This paper addresses the problem of automatic identification of vowels uttered in isolation by female and child speakers. In this case, the magnitude spectrum of voiced vowels is sparsely sampled since only frequencies at integer multiples of F0 are significant. This impacts negatively on the performance of vowel identification techniques that either ignore pitch or rely on global shape models. A new pitch-dependent approach to vowel identification is proposed that emerges from the concept of timbre and that defines perceptual spectral clusters (PSC) of harmonic partials. A representative set of static PSC-related features are estimated and their performance is evaluated in automatic classification tests using the Mahalanobis distance. Linear prediction features and Mel-frequency cepstral coefficients (MFCC) coefficients are used as a reference and a database of five (Portuguese) natural vowel sounds uttered by 44 speakers (including 27 child speakers) is used for training and testing the Gaussian models. Results indicate that perceptual spectral cluster (PSC) features perform better than plain linear prediction features, but perform slightly worse than MFCC features. However, PSC features have the potential to take full advantage of the pitch structure of voiced vowels, namely in the analysis of concurrent voices, or by using pitch as a normalization parameter.