What is the sound of one birder pishing?

What is pishing?

Why does it work?

What does pishing sound (look) like?

Are there other ways to get birds to come out?

What is pishing?

Pishing refers to a group of noises that birders make in the hope of attracting birds;
some noises work better than others. Time of day, time of year, weather, ambient noise,
crowds and even too much pishing can affect the success of the procedure. But anyone
who has had one of those marvelous days when flocks of birds are up and out responding
to these noises knows how exhilerating it can be. I have divided out what I would call true
pishing (various silibant noises made by forming "s" or "sh" sounds with the tongue) from
other useful noises like owl hoot and clicking sounds. They are described in more detail

Why does it work?

You know, I have 6 books on birdwatching (birding) and only one mentions pishing
(Zimmer,K. 1985. The Western Bird Watcher. Phalarope Books). I've heard plenty of
theories; the most reasonable of which is that pishing throws out an array of frequencies
taken to be alarm calls. These alarm calls are recognized mostly by Passerines, but I
have had Northern Harriers, Wood Ducks, rails, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, squirrels,
domestic (ferral) cats, coyotes and possibly Pacific Tree Frog respond.

One might ask why an animal (particularly a prey species) would come to the scene
of an alarm. Again, there are plenty of theories. Ganging up on a predator is a common
occurence, especially among birds. Cooperative mobbing may be a way of distracting
a predator or at least reducing the predators ability to successfully score by announcing
its position.

And from Joel Weintraub via BIRDCHAT

What does pishing look like?

I've been birding for 27 years and have developed what I think are reliable noises that
seem to attract birds. They are as follows:
The Loud Pish 


I like to use the loud pish to get things started
especially in a quiet kack. Once I get the Fox 
and Song Sparrows started, I move on to a 
quieter alternation of the next two pishes plus 
owl hoots.
The Regular Pish 


Sparrows and finches respond best to my 
"regular" pish.
The High Pish 


This works well for kinglets, warblers and 
Anna's Hummingbird.

Other Noises

There are lots of noises that birders make to attract birds that would not (technically)
be called pishing these include kissy noises, tongue kicking and owl impressions.
Kissy Noises 
These are made by either kissing the air or 
the back of the hand. They throws out the same 
array of frequencies that the high pish does 
and I feel more confortable with the high pish.
Guaranteed to bring in Barn Owls if they're 
Tongue Clicks 
The tongue click will sometimes work for 
sparrows and will also get answers from 
Virginia Rail (possibly others though I don't 
live in Clapper Country).
Pygmy Owl 


Obviously this will attract Pygmy or Saw- 
whet Owl (sometimes Western Screech, 
especially kennicotti), works well for Parids, 
kinglets, warblers, thrushs and most sparrows.
Owly Hoots 


I like to throw in a (kind of) generic small owl 
when I'm working a brushy edge habitat. I 
pretend like it's Screech Owl, but owls are never 

Comments? Send them to Mike Patterson