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Black-capped Chickadee Dictionary
For 8 Chickadee Vocalizations

Scientists have discovered at least 15 different vocalizations that Black-capped Chickadees can make! This English/Chickadee Dictionary contains 8 entries. Click on links for definitions.
All Recordings Courtesy of Lang Elliott Nature Sound Studios except where noted. (.wav files)

Whistled Song

Chickadee-dee Call

Gargle
Call

Chatter
Call

High Zee
Call

Tseet

Tsleet

Broken Dee Call


Whistled Song (Sounds like: "fee' bee-ee")
1. Loud version given exclusively by males, usually during pre-breeding and breeding season, on territory. Its purpose may be to advertise territory ("This is MY land") or to cement bond with mate ("Hey, sweetie!")

2. Soft version given by either sex to coordinate movements between mated pair ("Here I am." "Where are you?" "Wanna go this way?").

3. Soft version given by either sex when approaching nest with food during breeding season stimulates mate to leave nest and take its turn finding food. ("Now it's your turn.")


Chickadee-dee Call (Sounds like: "chickadee-dee-dee")
1. Given by males and females in many situations when chickadees are flocking ("Hi, you guys!" "How's it going?")

2. Alerts group members to food or danger ("Hey, look over here!")

3. In mobbing situations, a flock of chickadees may swarm about near a hawk or other predator, diving at its body and quickly retreating, constantly making chickadee-dee calls. ("You get out of here!")


Gargle Call (gargle)
1.
Given when one chickadee intrudes on another chickadee's territory.

2. Given when two chickadees in a flock get too close together: the bird that is higher in the pecking order is the one who makes the gargle, and the other chickadee pulls away ("Get your tail off my turf!").

3. Given by dominant bird when two chickadees are disputing an item of food. ("This is MY grub!") The gargler almost always wins.


Chatter Call (chatter)
Given by dominant chickadee after a chase ("So there!"). (Note: This recording has two Chatter Calls, and the second is more typical than the first.)


High Zee Call (see)
Given when a predator is detected ("Freeze! Here comes a hawk!") or as a general alarm call (Look out!).


Tseet (Tseet) not clearly understood, but apparently given when chickadees are isolated from the flock to maintain contact ("I'm here! I'm here! I'm here!")

Tsleet (Tsleet--louder and with more notes than the Tseet call)
Given by dominant members of flock as they leave one feeding area to go to another ("C'mon, guys, we're outta here!")

Broken Dee Call (dee)
Given by females in breeding season, attracting a mate, cementing the pair bond and possibly asking the male to feed her. ("Hiya, big boy. How's about giving me a lil' ol' bug?")
(Recording courtesy of Dave Gammon, Biology Department, Colorado State University.)

Try This!

1. Vocabulary Quiz. After studying the Chickadee Dictionary, check your understanding with our Chickadee Vocabulary Quiz!


Journaling Questions

1. Researchers have discovered at least 15 different vocalizations for chickadees. Why do you think they have so many? Why do humans need more words than chickadees do?

2. If chickadees could speak, would they have more nouns and verbs, more adjectives and adverbs or more commands in their vocabulary? Explain.

3. Think of ways we humans use our senses to perceive our world, and how this affects our language. List some words we humans have that would have no meaning for a chickadee.

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