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.
"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
"Chee-burger! Chee-burger! Chee-burger!" — David Aborn
"Teakettle. Teakettle. Teakettle." — Rick Huffines
"I am so beautiful!" — David Aborn
"Spring of the year!" — Rick Huffines
"But I DO love you!" — Stanford University's South Bay Birders Unlimited
"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
"Pick up the beeeer check!" — David Aborn and Rick Huffines
"Spit and see if I care; spit!" — Stanford University's South Bay Birders Unlimited
"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.