The yoo-hoo bird’s exotic identity

For years wife and I noticed the call of the “yoo hoo” bird, mainly in spring. “Yoo hoo!” this bird says. “Yoo hoo!” It’s a pretty, simple little pair of notes. Over time, we got more curious about who was singing this tune. On many a walk we casually tried and failed to spot the noise-maker. Some Googling failed. Our half-arsed curiosity carried on for several years before we finally solved the mystery.

We heard the call, clear and close and frequent. We weren’t going to give up this time. It took a few minutes, but we finally tracked the call to its source, expecting something interesting. Expectations had been built up!

It was a chickadee. Just a black-capped chickadee-dee-dee! And they don’t sing a two-note “yoo hoo,” but three notes, traditionally rendered as “Hey, sweetie!” Our mystery the mating call of the black-capped chickadee, a very ordinary bird call from an extremely common bird.

Once you hear “hey sweetie” you can’t unhear it, and now “yoo hoo” sounds wrong — it should be “yoo hoo-hoo” — and we marvel at the way our onomatapeia obscured the reality for so long.