My life is about living with nature – here you can live it with me!

Pishing [video]

Pishing is when birders are “trying” to attract the attention of some little birdie by doing a “phhhhh phhhh – psst psst psst” sound. So many times I have found myself with a few non birding friends . . . then break out a few pish sounds after seeing a chickadee in the brush! My friends just don’t understand and I find myself explaining why I made those strange sounds and that “I am not going crazy”!

Chickadee getting ready for fall
Black-capped Chickadee (Sep 2006).

Pishing works because the sound is similar to many songbirds alarm call which could require these birds to arrive and assist in mobbing the unknown predator. Coopers or Sharp-shinned Hawks catch their prey by surprise and if there isn’t a surprise . . . . well, the hawks will not be able to catch any food and then fly away (works for the little guys)! Pishing will easily bringing in Chickadees but as soon as you get the Chickadee’s attention the other birds (nuthatch, titmouse, kinglets, etc..) will start to follow. On occasion pishing does scare away those birds you are trying to attract (so use pishing with caution)! Many sparrows or warblers will sometimes popup for a second when being pished and then quickly flee away! That can sometimes be enough time for a quick identification of your confusing fall warbler or little brown job.

Sorry dial-up friends 3:20 video clip!

Every birder will pish in a different ways and the above video is what works for “me”. I would love to hear many of your pishing stories . . . . I know everyone has some!


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37 responses

  1. Sorry everyone, took longer than expected to upload this video! Got it post now though!

    28 November 2007 at 10:23 pm

  2. I pished right along with you! That was so fun. I never pished before. I will try this tomorrow in the backyard and see what my birds think of it.
    My husband uses duck and geese calls. I turn on a cd of different birds that was recorded in the woods. I do not know if it really brings any birds to the backyard but I have seen Cooper’s Hawk on the deck looking around for the birds he hears!
    Thanks so much. Lots of fun.
    Sherry

    28 November 2007 at 10:53 pm

  3. That was great! I’ve not tried this before, but am going to first chance I get…

    28 November 2007 at 11:01 pm

  4. yea Tom! that was great. I had to call Don up to hear it also. Now I know how to pish.
    Like Sherry I might have to try this in my yard tomorrow.

    28 November 2007 at 11:05 pm

  5. I watched that with a big grin on my face. A great way to teach pishing!
    You are too cute. Loved it!

    28 November 2007 at 11:36 pm

  6. Thanks for the video–cool to see how the birds responded (including the stately geese, who seemed to want to know what the heck you thought you were doing. *L*)
    Although I’ve never pished, I do whistle a little bird-like call when I go to put seed out. My local birds seem to realize that it means food. Using it on a hike up in Canada once a bird nearly flew right into my face (I was so startled I didn’t catch the species.)
    Years ago I taught myself how to trill like a red-winged blackbird. It’s more difficult than you’d think (involving whistling & gurgling at the same time,) & I’m so out of practice I doubt I could do it anymore.
    I used to know a birder who could hand feed a wild (or perhaps semi-tamed?) blue jay that he called “Petey” peanuts. He brought me out back once, held up a peanut on his gloved finger & called. Within a minute or so Petey was there, enjoying the nut. Unfortunately one year Petey just never came back, but I was glad to have had the experience, at any rate.

    28 November 2007 at 11:49 pm

  7. Wow, Mon@arch — that’s fantastic! What a great, great video. My children were riveted and were pishing their hearts out along with you! :) I am bookmarking this one! Fantastic!

    29 November 2007 at 12:09 am

  8. NaturesPalette

    This is interesting to watch. I’ve always wondered what pishing really was…it’s not the same when a book tries to explain a sound.

    29 November 2007 at 3:35 am

  9. Lisa at Greenbow

    My pishing usually only attracts Song Sparrows everything else heads the opposite direction.

    29 November 2007 at 5:30 am

  10. Oh, HOW fun that was Tom! Did you hear me pishing with you? :c) I am definitely going to have to try this technique. Thanks for the great instructive video… uh, does it matter that my pish has a Southern accent? LOL!

    29 November 2007 at 6:56 am

  11. Marg

    Oh you are a good phisher-why am I not surprised? I’m a good chickadee and cardinal whistler but that’s about it. I’m very impressed that Lana can trill like a Red Winged-I’d love to be able to do that!

    29 November 2007 at 7:27 am

  12. You are an excellent pisher and a born teacher! I can’t pish until I have my cuppa tea this morning, but will have to give it a try.

    29 November 2007 at 7:45 am

  13. I haven’t had much luck pishing on my own so I was pishing along with you in hopes for a more successful technique (I liked it!). My new-ish adult cat, Scratchy, did not like it at all! She meowed angrily and slapped at my face to stop. She also got rather agitated around the computer. She doesn’t love singing either. Itchy, her brother, wasn’t bothered by the whole ordeal but he’s very mellow. Great way to start my day with a laugh – thanks!

    29 November 2007 at 7:53 am

  14. I have had success pishing especially with the birds you mentioned. Yellow-rumps love it too. It will often elicit a “chuck” note from a Hermit Thrush too. Screech Owl and Pygmy Owl calls seem to work well too.

