Friday, March 25, 2011

Phake Phoebe

Just to clarify and be absolutely correct in my misunderstanding and now total understanding, I again searched out the sounds of a Phoebe and a Chickadee on my computer this morning.  At the sound of the Chickadee the dog got up and looked around with concern.  Glanced at me, and when I told her it was okay, she lay down again at my feet and sighed.
Then I played the Phoebe sound.  The cat came striding through the kitchen, past me and directly to the sliding glass doors.  There he looked out in all directions, ignored my telling him it was okay, and proceeded to sit and watch.  He didn't believe me.
Make no mistake, live birds were used in the making of those audio files.

Earlier this morning, when I stepped out onto the porch I heard the "unmistakable sounds" of Phoebes chatting.  I always feel sad when I hear one call and no one replies!  One bird was fairly close to the house, calling out "phee-bee", and then the fainter return call followed from the opposite direction.

Yup, for nigh onto 60 years that's what I thought I'd been hearing.  Then a stupid stuffed bird educated me.  I was walking through Wilson's Drug Store looking for a souvenir of Maine to send to a school in England we'd been working with.  The Maine state bird, the Eastern Black-capped Chickadee, was on a rack with other birds, and I thought that would be fitting to send.  Each bird had a sound device inside to give its call.  I squeezed.  Out came "phee-bee".  What???  They obviously put the wrong squeaker in it.   My mother told me years ago that a Phoebe says "phee-bee", and she studied birds and would point them out to me.  She made sure I knew what a Grosbeak was.  She had bird books and binoculars.  Chickadees didn't say "phee-bee", Phoebes said "phee-bee".  Chickadees said "chick-a-dee-dee-dee".

And then I got on the Internet.  And that's when I learned that Chickadees do in fact say "phee-bee".  Every once in a while I had heard a rusty "phee-bee" that sounded like someone was squeezing him and I would joke that we had a hoarse Phoebee out here somewhere.  And now come to find out, that's the Phoebe's call.  The broken Phoebee is the real one.  And the beautiful, smooth "phee-bee" call is from the Chickadee.

I cannot believe for all these years I've been confidently announcing the return of our Phoebes, when it's just a Phoebe impersonator who's been around all winter.  I should have asked them to spell it.  Turns out Phoebes are saying "phoe-be".


  1. I love this post! Brings the sounds of spring to my ears. My father and his sister use to study birds (back in the day when they didn't have TV, he would say). I've learned to listen to the call of birds. I love the impersonator description. Cute. MaryHelen

  2. Now I'll have to listen for the chick-a-dees. I think they do say 'chick-a-dee, dee, dee, but also 'phee-bee'. What a discovery, & what a great title. Makes me wonder how many other 'phakes' we've grown up with?


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