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Inter-Species Bird Calls

Dee dee dee dee dee dee deeeeeeeeeeeee! Presenting His Supreme Friendliness, Surveyor of the Feeder and Ultimate Birb: the Chickadee!

Black Capped Chickadee

Sit down and get comfy while I tell you about the best little bird. Chickadees are cryptically sexually dimorphic; These muffins all look the same to humans, but to a lady Chickadee, who can see colors into the invisible-to-humans end of the spectrum, the handsomest Chickadees have ultra violet mustaches!

Chickadees have a lot to say. Their language is complex. ‘Chickadee’ is only one of their calls. It’s one of their alarm calls! They say other things when they are alone (like ‘cheese burger’ and ‘squigledeedoo’) but when they see a human they say ‘Chickadee dee dee dee dee!’ And so we call them that because they call us that. We call each other that.

Chickadees have lots of alarm calls that signal different kinds of danger, where it’s coming from and how dangerous it is. For example they say one thing for a Snake and something different for a Hawk – the number of dees indicates the degree of danger.

Chickadees are non-migratory birds. They stay in the same home range their whole lives and get to know the place really well and you can find them all over North America. While a migratory bird who winters in the tropics and summers in the arctic is passing over my house, they are unfamiliar with the local predators, but they are familiar with Chickadees. Chickadees always know the local dangers. Migratory birds will often follow Chickadees to food and water sources and eavesdrop on their conversations especially their Chickadee alarm calls which can act as a call to mob. When Chickadees want to harass an intruder like a Crow, Owl, Hawk or me, they do a mobbing call that brings in lots of other Chickadees and lots of other species too.

If you’ve ever been out with a birder trying to see as many species as possible you might have heard them pishing.  It’s a birding trick that calls lots of birds in. it sounds like this: “Psh psh psh psh psh psh!” To a migratory bird its sounds like the dee dee dee dee of the Chickadee call. If you do it in the spring, all the species around will hear you pishing and might think it’s a Chickadee doing an alarm so they send in a scout to see what the mater is. One scout from each species will arrive to take a look and you can stand still and check off a whole bunch of birds you might never have seen before.

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