BIRD CALL MNEMONICS: WHO MAKES THIS STUFF UP?
Some Wierd Word Tricks People Use to Remember Bird Calls
by Sally Blanchard
I taught an anatomy laboratory class when I was in college and I had to memorize a lot of complicated terms. After all of these years, I still remember most of them because of mnemonics. For example, I can still name the 12 cranial nerves because of the mnemonic, "On Old Olympus Towering Tops, A Famous Vocal German Viewed Some Hops." Actually I wish that I could forget the cranial nerves and make some room for important stuff like where I put my car keys.
The next time I used mnemonics to remember something, it was the calls of birds. My bird watching buddy, Susie was particularly versed on these tricks and shared them with me. To this day, I could immediately identify several birds just from hearing their calls. Unfortunately, many of the mnemonics that I learned are for birds that don't live where I live now.
These are the ones that I remember the most ...
“Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?" (Barred Owl)
“Quick, three beers!” (Olive-sided flycatcher)
“Tea kettle tea kettle” (Carolina wren)
"Going Up. Going Down" (Solitary vireo or Blue-headed vireo) I am not sure that this is something I read or something that I made up because it sounds to me that this is what this vireo says.
"Pleased-pleased-pleased-pleased-ta-meetcha" (Chestnut sided warbler) My mother told me that I always talked to the birds when I was a little girl. I guess I still do. I can't see a chickadee without out talking to it. I love most warblers even though they can be a literal pain in the neck to see. My favorite is probably the Chestnut-sided warbler and can't help but telling him that I am pleased to meet him too when I see one.
"Witchety-witchety-witchety” (Yellow-throat) It seems that I have seen this delightful little bird just about everywhere that I have been in the U.S. and I always know he is there before I actually see him from his call. However, from range maps, it appears that Yellow-throats don't have a range that occurs in most of Colorado. I have missed them! (Update: I have seen a couple of them in the last year - yeah!)
“O Sweet Canada; Canada; Canada” (White-throated Sparrow) It seems to me that I was once told that when the White-throated Sparrow is heard in the United States, it is actually saying something like "Poor (or Old) Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody." I think I like the Canada version the best.
"Weeeeep” (Great-crested Flycatcher) In Wichita, one of my favorite birds was the Great-crested Flycatcher. I did a lot of bird watching in Oak Park, which was along the Arkansas River. These flycatchers would follow us along the various paths and call to us continually.
“Ank-ank-ank” (Red-breasted nuthatch) I would define this call as more of a laugh. I lived about 60 miles out of Kansas City in Warrensburg, Missouri for a couple of years. I played golf a lot when I lived there and the golf course cut through some beautiful woods. More than once my golf partners got frustrated with me because I was bird watching at the same time. One of my favorite memories was when I was trying to make a fairly long putt and I heard a red-breasted nuthatch nearby laughing at me. This laughter amused me so much that I missed the putt completely. I was a decent golfer, but bird watching was actually more important to me than my golf score!
“Chi-ca-go” They say that California Quails say "chicago" but why would a quail from California say anything about Chicago. It always sounded like "where are you" and "Here I am" to me but then perhaps the Red-eyed vireo already claimed the “Where are you? Here I am" mnemonic. But who is it that says, "Look at me, here I am. Up Here. Aren't I pretty?” I thought it was the Red-eyed Vireo who said that?
“If I sees you; I will seize you; and I'll squeeze you till you squirt” (Warbling vireo) Supposedly the vireo is talking to a caterpillar when it "says" this.
Some birds are named because of their calls. A few of these are ...
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