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MASTER PISH THEATER (Spring Bird Walks Anyone?)

By Nic.Korte

     I stole the title of this post from a competition once held at a convention of the Colorado Field Ornithologists ( Yes, it was a “pishing contest.” You can read into that anything you want.

    The truth is, birders do “pish.” I do it by pursing my lips together and blowing out gently giving a psshhhh sound. Others, by moving their tongue slightly, create a sound like air escaping a balloon—ppsssss. It is done repetitively as in psshhhh, psshhhh, psshhhh.  We do this because some birds are curious about who or what would make such a silly sound and either pop into view or approach the pisher. An example is the mountain chickadee. I was walking on a trail a few days ago and heard birds chirping high in some spruce trees. Not seeing them and not having binoculars, I resorted to pishing, and out popped a couple of mountain chickadees. (Note, these are closely related, but not the same species as the more familiar black-capped chickadee:



Chickadees, if it is not nesting season, are often curious and will fly quite close.

Another reliable “pishee” is the song sparrow. The latter live in deep thickets along streams, but they will reliably pop up when pished. 


    It is important that we not overlook the matter of pishing etiquette. Let’s say you are a beginning birder. Maybe you have come to one of Grand Valley Audubon Society’s spring bird walks. (Keep an eye on and the Grand Valley Audubon Society Facebook page because times and locations will vary.). So, there you are, among a group of birders, and you are asking yourself. “Should I pish?” The answer is “No.” Pishing is left for leaders. Too many people making sounds will drive birds away not attract them. Besides, a number of birds are not attracted to pishing and might be frightened if you don’t know what you are pishing for.

     Fortunately, few beginning birders would be tempted to “pish.” There really isn’t much more to birding etiquette besides listening to your leader, being quiet, and not wearing bright or noisy clothing. An excellent reference on the subject is “Good Birders Don’t Wear White: 50 Tips from North America’s Top Birders.” But, better than reading the book (which is mostly common sense), is going birding.

    Join one of Grand Valley Audubon’s Spring Bird Walks--every Wednesday and Saturday beginning March 29 at 8AM at the Connected Lakes Entrance Kiosk. A Parks Pass is needed.  The April 2 walk will meet at 9AM at the beginning of the Audubon Trail in the parking lot near Albertson's.   Walks are free to everyone. There will be "loaner" binoculars for beginners and the leader will go over a checklist of birds seen following the walk.  Expect the walk to take 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  . Follow the GVAS Facebook page, the website ( or send an email to to find out where to go and when to meet for the other walks. You will learn a lot and have an enjoyable beginning to your day.  This post was provided by Nic Korte, Grand Valley Audubon Society. To ask questions or suggest blog topics, send an email to


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