Tuesday, October 16, 2007


A Common Yellowthroat--Geothlypis trichas satisfies his curiosity by coming out to take a peek.

Now, for those of you who are beginning birders, pishing is not about someone trying to get your personal banking information. Pishing is one of those onomatopoeic words like snort, buzz, sizzle, click, pop, cheep, chirp, caw, squawk, twitter, and peep that sound like the noise they name. Pishing is a trick we birders pull out of our khaki hats to make sure birds not only notice us, but that they go out on a limb and take a good look. We then also get a good look. Strictly speaking, pishing is a sound that sounds like PSH PSH made with mouth closed, low volume, but explosive lip action. Kind of like keeping your mouth closed and saying Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers in an Irish whisper. It has been expanded to mean every bird-like noise a birder can make from squeaks to trills to smooching their our own hand. As entertaining as all this is to our fellow birders, friends, and relatives, it may sound like life or death to a bird. And so they come out to take a peek to see if danger is near. Imagine their dismay to find only bird paparazzi. Seriously, pishing is helpful in moderation. You can pish into wind, but there are rules. Don't wear it out or it may not work. Don't harm birds by using it at inappropriate times such as spring near nesting birds. They are raising young and need to protect and nurture them so that we can have more birds to pish at. Please don't interrupt them. Don't pish when a Cooper's Hawk is sitting in the tree behind you. He may appreciate it and follow you to the next tree, but the bird you attract will be munched. Unfair advantage, hawk. Basic rule of thumb: Do no harm. But away from nesting birds and predators, an occasional pish may attract a feathered audience that you can then observe and learn from them. So, have fun out there, be moderate, and by all means, pish!

Pishing Links

BBC Article on Pishing

Article on Pishing from Bird Watch Canada

The Fine Art of Pishing

Wikipedia Article on Pishing

Wildbird on the Fly: Article on Pishing

This is the blog from the editor of Wildbird. This article is funny and informative and has sound effects. Really. Push the "play" button and you can hear two sound bits of pishing.

Greater Akron Audubon Newsletter with Article on Pishing and Pete Dunne

You have to go through the Newsletter to find the beginning of the Article "The Art of Pishing." Pete Dunne came to their meeting and spoke on the subject. Good article.

Why Pishing Works

Scholarly article on pishing.

The Art of Pishing from the University of Michigan

Julie Crave talks about pishing. Author of amusing essay "Shush and Pish" in the book Good Birder's Don't Wear White. She is supervisor of avian research for the Rouge River Bird Observatory in Dearborn, Michigan. If you buy the book through them, part of the fee goes toward the operation of the observatory.


Basic Pishing Demo by Pete Dunne

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