par­tic­u­lar phys­i­cal expres­sion for it (walk, pos­ture, etc.)

Invite teams to present their bird (the entire team can present, or des­ig­nate one mem­ber to present solo)

If time per­mits, one des­ig­nat­ed mem­ber per team will teach the imag­i­nary bird song to the entire group.

7. Set­ting para­me­ters and pos­si­ble prepara­to­ry activity

It is essen­tial to pro­vide para­me­ters for inspi­ra­tion for the cre­ation of the bird songs, espe­cial­ly if the work­shop is for par­tic­i­pants who have no musi­cal expe­ri­ence. If time per­mits, I sug­gest doing a prepara­to­ry activ­i­ty with them to cre­ate these para­me­ters, which can then be mixed and picked up. If not, we can pro­vide para­me­ters on chart paper or “coconuts” with some para­me­ters inside.

Set­ting para­me­ters with participants:

In a brain­storm­ing ses­sion, invite par­tic­i­pants to pro­pose the para­me­ters that will be used to cre­ate the bird songs. Any­thing goes, since these are imag­i­nary birds! Here are some sug­gest­ed para­me­ters with exam­ples to inspire participants:

What might the imag­i­nary bird’s song sound like?
A leaky faucet
Some­one gargling
The sound of high heels clicking
Wind rustling through the leaves
A car that has trou­ble starting

Which fam­i­ly would be the bird’s cousin?

In which habi­tat could the bird live?
In the sand
On the plan­et Mars
On the roof of a cathedral
On the water lilies

In what sit­u­a­tion is the bird?
It is tak­ing his bath
It meets a rival
It is look­ing for a mate
It is about to incu­bate its egg

What ono­matopoeia could be found in the bird’s song?
Gulp! Gla!

8. Equip­ment needed:
Speak­er and phone
Mer­lin Birds application
Bird pictures/books
Coloured scarves

9. Notes to the Facilitator

Estab­lish­ing a joy­ful and wel­com­ing group dynam­ic is essen­tial for the activ­i­ty to run smooth­ly. Par­tic­i­pants should feel that this is a group explo­ration ses­sion, not a tech­ni­cal singing class.

Encour­age par­tic­i­pants by exam­ple to come up with ideas, to laugh at them­selves, to be sil­ly… don’t take your­self too seri­ous­ly and put your ego aside!

Ide­al­ly, the activ­i­ty takes place in nature, in a place where the group is not observed by peo­ple who are not par­tic­i­pat­ing in the activ­i­ty. This avoids the embar­rass­ment that some par­tic­i­pants might have and allows them to dive into the pro­posed activ­i­ties in a more nat­ur­al way.

For more infor­ma­tion or for any ques­tions, please contact

Frédérique Dro­let, sopra­no/artist-medi­a­tor

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