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

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