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Mystery “Chip” Sound

Dear Bird Folks,

I keep hearing this bird calling near the gound in the woods near my house, but I can never find it. It seems to call a single “chip” over and over again. The odd part is that this bird is calling during the heat of the day, when all the other birds are quiet. Any guesses?

Wayne, Truro


Oh Wayne,

I love a good mystery. OK, let’s look at the clues. The birds that you are hearing does not sing in the early part of the day like most birds. The bird is hard to find and seems to be calling low to the ground. Finally, it really isn’t singing, but simply calling a steady “chip, chip, chip.” Hmmm, let me think. It can’t be an owl, because owls are asleep during the day. It can’t be a robin, because the robin’s mouth is too full of worms that time of day to do any chipping. Whoa, I think I’m stumped. No wait, stop the clock, I’ve got it. It must be a Tamias striatus. Yes, that’s it, I should have known right away, the “chip” is the clue. All Tamias striatus have that chip call. Oops, sorry, I should explain that Tamias striatus is not a bird at all, but the fancy Latin name of our friendly Eastern chipmunk. Chipmunks love to make their chip call in the heat of the day. Hence, the name. Lots of people, including me, have thought they had found some new mystery bird, only to discover it’s a cute little chipmunk.

This is a bird column so I won’t get into a long yap about chipmunks, but I did read that chipmunks can hold as many as 70 sunflower seeds in their cheeks at once. Any animal that can eat 70 sunflower seeds in one bite is on my list of favorite creatures. If I could only train chickadees to eat like that, I could retire in two weeks.