30th April 2004 at 01:00
* The things they say

Many birdwatchers find that bird calls and songs are an invaluable aid to identification, particularly where thick foliage or poor light makes sighting difficult.

But with so many species, how are they to remember which bird sings which song?

This is where mnemonics come in handy. By translating the bird's utterances into a similar-sounding human phrase, the task of association is made easier, particularly, one suspects, if the phrase in question has an amusing ring.

Here are some examples from a list of American bird calls, which perhaps demonstrate that it is not only humans who are divided by a common language.

American bittern: gulp-a-pump

Baltimore oriole: here, here, come right here, dear

Barred owl: who-cooks-for-you, who-cooks-for-you-all?

Black-legged kittiwake: kitty-waaak

Black-throated blue warbler: please, please, please squeeeeeeze

Black-throated green warbler: trees-trees, murmuring-trees

Brown thrasher: drop-it, drop-it, cover-it-up, cover it-up, pull-it-up, pull-it-up

California quail: Chi-ca-go, Chi-ca-go

Canada warbler: chip-chupitty-swee-ditchety

Carolina chickadee: Car-o-li-na

Carolina wren: tea-kettle, tea-kettle, tea-kettle

Chestnut-sided warbler: pleased-pleased-pleased-pleased-ta-meetcha

Chuck-will's-widow: chuck-will's-widow

Eastern meadowlark: but-I-DO-love-you

Eastern towhee: hot dog, pickle-ickle-ickle

Golden-crowned sparrow: three blind mice

Hermit thrush: why don't cha come to me? Here I am right near you

Indigo bunting: fire, fire. Where, where? Here, here. See it, see it?

Song sparrow: Madge, Madge, Madge, pick beetles off, the water's hot

White-eyed vireo: quick give me a rain check

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now