15 September 2022
At this time of year the birds are not singing but you often hear a “chip” note in the woods. It’s not the sound of a bird but instead a chipmunk, making the noise that puts “chip” in his name.
“Chip” is warning sound that means Danger From the Ground. Chip Chip Chip Chip, the speaker is warning of a ground-based predator — a cat, raccoon, snake, etc.
Chipmunks “chip” at different speeds, even during the same chipping session, as seen in the 4.5 minute video below. The tonal quality and variable speed give us a hint that it’s a chipmunk speaking, not a bird.
The second most common chipmunk sound is another warning.
“Tock” means Danger From The Air — a clue that birders should look for a raptor. Tock Tock Tock Tock. Listen and learn in this vintage article.
p.s. This article explains the chipmunk’s vocalizations: What Sounds Does A Chipmunk Make?
(photo by Chuck Tague)