We report on operant conditioning and artificial neural network (ANN) simulations aimed at further elucidating mechanisms of black-capped chickadee chick-a-dee call note category perception. Specifically, we tested for differences in the speed of acquisition among different discrimination tasks and, in two selected discrimination groups, searched for evidence of peak shift. Earlier, unreported ANN data were instrumental in providing the motivation for the current set of studies with chickadees and are provided here. The ANNs revealed differences in the speed of learning among note-type discrimination groups that is related to the degree of perceptual similarity among the three note types tested (i.e., A, B, and C notes). In many respects, bird and network results were in agreement (i.e., in the observation of peak shift in the same group), but they also differed in important ways (i.e., all discrimination groups showed differences in speed of learning in simulations but not in chickadees). We suggest that the start, peak and end frequency of the chick-a portion of chick-a-dee call notes, which form a graded but overlapping continuum, may drive the peak shift observed.