Birds make all manner of chirps, calls, whistles and other vocalizations. Understanding why bird noises are important comes with learning more about birds in general.
Read more about the life cycle of birds.
If you would like to learn how to make a bird call yourself, first learn about bird vocalizations.
Why Do Birds Make Sounds?
When you think of birds, you may think primarily of flight, as most birds are capable of flying. The other distinguishing feature of many birds is the vocalizations they make. Why are bird noises important?
Of approximately 10,000 bird species in the world, those categorized as songbirds represent about half. And many more birds make other vocalizations. For example, turkeys gobble, owls hoot, parrots squawk and mimic human sounds.
Songbirds in particular use their voices to attract mates and defend their territories. Their vocal organ is called a syrinx. Songbirds, especially the males, learn elaborate songs.
A bird call is distinguished from a bird song by being shorter in length and less musical. Typically a call is used as a form of alert or marker of location. At other times, birds make sounds to each other during flight, called flight calls.
Read more about how birds communicate.
Making Bird Noises
While humans do not possess the syrinx vocal equipment, it is possible to make a bird whistler call that captures the attention of birds. There are different ways to do this. One way to do a bird call is to use the tactic called “pishing.”
Pishing involves making a bird call or bird whistle that draws out birds using sounds they might use as alarms. The simplest way to do this is to say “pish” drawn out a bit: “piiiishhh.”
This will likely draw out smaller birds like songbirds (warblers, sparrows and the like). Adding “chit chit chit” bird noises can draw their attention as well. Some birders like to make kissing sounds. Others make an owl whistle, which can spook songbirds.
To attract the curve-billed thrasher, use a bird whistle sound like “whit-wheet,” similar to their own songs. If you can whistle, you might be able to mimic any number of bird calls. But even a simple “coo” sound works with ducks. Try to mimic the birds you hear, and see if they respond to you!
Using a Bird Call to Attract Game Birds
Hunters of game birds such as turkeys and ducks often use bird noises to attract them. Wild turkeys have a number of fascinating sounds and calls that they use for different situations. There are assembly calls, clucks, purrs, cuts, yelps, gobbles and more.
To get a tom turkey to come into range, a hunter might use a few short cluck sounds to mimic a hen. Cutting, or making sharp clucks and yelping, can attract a hen and as a result, a tom.
Using a gobble, or gurgling male turkey call for a bird call is effective but requires caution. It may draw other hunters. But the chief goal for using the gobble call would be to attract a tom turkey in the evening, when it wants to roost.
Flushing Turkeys With Other Bird Sounds
To use a different approach with wild turkeys, sometimes hunters will use other bird noises. Fore example, making a crow “caw” surprises turkeys.
And if you make an owl whistle or hoot before sunrise, it can locate a tom turkey at dawn or after sunset by eliciting a “shock gobble” from the turkey. The phrase that sounds most like a barred owl would be “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all.” Of course, you can also use a “hoot-hoot” sound for some owls.
- Audubon Society – The Birdist’s Rules of Birding: Birdist Rule #77: Use Your Voice To Attract Birds
- The Cornell Lab Bird Academy: How and Why Birds Sing
- National Wild Turkey Federation: Wild Turkey Sounds
- Marfa Public Radio Nature Notes: Spring’s Music: Learning to Identify, and Imitate, West Texas Birdsong
About the Author
J. Dianne Dotson is a science writer with a degree in zoology/ecology and evolutionary biology. She spent nine years working in laboratory and clinical research. A lifelong writer, Dianne is also a content manager and science fiction & fantasy novelist. Dianne features science as well as writing topics on her website, jdiannedotson.com.
Shelby Gordon/Demand Media