Few backyard birds are as beloved as the Black-capped Chickadee. The boldly patterned chickadee is perky, trusting – and it seems to introduce itself by calling its name – chick-a-dee. But when a chickadee voices its namesake call – using a host of variations – it’s most likely maintaining contact with its mate, scolding a predator, or announcing a food source. These chickadee calls, distinct from songs, are uttered by both sexes and may be voiced year-round.
Voices and Vocabularies: Clever Chickadees
Written by Bob Sundstrom
This is BirdNote. [Black-capped Chickadee call “chick-a-dee,” repeated]
Few backyard birds are as beloved as the Black-capped Chickadee. The boldly patterned chickadee is perky, trusting – and it even seems to introduce itself to us by calling out its name. [Black-capped Chickadee call “chick-a-dee”, repeated]
In spring, Black-capped Chickadees also voice a sweet series of notes that sounds like “hey, sweetie” [Black-capped Chickadee “hey, sweetie” song]. And from a chickadee’s point of view, there’s a huge difference between [chick-a-dee] and [hey, sweetie].
The springtime [hey, sweetie] means something like, “Ladies, I’m a male chickadee looking for a mate. You other guys – get lost!" Technically speaking, [hey, sweetie] is a song – a seasonal vocalization specifically tied to mating and territory.
When a chickadee voices its namesake [chick-a-dee], however, it is a sound categorized as a call. Calls, distinct from songs, are uttered by both sexes and may be voiced year round.
Chickadees call to one another as the pair moves about [chick-a-dee], as a way of remaining in contact. Black-capped Chickadees also voice a host of variations that may scold a predator, give an “all clear,” announce a food source, and more. So those perky, acrobatic chickadees . . . yes, okay, they’re cute. But they’re also clever. [chick-a-dee]
For BirdNote, I'm Michael Stein.
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Chick-a-dee calls #106942 recorded by R.S. Little. Hey sweetie song #98802 recorded in Michigan by G.A. Keller.
BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and produced by John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2015 Tune In to Nature.org March 2017 / 2021 Narrator: Michael Stein
ID# sound-13-2013-03-06 sound-13