Getty Images / An Eastern Meadowlark is seen calling from a atop a fence post.

Birding by ear can be difficult, which is why some enthusiasts come up with tricks for remembering those tweets.

Bird call mnemonics (pronounced nuh-ma-niks) are phrases or words assigned to a bird's song to help one remember its rhythm or tempo. One classic example is the barred owl, who sounds to be asking, "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?"

But mnemonics are up for interpretation — which is part of makes them a fun tool. Here, Chattanooga experts share how they hear common bird calls.


Indigo Bunting

"Sweet, sweet, sweeter, sweeter, here, here." — Rick Huffines, Tennessee River Gorge Trust executive director

"Tweet-tweet-tweedle-tweedle-tweet-tweet." — David Aborn, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga associate professor of biology, geology and environmental science

"Fire! Fire! Where? Where? Here! Here!" — Nature Conservancy Canada


Carolina Wren

"Chee-burger! Chee-burger! Chee-burger!" — David Aborn

"Teakettle. Teakettle. Teakettle." — Rick Huffines

Photo Gallery

Bird songs


Eastern Meadowlark

"I am so beautiful!" — David Aborn

"Spring of the year!" — Rick Huffines

"But I DO love you!" — Stanford University's South Bay Birders Unlimited


Eastern Towhee

"Drink your tea." — Tish Gailmard, Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center director of wildlife

"Drink-teeeee!" — David Aborn

"Scree! Scree!" — Sunny Montgomery, Get Out Chattanooga assistant editor


White-eyed Vireo

"Pick up the beeeer check!" — David Aborn and Rick Huffines

"Spit and see if I care; spit!" — Stanford University's South Bay Birders Unlimited


Gray Catbird

"Me-ooow." — Tish Gailmard

"Raaah!" — David Aborn

But Rick Huffines has a different take on the catbird. The catbird, he says, is known for its call — not its song. He agrees with Gailmard that its call sounds like a cat. But its song, he says, is long and varied with rapid syllables.

To him, it sounds to be saying, "Look heeere, birdie, birdie, birdie. I ain't got time for your nonsense, take that stuff somewhere else and tell it to somebody who cares."

"But I guess you could make up something nicer," he adds. For example, "'Look heeere, cutie, cutie, cutie. I think you are the prettiest bird that I ever did see in the whole wide world. Can I come over and talk to ya?'

"Truth is, a person can make up anything they want with that one, as long as it emphasizes the cadence of the syllables. It's actually a really good one for each person to play with and make their own mark," says Huffines.