    A friend of mine wants to title his birding memoirs “Pishing into the Wind.”

    29 November 2007 at 10:18 am

  15. Of course I was pishing with you!
    And it worked too!
    Gael (one of our border collies) ran over to see what was going on. Now I am going outdoors to try it. lol

    29 November 2007 at 10:48 am

  16. Cute Chickadee….I believe we have the Carolina ones here rather than the Black capped – however it is very hard for me to tell. I have see 3 different ones at my feeder today…. at the same time. They were either in the feeder or the trees beside the feeder. I was surprised because the most I had ever seen were 2 at once. Maybe they are just hungry…it was cold this morning.

    29 November 2007 at 11:44 am

  17. Excellent pishing video and lesson. I’ve never pished before, but I will the next time we’re out in the woods. Just hearing those chickadees reminded me of our yard in Washington, a sound I haven’t heard since we arrived in California.

    29 November 2007 at 11:57 am

  18. @ sherry – thanks and glad you did! really do it with attitude and they will come right in! Interesting about the Coopers! Thanks
    @ Rondi – I sure hope you do, it is fun when you are able to pish in your first bird! Non birders will think you have some magic or something!
    @ toni – so glad you guys watch this together! Can’t wait to hear if it works or not!
    @ Susan – I felt almost like Rosie with her post! Thanks! I doubt that I will make inside edition though!
    @ Lana – what’s funny . . . . you know how many takes I did with those geese?? I bet they were like “whatever”! I love when I am talking and the geese are mooning me looking for food! Was an extra + to the post! Almost like the dogs, all I need to do is open the cabinet a certain time of the day and the cats come running! very cool with the red-wings! BTW: NaturePalette has a wonderful post on feeding birds with your hand! Check it out at: http://naturespalette.wordpress.com/2007/11/27/book-review-hand-feeding-backyard-birds/
    @ Liz – those are the kinds of things I teach the kids just before the jump back onto the school bus! those Bus Drivers must hate me! Thanks
    @ NaturePalette – You really need to go out with someone that does it really good! Sometimes whenever you use the screech owl call mixed in (should have added that to the video) the birds go ape nuts! Love your picture in your recent post!
    @ Lisa – Pishing does work with sparrows! Thanks
    @ jayne – I was listening and to be honest after working on that video for so long, I heard pishing all in my sleep! (or maybe that was you guys??)! I think the Southern birds prefer the southern Accent over mine! I don’t know Spanish and probably part the reason the neo-tropical migrants don’t respond to me as much!
    @ marg – I am alright, but have heard much better pishers! I only showed you the good clips, not the ones where I couldn’t get anything to come in! I had some Dark-eyed Juncos that looked at me . . . then fled the opposite direction!
    @ Ruth – thanks and just enjoy what I do! cup of tea and little pishing makes your morning much more enjoyable!
    @ Beth – the best way of learning is practicing with others! That’s funny with your cats and my cats when putting the video together were interested! not because of my voice but the chickadees in the background! Thanks!
    @ Patrick – yes, Yellow-rumps (certain times of the year though) have worked very well for me! thanks again and love that book title! I think he should start a blog with that title!
    @ threecollie – So glad you were and that’s funny your border collie ran right over! Hope it works and don’t let your neighbors catch you pishing!!!
    @ kerri – not sure where you are at but it is very possible! always fun to see at the feeders! Thanks
    @ Robin – Thanks and there is always a first time! Glad you enjoyed them!

    29 November 2007 at 12:28 pm

  19. Marg; I USED to be able to trill…I haven’t done it in at least 10 years now, so I may have “lost it” by this point. Unfortunately I haven’t seen ANY red-winged blackbirds since I’ve moved to Louisiana, so there hasn’t been much reason to trill, but I’ll have to give it a shot later & see if I can still do it.

    Mon@rch; Yes–the mooning was classic! *L* Thanks for the tip on the hand-feeding link, I’ll have to check that out.
    I’d also forgotten until this morning that I used to attract vultures when hiking in the woods by breaking twigs. If they were in the area, it never failed. They’d just HAVE to investigate that sound.
    I’d also forgotten one of my greatest joys from Canada–playing “hide & seek” with crows out in the woods. I’d duck under some dense cover & start cawing & they’d do multiple & various fly-bys (individually & in groups,) trying to find me. Once I was found, they’d call the whole flock together to circle overhead, cawing as if to say, “THERE it is!” Most of our first games were very short, but once I realized how amazingly clever crows actually are we could play for hours.
    All birds down here are different, however. Much more skittish, not interested in “hide & seek” (even BEFORE Hurricane Katrina.) Kind of a bummer, really…

    29 November 2007 at 3:26 pm

  20. WOW!!!! WOW!!! Zoey instantly ran out to try it and had three black-capped and two boreals checking her out. You really have an excellent ability to educate and it is greatly appreciated up here. Thanks!

