As a naturalist, I’ve always wanted to instill the need to pay attention. As mentioned in earlier blog, I’ve always had a keen interest in bird song. As noted, hearing loss, has hampered my ability to identify the number of birds by songs and calls. According to one recent federal survey, bird watching is the fastest growing outdoor recreational activity in the U.S. With the surge in interest comes a corresponding interest in learning bird songs and learning why birds sing.

A trick in learning some bird songs is to use mnemonics.  According to the Oxford Dictionary, mnemonics is a device such as a pattern of letters, ideas, or associations that assists in remembering something. One of the most popular mnemonic devices has been used by generations of school kids to recall when Columbus sailed to the new world : “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” Bird enthusiasts often use words and phrases to help them remember bird calls/songs. For example, the spring song of a cardinal sounds like it is repeating “Cheer! Cheer! Cheer!

Through the years, I had collected various bird song mnemonics from various bird field guides and birders. Some of the phrases are downright silly and others are simply proper nouns. One day, back in 2005, I put together a sheet of the phrases as learning aids to use in a class on birding. My right brain hijacked the moment and as I looked the phrases over, I started arranging them together to create a sort-of-conversation between the bird species.

The first stanza refers to the advent of summer, going to Canada and taking it easy with some favorite brews. The second stanza is all about an enthusiastic greeting and introductions to a hard-of-hearing friend. The third section clearly addresses school bullying and the following not-so- politically-correct disciplinary actions meted out by the teacher. Each line of the poem is the mnemonic phrase of a different species of bird. And the final stanza offers a treat and a taste of tea followed by a query about the chef.

I shared the poem with some colleagues and they encouraged me to propose airing it on Minnesota Public Radio. So in the early days of spring I managed to navigate my way to the public radio Program Manager and he thought it was a fun idea.    I suggested that after each line was read that they air an actual recording of the bird. Knowing Public Radio likely did not have a collection of bird songs, I suggested they contact the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology to obtain the necessary recordings.  The library is the world’s largest and oldest scientific archive of biodiversity audio and video recordings.

So in honor of a most tardy spring I am going to resurrect the poem.  Accompanying each line is the identification of the songster or caller. Now get outside and bend your ear towards something really meaningful. Sit down and listen to the poem, preferably in the early morning when birds are most boisterous.

Note: When you click on A Dawn Chorus, a box will appear that says, “No Preview Available.” Click on “Download Anyway.” That will direct you to a box where you have the option of hitting”Download Anyway.” That’s your call. . . but there were no bugs when I posted it.

If you want me to send you the aired recording you will have to contact me at Tom <at> AligningwithNature [dot] com

A Dawn Chorus

Sweet, sweet, summer sweet. (Yellow Warbler)

Oh sweet Canada, Canada, Canada  (White-throated Sparrow)

I am so lazy. (Black-throated Blue Warbler)

Quick-three-beers! (Olive-sided Flycatcher)

Lazy daisey. (Golden-cheeked Warbler)


Please, please to meet you! (Chestnut sided Warbler)

Who? Who? Who?  (Great Horned Owl)

Old Man MULDOON, MULDOON, MULDOON  (Prairie Chicken)

Who? who? who?  (Great Horned Owl)

JAY! JAY! JAY!  (Blue Jay)

Who? Who? Who?  (Great Horned Owl)

PETER!, PETER!, PETER! (Tufted Titmouse)

Here I am, way up here, see me? (Red-eyed Vireo)

Here sweety!  (Black-capped Chickadee)


Creeep! Creeep! Creeep!   (Least Sandpiper)

I’ll grab you and I’ll hold you and I’ll squeeze you til you squirt!  (Warbling Vireo)

Teacher! Teacher! Teacher!   (Ovenbird)

Sweet, sweet, I’ll switch you!  (Chestnut-sided Warbler)

Whip-Poor-Will! Whip-Poor-Will!  (Whippoorwill)

Weep, Weep, Weep!  (Great Crested Flycatcher)


Plum puddin, plum puddin, plum puddin!  (American Bittern)

Potato chips……potato chips……potato chips.  (American Goldfinch)

Tea kettle, Tea kettle, Tea kettle!  (Carolina Wren)

Tea-for-two, Tea-for -two! (Ash-throated Flycatcher)

Drink-your tea!  (Rufous-sided Towhee)


Who-cooks-for-you-all?  (Barred Owl)


(Copyright 2005 Tom Anderson)














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