what bird calls peter peter

Voice.–The notes of the tufted titmouse are many and varied, mostly loud and generally pleasing; it is a noisy bird. Aretas A. Saunders has sent me the following excellent notes on the subject: “The loud, whistled call of the tufted titmouse, commonly translated as peto, peto, is in about the same status as song as the phoebe whistle of the chickadee. That is, it is used by both sexes and, apparently, at almost any season of the year. Also, like the chickadee, the birds respond to an imitation and come to the imitator very readily.

“The song is loud, clear, and lower-pitched than the chickadees phoebe. It is also quite variable; I have a number of records and no two of them are alike. The song consists of a two-note phrase, repeated over and over three to eleven times, according to my records. The two-note phrase is more frequently with the first note high and the second low. The interval between may be one, one and one-half, or two tones. The pitch of the notes varies in different songs, or different individuals, from A” to A”, that is, between the highest of two As on the piano. The majority of songs in my records are between E” and C”. “Sometimes the two-note phrase sounds like peto, at other times like wheedle or taydle. When the pitch goes up, instead of down, the phrase is commonly written daytee; the same pitches and pitch intervals are common but it often sounds like toolee, and sometimes the first note is short, and it is like tleet or tlit. I have recorded all these variations in the field, writing down what each particular song sounded like to me at the time it was heard.

“An occasional phrase slurs down, like teeoh, and there are rarely phrases of three notes, such as wheedleoh, or of one note, whee, each repeated a number of times. Sometimes a song begins or ends with notes unlike the rest, as tidi, waytee, waytee, waytee, etc., or wheedle, wheedle, wheedle, whee, whee.”

Dr. Dickey mentions a number of slightly different interpretations of some of the above notes, and adds some that are quite different, such as piper-tee, piper-tee, piper-tee; ah-peer, ah-peer; chee-chu, chee-chep; and wheep-did-er-ee, ending with purty-purty-purty.

Nuttall (1832) devotes considerable space to the voice of the tufted titmouse, and aptly remarks that “though his voice, on paper, may appear to present only a list of quaint articulations. . .yet the delicacy, energy, pathos, and variety of his simple song, like many other things in nature, are far beyond the feeble power of description.” He mentions a very lively and agreeable call of whip-tom-killy-killy; and then, “in a lower, hoarser, harsh voice, and in a peevish tone, exactly like that of the Jay and the Chickadee, day-day-day-day, and day-day-day-day-dait; sometimes this loud note changed into one which became low and querulous. On some of these occasions he also called tshica dee-dee. The jarring call would then change occasionally into kai-tee-did did-dit-did.”

Several other observers have noted the resemblance of some of these notes to the notes of the Carolina chickadee. The single whistled call sounds like the whistle of a man calling his dog. It can readily be seen from a study of the above interpretations how easy it is for a novice to confuse the voice of the titmouse with that of the Carolina wren, the chickadee, or even the cardinal. All observers agree that the titmouse is a loud and persistent singer for nearly all the year; it is a joy to hear it tuning up in January, when so many other birds are silent. The song increases in frequency and intensity when the nuptial season approaches in February; early in spring its oft-repeated peto note is given so constantly that it may become monotonous and even tiresome. No wonder that the bird is locally known as the “Peter bird.”

Voice. The tufted titmouse is a noisy bird with a wide variety of notes that are typically loud and aesthetically pleasing. Aretas A. I received the following excellent notes on the subject from Saunders: “The tufted titmouse’s loud, whistled call, which is often translated as peto, peto, is in about the same status as song as the chickadee’s phoebe whistle.” In other words, it is utilized by people of all genders and seemingly throughout the year. Moreover, the birds react to imitations and approach the imitator with great ease, just like the chickadee.

Here are examples of sounds made by Tufted Titmice. Here are some examples of popular songs along with references to other people’s descriptions and identifications of them. Furthermore, I have attempted to provide some context for the vocalizations that are commonly grouped together as “calls.” Similar calls can be found at xeno-canto, where numerous contributors have identified various kinds in their comments on the recordings. However, I am not aware of anyone who has done so in a methodical and thorough manner. I’ve categorized calls according to their primary frequency, resemblance to Chickadee calls, and likely usage. Next, I’ve provided instances of increasingly intricate noises and sounds that arise in intricate bird interactions.

