Vancouver’s Chickadees Sing a Different Tune

 A PhD student from UNBC has been working in Vancouver Parks on a chickadee communication project. Stefanie LaZerte’s research aims to document whether chickadees change their territorial calls in response to increasing background noise – i.e. do urban and rural birds sing differently?  She recently arrived in Vancouver and met with Stanley Park Ecology Society (SPES) staff and has begun working with SPES volunteers in parks throughout Vancouver.

Although her field season has just begun in early April, she has already discovered an interesting anomaly in the data. When she compared the spectrograms (or sonograms) of a black-capped chickadee’s ‘fee-bee’ song from Stanley Park to an individual’s song from a park in Prince George, she found that the
Stanley Park bird has an extra ‘click’ sound in the middle of its song.  The most common form of the black-capped chickadee song does not include a ‘click’, and so it seems that there may be a regional variation in the common fee-bee song for Vancouver chickadees.

The special Vancouver chickadee ‘click’ s shown as a vertical line from about 5 – 7 kHz right between the ‘fee’ and ‘bee’ on the spectrogram. The sound is described as a tongue click, and has not been found yet in other areas. The amplitude or loudness of the song is shown by the colours, with red being the loudest.