Sunday, June 6, 2010

Do You Hear Me Now? Pishing, Does It Work? Is It Cool?

Recently, a friend who enjoys feeder birds enthusiastically, but is not a birder in the capital 'B' sense, asked,  "What is pishing?"
Pishing is the name given to the sounds that birders make to get birds to turn to them, or sometimes to take flight, so that the birder can get a better look. Scientists use the technique to increase the effectiveness of bird diversity surveys; more birds identified means better survey results. I use pishing to get birds to turn to me for photographs. All of the birds in the above collages were responding to my pishing for photographs.  Sometimes, the birds will emerge from the interior of brush toward the birder to investigate the noise. To pish, all you do is say "pish-pish-pish" softly and repeatedly making a kind of squealing sound on the front end and shooshing on the back end. Clench your front teeth, open your lips and whisper the word 'pish' or kiss the back of your hand.  You can also follow that with chatter, "Chit-chit-chit" uttered sharply. But truthfully, anything goes. You could read The Gettysburg Address, recite poetry or sing country western tunes and it might work. I make a high pitched reedy sound by forcing air over my tongue which is parked at the back of my top front teeth. In my experience, raptors, like the Bald eagle and Broad-winged hawk above, find that specific noise of interest over conventional pish-pishing. Maybe it sounds more like a rodent squealing to them. Who knows. Some think that the reason birds respond to pishing is because the sounds resemble the scolding noises and alarm calls made by small birds mobbing or fleeing a predator. Birders and scientists frown upon the use of pishing beyond getting the bird's attention for identification purposes. It's not okay to disturb, scare the birds or otherwise alter their behavior for your own amusement. I also whistle in imitation as closely as I can the whistling of the bird I'm trying to attract. Northern Cardinals and Tufted titmice are especially responsive to this and will return my whistles nearly endlessly. Chickadees are a good subject for learning to pish as they are sociable by nature and will reward your efforts. No matter how silly you may feel doing it or bad you are at it, Chickadees will turn to you. The birds have told me though that they don't like head banging heavy metal acid rock. Only the Grackles,  Starlings and Cowbirds go in for that kind of noise. If that's who you want at your feeders, crank up the volume and let the tunes rock!
 (Clockwise from the top of the first collage, the birds are: Eastern Phoebe, Rose-breasted grosbeak, Northern hawk owl, Black-capped chickadee, Baltimore oriole. Clockwise from the top of the second collage, the birds are: Cedar waxwing, Canada goose and goslings, Catbird, Canada goose and goslings, Barred owlet, Broad-winged hawk, Bald eagle, Scarlet tanager, Tufted titmouse, White-crowned sparrow, White-breasted nuthatch)
Amazon has a bunch of books on pishing. Click here for more on that:
 There's a very informative and interesting PDF file on pishing here:
Thanks to Wikipedia  for some of the information.
Posted by Picasa


  1. Soooo thats what pishing is. Guess you learn something every day !!
    Thanx RRR


  2. Growing up my grandmother called me a "pisher"; in Yiddish that's a little boy who wets his
    pants; so Grandma means, you're still a little boy! Didn't know all those years I was getting the birds to look at me!

  3. Nice informative post---keep it coming!!! I think I'm going pishing!!! :} :}

  4. Keep on the good work on your blog, I love it it