Dr. Dickey adds some notes that are quite different, like piper-tee, piper-tee, piper-tee; ah-peer, ah-peer; chee-chu, chee-chep; and wheep-did-er-ee, ending with purty-purty-purty. Dickey also mentions a number of slightly different interpretations of some of the notes mentioned above.

The tufted titmouse’s voice receives a lot of attention in Nuttall’s (1832) work, which aptly notes that “though his voice, on paper, may appear to present only a list of quaint articulations” However, like many other things in nature, the subtlety, vigor, pathos, and variety of his straightforward song are beyond the pale capacity for description. Then, “in a lower, hoarser, harsh voice, and in a peevish tone, exactly like that of the Jay and the Chickadee, day-day-day-day, and day-day-day-day-dait; sometimes this loud note changed into one which became low and querulous.” He describes a very lively and agreeable call of whip-tom-killy-killy. On some of these occasions he also called tshica dee-dee. The jarring call would then change occasionally into kai-tee-did did-dit-did. “.

“Compared to Chickadees Phoebe, the song is louder, clearer, and has a lower pitch. It is also very inconsistent; out of all the records I have, not one is the same. My records indicate that the song consists of a two-note phrase that is repeated three to eleven times. More often than not, the two-note phrase has a high first note and a low second. There could be one, one and a half, or two tones in between. Pitch varies from A” to A”, that is, between the highest of two As on the piano, depending on the song or the player. Most of the songs on my records are in the range of E to C. The two-note phrase sounds like peto at times, wheedle at other times, or taydle at other times. The phrase is typically written daytee when the pitch rises rather than falls; the same pitches and pitch intervals are used, but it frequently sounds like toolee. Occasionally, the first note is short and sounds like tleet or tlit. I’ve written down what each specific song sounded like to me when I heard it, and I’ve recorded all these variations in the field.

I’m interested to hear from others. Are there any songs similar to the recordings from Massachusetts in your area? If so, what are some of the variations that you hear?

These various songs and their uses must convey a great deal of information to other titmice, and male song-sharing and counter-singing contribute to regional variation. When I first heard the strange song in Concord, I thought it might be a regional dialect, but the species has only been in Massachusetts for roughly 70 years. However, the selection of recordings below implies that these “theme 3” songs exhibit notable regional variations.

I’d always intended to do more research on Titmouse song variation after moving to Concord, and this spring (2012) I finally made the time to notice that these variant songs are used throughout the day, while the same individual birds use typical and very uniform “peter” songs during the dawn chorus.

I was surprised to hear how different the Tufted Titmice sounded from the ones I was accustomed to in New Jersey during a visit to Concord, Massachusetts in the 1990s. Although many of them sang a series of strange single-syllabed phrases or choppy multi-syllabled phrases and other variations that were only loosely titmouse-like, they were able to sing the standard “peter-peter-peter” song. Furthermore, several of these strange sayings were used by several birds in the area.

Another strange song from Arkansas, probably one of the regional renditions The recordist in this instance acknowledged the low pitch but stated that this particular song variation was “common in the area.” Again, I never hear anything like this in Massachusetts.

FAQ

What is a flock of titmouse called?

Ostdrossel™ — A group of Titmice is called a glee.

What bird sounds like Tweety bird?

Male & female Tawny Owls make these calls in duet, creating the iconic “twit twoo” sound which many people know this species for. Tawny Owls are a nocturnal species and their calls are most frequently heard at night, although they can occasionally be heard during their day calling from their roosts.

What does the Tufted Titmouse song mean?

Tufted Titmouse calls are “nasal, wheezy, and complaining” (Kroodsma, 2005). The most common call is a scratchy tsee-day-day-day. Tufted Titmice have scolding call notes and when they spot predators they have a harsh call that warns the other titmice of oncoming danger.