Singing a new song |

Singing a new song

Are our chickadees learning?

Signs of spring are finally upon us. The last three mornings, around 6 o’clock, we’ve wakened to hear a male chickadee courtship song consisting of three notes: a descending whole step followed by a half step (B-flat to A-flat to G). So unusual is this song that we assume it’s the same individual.

When we first heard his song about a week ago, he was singing just the two-note half step (A-flat to G). In our experience, chickadees sing two-note whole steps, not half steps, with a starting note anywhere between B and G. Over the next few days this bird added the initial B-flat, creating the three-note song.

We wonder how the variations in song develop in the individual. Since the three-note with half-step song seems to be rare, it is unlikely that he learned it from his father or a fellow chickadee.

It is possible that he improvised the new song and prefers it over the traditional song. We wonder whether the three-note song affects his attractiveness to hens. We do not know whether the songster is a black-capped or mountain chickadee.

N. Thomas and R. Davis


Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User