Bird Calls vs Songs

April 8, 2020
The Black-Capped Chickadee is the most widespread of the 7 Chickadee species.

During the spring, birding by ear can be a great way to understand which birds are around and what they are up to. Birds use vocalizations to attract a mate, sound the alarm, or defend their territory. But it’s important to understand that bird songs are different than bird calls.

Songs are generally longer, more complex, and involve a repeated pattern. They are often used to defend territory or attract mates. Male birds sing more often than their female counterparts. Calls are shorter and can be used for a variety of reasons. Both males and females use call notes to sound the alarm of nearby danger or to communicate within the flock.

Telling the difference between a bird song and a bird call is not always easy. For example, a Chickadee is easy to identify by the cheerful “chickadee, dee, dee” it sings. But what many people think as of its song, is actually its call. When there is immediate danger, Chickadee will add a few more “dee, dee, dee’s” to the call.

Chickadee call:

In the spring, a Chickadee’s song is a two note “you-who” sung mostly by the males attracting females and defining nesting territory.

Chickadee song:


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Nancy Ritger

AMC Outdoors, the magazine of the Appalachian Mountain Club, inspires readers to get outside and get engaged. Learn more.

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