Campus ornithologist Julie Craves contributes 'pishing' essay to birding how-to guide

April 20, 2007


DEARBORN / April 20, 2007---You could say Julie Craves knows a thing or two about birds, including whether or not it’s appropriate to “pish.”

Pishing is an acoustic method used to lure birds out of hiding, according to Craves, whose essay “A Little Pish Will Do Ya” appears in the new book Good Birders Don’t Wear White: 50 Tips from North America’s Top Birders published this month by Houghton Mifflin.

Basically, pishing involves clenching the front teeth and quickly saying the word “pish,” quietly but urgently. A birder might also say “seet” in a hissing manner while keeping the teeth clenched. The idea is to get a bird to investigate the sound, luring it into view.

But there’s a time and place to pish, according to Craves’ essay.

“Pish around nonbirders, who have no idea what you are doing, and the response may be the same as if you had made some other type of bodily noise,” Craves writes.

As supervisor of avian research at the Rouge River Bird Observatory on the University of Michigan-Dearborn campus, Craves has extensively studied Michigan’s birds since 1992 through an annual bird-banding program, which helps determine the importance of urban natural areas as stopover sites for migratory birds. She and her colleagues study why birds stop at one site and not others, how long they stay in one area and what habitat features help the birds migrate successfully.

An understanding of how birds use urban areas during migration and how to manage these areas is critical for their continued survival, according to Craves.

Craves also has done work in Cuba to develop bird survey routes and protocols that can be used by future environmental tourists and educational groups to assess the health of bird populations there.

In addition, Craves has served as contributing editor of Birder’s World magazine since 1999, and is the author of The Birds of Southeast Michigan: Dearborn, which is being revised for publication in the coming weeks to include 10 years of new material covering 263 species, along with guides and maps to birding locations and trails in Dearborn.

Craves’ academic reputation in the avian field earned her the invitation to write the essay for Good Birders Don’t Wear White.

“Out of the blue last May, I received an e-mail from Lisa White, an editor at Houghton Mifflin, asking me if I would like to contribute to the book,” Craves said. “I was given complete leeway on subject matter, within the guidelines of light and fun birding advice.”

Craves’ essay appears alongside contributions from well-known "celebrity birders" like Kenn Kaufman, David Sibley, Pete Dunne, Tim Gallagher, Don and Lillian Stokes, Bill Thompson III and 43 others.

Good Birders Don’t Wear White is available at retailers like Borders and, but purchases made through the Rouge River Bird Observatory Web site help to support the work of the observatory, which is funded solely by donations from corporations, foundations and individuals. For more information, visit the observatory’s Web store at

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High resolution photo of Julie Craves


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