About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Chickadee song sounds like he has a mouth full of marbles

Chickadees on Seed Cylinder Character
One of the birds that always sticks around when I’m filling the feeders is the Black-capped Chickadee. Whether they are encouraging me to fill the feeders faster or ignoring me completely, they always seem a constant in the fall.

Of course when I see them I’m compelled to try and imitate their common call, Chicka dee-dee-dee. Male and female chickadees use this call to announce good food available, help reunite separated flock-mates, or signal “all clear” when danger has passed. And at the beginning of the year I always wait for the loud whistled fee-bee-beeyee chickadees use to announce the beginning of nesting season.

When I was filling the feeder last night I heard one softly talking to himself. He seemed to be almost practicing words like a toddler. All chickadee species give chick-a-dee calls and whistled fee-bees but an often-overlooked chickadee vocalization called the gargle may actually be more accurately called the traditional song.

No marbles!
Individual chickadees seem to have fifteen or more different gargles. Like traditional songs, gargles are learned. The gargles are given primarily by males and associated with dominance establishment and territorial defense. They are extremely complex and are made up of many different note types, often with trills and repeated motifs. The little guy I was watching seemed to be concentrating very hard, obliviously to me, making noises similar to what I can only describe as a bird singing with a mouthful of marbles.

So if you happen to be outside take a minute to listen for the chickadee gargle song.

Related Articles:
What the 'dee' in Chick-a-dee means http://goo.gl/8rde3a
A closer look at the fee-bee song of the chickadee http://goo.gl/X4qLRV
Why don't chickadees stay to eat at the feeder? http://bit.ly/AkKThH
After chickadee babies have fledged http://bit.ly/yAYbP4
Fun Facts About Chickadees http://bit.ly/zIDkCi