Getting Close to Birds

Birding is a stealthful activity. When you are having trouble finding or reaching birds, it is useful to know how to attract them to you.

Start in the early morning when birds are louder, more evident, and more active. Songbirds are their most abundant in the spring. Listening for calls and songs, survey brushy areas where birds may be foraging.

Move slowly and quietly, staying away from horizon lines where you will be most visible. If you stand still or crouch behind some cover or even in your car, birds may not feel threatened and will continue with their routines.

Although it requires skill, some birders attract birds by imitating their songs and calls. Pishing and squeaking are sounds humans can make that simulate a bird's distress calls. Because they sound like an alarm note that announces the presence of a predator, pishing and squeaking may elicit mobbing behavior in small land birds.

Pronounce the word “pish” in a long, drawn-out exhale with sibilance or a hiss at the end. Squeaking is a sound made by sucking on your hand. Both will bring songbirds closer. Squeaking also attracks hawks that may think the sounds are mice or small birds. Frequently, owls will respond to hooting imitations. In fact, timber people in the Northwest use hoots to determine the presence of an endangered species, the Spotted Owl. The Audubon Bird Call is a manufactured call that serves the same purpose. Human sound-making is more effective during breeding season when birds are most territorial.

Birders with less finesse may wish to play back prerecorded vocalizations from a portable cassette recorder to attract others of the species. Or you can make your own recordings and replay them. However, repeated broadcasts may distract birds from their nests or cause them to leave the area.

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