    29 November 2007 at 4:02 pm

  21. When you were making the “mice” like sound, were you using the little red bird caller, or were you just using your pishing?

    Great lesson on pishing and it did work on the Waxwings!

    29 November 2007 at 4:16 pm

  22. Pishing right along with you, okay, maybe a little late, but I’m here pishing! I’ll have to give it a try next time I’m outside in the daylight!!
    Very cool video Tom and I like hearing you pish and watching the birdies respond!
    Thanks for the education! You rock!

    29 November 2007 at 5:38 pm

  23. Our internet connection was down all day but finally I get to see the pishing in action video! I’ve read about it before but never would have known what the actual sounds were suppose to be until now. That is just terrific! You should be a full-time video blogger. That video just explained so much more than words could have. Take us along on all your nature outings via video, ha. I just loved it. I can’t wait to show my husband how to pish.

    29 November 2007 at 6:52 pm

  24. Gosh, Mon@rch, that was such a great video. I’ve read about pishing, but never actually heard it done before. I’m going to try this on my red-breasted nuthatches and chickadees. Will the little red bird call have similar results? (because I have one of those too)

    29 November 2007 at 8:32 pm

  25. @ Lana – Glad you visited P’s post on the feeder birds! I have done the hide & seek many times with my camera! LOL thanks for sharing!
    @ Trixie – LOL< so glad you enjoyed this! Not sure if you remember but a few weeks ago you kind asked about pishing and I told you I would do something! Tada! Very cool with Zoey having this work!
    @ YN-J – I was using my voice but sometimes I will use the back of my hand to make that noise! Although, would have been hard since I was holding the camera! Well, they kinda flew away but I did call in the chickadees! Junco’s didn’t seem that impressed also!
    @ Pam – So glad you gave this a try and next time you are out on a hike! Works like a charm (sometimes)! Thanks
    @ Erie – Sorry to hear about your internet connections! Video blogging isn’t that easy! That clip took me over an hour to upload at 80mb clip! That was compressed from the original 227MB’s! I am willing to give it another try! I felt a little like rosie who regularly do video bloggin!
    @ Ruthie – thanks and do give it a try! I have one of those red squeakers on my camera! Use all the time also!

    29 November 2007 at 9:13 pm

  26. Great instructional video!!!! That was neat. I tried it with you, I hope you heard it! I’m going to remember that sound the next time I go for a hike, maybe I’ll record my results or lack of LOL! :)

    29 November 2007 at 10:49 pm

  27. I just watched a news report on a boy in St. Louis who makes all kinds of bird calls and animal noises. He was very talented. He was even on Ellen. That is pretty neat that you can do bird calls. ~nita~

    30 November 2007 at 12:04 am

  28. winterwoman

    You remind me of Peter Pan getting all the kids in the Audience to clap if they believe in fairies to bring Tinkerbell back to life.

    30 November 2007 at 5:51 am

  29. @ Chicago – thanks and glad you tried it with me! Just make sure you do it with attitude!
    @ Nita – LOL, I just pish but can do a screech owl, well kinda!
    @ winterwoman – Thomas Pan?? LOL hope others also do it!

    30 November 2007 at 12:49 pm

  30. Tom, THANK YOU! I pished right along with you. I’ve never pished before, but I did hear our guide pish on a bird walk.

    Tomorrow, I will do a little pishing at my house and let you know how it goes. I just never think of doing it. I have many Chickadees out there and I wonder what their reaction will be!

    Loved your video.

    30 November 2007 at 9:51 pm

  31. Pishing geese-Pretty funny! I’ve had flocks of chickadees fly right towards my head when I pish.-Sometimes I have scared some birds off so I don’t pish all the time.-Cool video idea!

    2 December 2007 at 8:53 pm

  32. @ Mary – saw your post and glad it turned out soo good! Thanks
    @ Larry – I kinda thought it was funny! They just seemed to ignore me the whole time! Thanks

    3 December 2007 at 7:14 pm

  33. Oh such fun. I am reading this at night, so I will have to wait until tomorrow to pish!
    I really enjoyed this post.

    3 December 2007 at 8:51 pm

  34. I’m very excited to have just discovered your blog and I look forward to reading through it. I’d not heard of pishing before and found your video to be educational, interesting and amusing.
    I have always used the psss sound to call my kitty and she always, (well, when she’s in the mood) comes when I do that. I’ll have to try the bird calling, (pishing) sometimes to see if I get a response, from the birds not the cat.

    4 December 2007 at 8:55 pm

  35. @ KGMom – I hope it worked? Thanks
    @ Robin- so glad you discovered me! My cat’s just ignore me if I pish them! Please subscribe to my site and plan on heading over to your site to check it out!

    4 December 2007 at 9:43 pm

  36. Grace

    I was just out getting some pix of deer. Silly animals were keeping their heads down, so I tried pishing. Worked! They looked up and didn’t spook.

    8 December 2007 at 5:22 pm

  37. That’s fantastic a really great tip as a Scottish person, a little strangely named but none the less a great tip thanks a lot

    26 August 2008 at 10:56 pm

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