That’s the song of the North American Black Capped Chickadee, right?
WRONG! According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, this is actually an alarm call\, alerting other Chickadees to a threat. You can tell how threatened they feel by the number of “Dees.”
Alternately, when a Chickadee perceives a fast-moving threat, such as an approaching hawk, she’ll give out a single, high-pitched, SEE…
And all chickadees within earshot freeze! Then they listen for the all-clear, which is a short Chick-a-Dee-Dee!
If you see a Chickadee when you hear one of these calls, watch the behavior that follows. If he flies off, that’s probably in response to the all-clear.
Chipper here, however, is singing none of the above. The Black Capped Chickadee song is a sweet, sing-song, high-to-low perfect third: Fee-bee! Fee-bee! Sometimes they add a third note, which is usually described by humans as Hey, Swee-tie!
In the Pacific Northwest, Chickadees sing four notes, all on a single pitch: Sweet, Swee-tie Sweet!
Throughout much of the Black Capped Chickadee range, according to Cornell Labs, the males start singing this song in January, increasing in frequency as Spring approaches. Once in a while, females will sing too.
Finally, if you see two Chickadees at your feeder, you may hear a throaty, guttural squawl! This social call often happens when a “beta” Chickadee muscles into an “alpha” bird’s space. But you may also hear this gargling sound between mating pairs—even devoted couples argue!
If you want to hear these sounds, I highly recommend the Cornell Lab of Ornithology web page or better still, download their free app for iPhone or iPad. There is also a great paid app for Android, iPhone and iPad called iBird Pro for Birds North America. I paid the $14.99 because its enormous database of photos and sound files is well worth it.
Chipper, the Chickadee shown in the photographs here, is singing Fee-Bee! Hey Swee-tee! He turns as he sings, perhaps to increase his likelihood of being heard. Which view of Chipper do YOU prefer? Please let me know with a COMMENT and if this post pleases you, don’t forget to give me a LIKE.