Birdcaller ID
May 5, 2012 10:52 AM   Subscribe

Trying to identify a (possibly migrating) bird by its call, which sounded like CHEE-fo-TEE-TEE. I heard it in southwest Pennsylvania in April. My attempt at mimicking the call is inside.

I'm pretty accustomed to the particular mix of birdsong in our area. One afternoon in mid-April, I heard a call I don't ever remember hearing before, which sounded as I described above the fold: A high CHEE, a low, quieter fo, and then a TEE TEE at a note between the two. I made a terrible recording with my laptop (apologies for quality and my voice breaking, but the pitch and timing is pretty much dead on what I heard) which you can hear here.

I heard the call maybe six times one day, then nothing for several days, then again a couple times a few days later, and that was it - never since, which makes me wonder if it was a rarer or possibly migratory bird.

I listened to all the Pennsyvania birdsong on this page, and didn't come up with anything that I thought it could be.

Any ideas, flock mind? Thanks for your help.
posted by jocelmeow to Science & Nature (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
White-throated sparrow? This page has a link to a sound file.
posted by zadcat at 11:34 AM on May 5, 2012

Response by poster: Nope, that doesn't sound like it.
posted by jocelmeow at 11:49 AM on May 5, 2012

American Goldfinch? Listen to the end of the "Calls, high, wiry whistles and soft ti chi chi" recording at the bottom of the page.
posted by ljesse at 3:02 PM on May 5, 2012

Response by poster: That doesn't seem to be it either - it was quite a loud, clear, melodious call, not in the least warbly.
posted by jocelmeow at 3:18 PM on May 5, 2012

Did it sound like this?
posted by figment of my conation at 4:40 PM on May 5, 2012

It's not Chee-fo-Tee-Tee, it's Chickadee-dee.
posted by Carlotta Bananas at 4:48 PM on May 5, 2012

Response by poster: It's definitely neither a mourning dove nor a chickadee. The chickadee's characteristic call is too wiry - this was a seriously melodious bird, one that grabbed my attention immediately because of how different it was than most of what I hear. Our yard is overrun with robins, jays, and most of all song sparrows, and this was totally different.
posted by jocelmeow at 5:01 PM on May 5, 2012

Possibly Eastern Towhee
posted by birdwatcher at 5:00 AM on May 6, 2012

Response by poster: In terms of comparing it with the Eastern Towhee, the CHEE didn't scoop upward like the ET's "WHEE," and it was even clearer than the ET. The middle note was a clear, whistling "fo" as compared to the ET's slightly buzzy tone, and the "TEE TEE" was not as chirrupy as the ET's last note.
posted by jocelmeow at 7:12 AM on May 6, 2012

Response by poster: I finally got a recording of Mystery Bird! You can hear it here. Pardon how short it is - I had to jump up and jumping up is very difficult for me. You can hear the bird I'm trying to identify at 0:05 and slightly cut off at the end. I heard it twice on Saturday and twice today. Elusive little bugger!
posted by jocelmeow at 4:00 PM on June 4, 2012

Couch's Kingbird?
posted by ljesse at 8:28 PM on June 7, 2012

Response by poster: Nope, ljesse, that's not it either.

As an update, I haven't heard the bird since mid-June. I sort of wonder if it was a bird from the tropics or something, thousands of miles off course, but I have no way to know how likely that would be.
posted by jocelmeow at 8:07 AM on August 25, 2012

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