Friday, October 7, 2011

The Art of Pishing

(originally posted March 25, 2011)

For those of you who came to this discussion as a result of a Google search to learn more about how people conduct scams via email, I'm sorry to inform you that you forgot to put an "h" between the "P" and the "i." No, this is not a discussion about the art of phishing but rather the art of pishing, a favorite skillset among birders.

Pishing gets its name from the sound that a birder will make to draw a seclusive bird out of hiding. By making a "pshhhhh pshhhh pshhh" sound, birders are mimicking the alarm call used by many bird species to alert others that there is a predator nearby. When birds hear this call, often they will come out of hiding, trying to locate the prowling predator that has everyone so upset.

Pishing doesn't work all the time, or even on all bird species. Some species however, seem quite reliably responsive to pishing, like chickadees, wrens, and mockingbirds. Avid birders and ornithologists caution not to use pishing each and every time that you want to see a bird--only use your powers for good! Afterall, we don't want to add stress to our beloved feathery friend's day by making him think that he is constantly being followed by someone who wants to eat him.

Today as I walked from my car to my home, I passed by a shrub that is home to a colony of about 20 house sparrows and the occasional mockingbird visitor. As I walked, a heard a rustle that I suspected belonged to my beloved mockingbird. Not seeing his little gray head pop above the greenery, I began pishing.

The shrub rustled.

After a bit more rustling, the head of a male house sparrow popped up, and craned his neck as far as it would go in my direction. Looking at me with great concern with his right eye. Then there was more rustling, and another head appeared. After even more rustling and shaking, soon there were five male sparrows, all giving me the evil-eye. I couldn't help but giggle as I looked upon what looked like a colony of feathery prairie dogs.

If you find yourself on a hike this weekend and hear mysterious rustling, give the art of pishng a try and you might find yourself face-to-face with an avian friend. And by all means, if you have a great pishing experience, I'd love for you to share it by posting below!

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