Birds such as the winter wren, brown thrasher or red-eyed vireo sing multitudes of songs in the wilderness to send warning messages to competitors and woo potential mates. Because of these characteristics, both wild and domesticated male birds are more genetically predisposed for training to sing than females. If you have one as a pet, you may want to train it to sing or whistle a tune. Canaries, cockatiels and parrots especially have the capability to learn different songs with patient training.
Separate the bird that you'd like to train from any other birds you have. Place the bird in a separate, small wire cage (or larger cage if it's a parrot) away from direct sunlight; this makes the bird more inclined to listen to sounds instead of getting distracted by its peers.2
Whistle or play on either a bird organ or flute a short tune, six times in a row. Alternatively, purchase a CD of your bird's species singing, which can also be used for training (see Resources).
Play these notes within hearing distance of the bird. Repeat this step five to six times a day from morning to evening for canaries and cockatiels, and two times a day at 10-minute intervals for parrots. No matter the species, repetition is the key to helping your bird learn each note so that it can reproduce the song correctly. Depending on the complexity of the tune, it can take several months for the bird to perfect the notes. Songs with a running scale are generally easier for the birds to learn.3
Reward your pet with hempseed or its favorite treat when it starts mimicking the song correctly. When it hits a wrong note, look at it sternly and scold it (a simple "No!" will do) or blow on its feathers. Once your bird has successfully mastered the notes, repeat this process for each song you'd like your bird to sing.4
Place the trained bird inside of a larger cage to teach other birds to sing once it's successfully learned a few songs. The younger ones within the cage will learn to sing the same notes with minimal distractions.