Mountain ChickadeeBlair Bernson/Macaulay Library

Get to Know Both Chickadee Sounds

Chickadees are very vocal birds. They sing two distinct vocalizations—so different that many people think they come from different species. There’s the chick-a-dee-dee-dee sound and the fee-bee song. The fee-bee song is tricky to hear in the soundscape, but we’ve provided you with an isolated version here to learn from before you try to listen for it in context.

As Found in the Field

In the following video, you’ll encounter a Mountain Chickadee making its chick-a-dee-dee-dee sound—and multitasking with food in its beak, too!

Timothy Barksdale/Macaulay Library
[Mountain Chickadee making its chick-a-dee-dee-dee sound with a caterpillar in its beak while perched on a branch] End of transcript

How to Talk About It

Chick-a-dee-dee-dee

MnemonicChick-a-dee-dee-dee
PitchSlightly descending
Tone QualityScolding and harsh
HintThis sound is more “hoarse” than the chick-a-dee-dee-dee of the similar-sounding (to human ears) Black-capped Chickadee.

Fee-bee

MnemonicFee-bee
PitchLower in the second note than in the first
RepetitionSometimes includes more than one fee or more than one bee
Tone QualityClear high whistles

Learn the Sound Pattern

Here’s the fee-bee song of the Mountain Chickadee.

Justin M Hite/Macaulay Library

Song Spotlight

Now listen for the Mountain Chickadee. This is great practice for tuning into the less-obvious bird sounds in the field. Which variation do you hear?

Photo: Isaac Sanchez/CC BY 2.0. Audio: Gregory F Budney/Macaulay Library

The Mountain Chickadee can be seen in the evergreen forests of the western mountains.

They vocalize often as they move about the trees eating insects or plucking seeds from cones. This species sings a sweet whistled song, “fee-bee” with the second note lower than the first.

Mountain Chickadees will occasionally sing more than one “fee” and more than one “bee.” They also make the “chicka-dee-dee” call, though you don’t hear it in this soundscape.

They overlap with several other species of chickadee, but they sound more hoarse and huskier than the
others.

[Birds singing and calling] 

When we look at the chickadee’s song in the spectrogram, we can see that the second note is lower in
pitch than the first. End of transcript

You may have noticed other birds in this soundscape that we didn’t spotlight. All About Birds is a great resource to learn more about these birds’ songs:

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