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Black-capped Chickadees Singing Their Spring Song

2-11-19 chickadee 007Would it surprise you to learn that Black-capped Chickadees have at least 16 different vocalizations? The two most common are its “chick-a-dee” call and its “fee-bee” song. The “chick-a-dee” vocalization for which these birds are named is sung by both sexes throughout the year, but it’s especially common in fall and winter. This call is used to convey a number of different messages. It’s given when a bird is separated from its mate or flock, when chickadees are mobbing a predator (lots of dee notes), to notify others when a predator has left, and when a new food source is discovered.

The two-noted, whistled “fee-bee” vocalization is given mostly by males, although not exclusively. While it can be heard throughout the year, this song is most common in late winter and spring and thus is referred to as the chickadee’s spring song. When chickadees are singing their “fee-bee” song, they are advertising their territories and attempting to attract mates.

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12 responses

  1. Alice Pratt

    They are such a cute little bundle of feathers and sounds! They are very accepting of humans, coming very close when feeding…they get to know your presence.

    February 11, 2019 at 8:07 am

  2. Janet Crystal

    Mary, I have always called it the “hey, sweetie” call. I also understand that the Island birds (Nantucket and MV) sing it in reverse, “sweetie, hey.” Since they are separated from the mainland, they have developed their own “dialect.”

    February 11, 2019 at 8:11 am

  3. Evergreen Erb

    It’s funny this should be the post this morning. It was just now when I was out that I heard them really vocalizing like they meant it this year. Spring’s here, they say! And woodpeckers are drumming, and Cardinals singing! And snow’s a comin’….

    February 11, 2019 at 8:58 am

  4. Mary–thank for the wonderful info on chickadees. I wanted to clarify. Did you mean that the females are more often singing the spring fee-bee song in the fall, and the chickdees fee-bee songs in the SPRING are mostly males? Thank again. Bo

    February 11, 2019 at 9:01 am

    • Sorry I’ve not made it clearer, Barbara. Both males and females sing “chick-a-dee” call all year round, but primarily in fall and winter. Mostly males sing “fee-bee” song in late winter and spring. There are many exceptions to these rules!

      February 11, 2019 at 12:38 pm

  5. Kathie Fiveash

    Oh Spring! Yesterday I had two male red-winged blackbirds under my feeder, and even more surprising, one female. Every morning this month I have looked at the February page on your calendar, Mary, and seen that red-winged blackbird up in the top left corner, and wondered if I would really see one this month. No more wondering!

    February 11, 2019 at 9:09 am

  6. Lynne Fitzhugh

    I always here this song as “Hey Sweetie.” Have you noticed how it is often answered by the same a harmonic 3rd (I think) lower? I like to imagine it’s a duet by a mated pair keeping track of each other, or, as we approach Valentine’s Day, repeating their vows. Please don’t burst my bubble!

    February 11, 2019 at 9:28 am

  7. Lynne Fitzhugh

    Misspelled here. I know it’s hear!

    February 11, 2019 at 9:29 am

  8. Jon Binhammer

    Someone once told me the chickadee is saying “Spring’s here”! Even though it isn’t, it still is a nice reminder that it will come eventually.

    February 11, 2019 at 10:02 am

  9. Kathryn

    I just love it when you confirm something I’ve just seen or heard! I trust the chickadees more than the groundhog!

    February 11, 2019 at 10:33 am

  10. Melody Masi

    I was just saying yesterday, I heard the spring bird that makes me think of Easter. Thank you for letting me know who it was!!!

    February 11, 2019 at 11:11 am

  11. Johannah Powell

    i hear “ hey sweetie” for their spring song!

    February 14, 2019 at 7:05 pm

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