“I tried to discover, in the rumor of forests and waves, words that other men could not hear, and I pricked up my ears to listen to the revelation of their harmony.” Gustave Flaubert
Most of us have been conditioned to consider bird’s chirping, singing, or squawking as something like noise. How sad for us. Although a great listener of humans and four legged animals, I’ve been woefully ignorant of the rich discussions taking place in the trees. The most basic understanding of bird language would have enriched my experiences with birds both captive and free.
Soon after being given a Quaker parrot in the summer of 2013, a friend played Jon Young’s video about bird language for me. My eyes (and ears) were opened to a new dimension to the world around me. Just like humans and other mammals, birds make noise to communicate. Young’s insights allowed me to hear Dahlia’s comments and requests as clearly as I do my human friends.
Dahlia clucks, trills, squawks, whistles, sings, kisses, clicks, and purrs.
When I walk away or leave the room or car, she makes an unpleasant squawk. This is obviously an emotional response to something she does not like that serves as an alarm. When I walk back toward her or return to the room or car, she often trills, kisses, or coos.
When I stop singing in the shower, she often squawks. When I resume, she makes adorable sounds celebrating music and interaction as if it is a party.
After six months with Dahlia, our ability to communicate makes us friends and roommates rather than human and animal or worse, “owner” and “pet.” She is wonderful company, a fun dance partner, and great entertainment. She is also demanding with a strong sense of entitlement. It is one of the most intimate relationships I have ever had.
“When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Ideas actually begin to grow within us and come to life.” Brenda Ueland
By listening better and more often to Dahlia, I have helped her personality develop. Knowing I will respond to her needs, she is quick to make her desires known.
Playing music she likes encourages her dancing while enhancing her quality of life. Letting her take the lead in games we play makes her more than a toy.
“The activity of interpreting might be understood as listening for the ‘song beneath the words’.” Ronald Heifetz
One game we play is a version of Simon Says. Dahlia only initiates this when I am in the room but not engaging with her, which is telling. I hear a distinct whistle, rhuu-whoo-rhuu as she gets my attention. Recognizing the cue, I copy. She quickly gives me another, wheet wheooo, which I echo. Then wrhoo-ruh-wheet and my ready reply.
If I had not listened for meaning or “the song beneath the words”, I would have thought she was merely vocalizing. Playfully copying her led to another activity making us more like dance partners than jailor and jailbird. The connectedness we share as a result of varied interactions makes us both happier.
Having lived with so many animals over the years I am amazed at birds’ interest and ability for dance. My quaker parrot can’t stop moving to the music. It’s automatic. Maybe we should call song birds song and dance birds.
“An appreciative listener is always stimulating.” Agatha Christie
Some species, like mockingbirds, include “elements learned in the individual’s lifetime” in their songs. Researchers call this appropriation. Many scientists contend that song bird calls include grammatical structure. Undoubtedly, we will be learning about bird communication for years to come.
Birds use what they have to communicate much like humans do. Linguists will tell you that humans do not use all of the sounds our mouths can make. Some languages use more than others, but putting together all of the various sounds human language makes leaves some sounds completely unused. Birds however use all of the possible sounds due to their more limited apparatus.
Birds tell us they are content, happy, excited, angry, bored, and scared. Much of the emphasis on human/bird interaction is on how much human language they can learn or already know. But, if birds understand some of the words they use and understand words that they cannot say, our interaction with them, our relationships, would benefit from humans working on their listening and communicating skills.
Some things to consider:
Why you should listen to your bird
What your bird is telling you
What your bird wants you to know
What your bird is trying to tell you
You and your bird will be happier if you become a better listener.
Article submitted by: Lisa Kendall
It truly is amazing to wake up in the morning to the sound of birds twittering and chirping in the fresh dawn air. Bird calls are a language of their own and are carefully uttered to convey important messages. Bird sounds are a great form of communication as they can be heard even when the “speaker” is not seen or is a far way off.
Bird sounds are separated into songs and calls. Bird calls are simple notes produced by males and females throughout the year. The sound of bird song is more elaborate and musical, telling other birds: “This is my territory”. Different bird calls are sounded for different purposes. Contact calls keep birds in a flock aware of each others whereabouts. However in large colonies it is important to also have breeding calls which are recognized by mates, parents and young. Alarm calls attract other birds to assist in attacking predators and stopping their silent approach.
Bird song is especially important at the beginning of the breeding season, and is also prominent before migrating or when stopping along the way. Certain species defend their territory all year round and thus sing continually, and in some cases both male and female will sing for this purpose. Bird song is most effective in the morning as sound travels farther in the still air. Birds will often perch on high, exposed positions to make their voices heard, as this reduces interference from surrounding bush and allows the sound to travel more effectively.
A fascinating bird sound is that of the lyretailed honeyguide of Central Africa. This bird will fly above the tree tops whilst singing; it then spirals down from these great heights. Whilst spiraling its tail vibrates and the wind blowing through its spiky feathers sounds like a loud drum. This sound can be heard over a great distance.
Many people listen to recordings of bird calls and use these in identifying birds as each bird has unique calls and sounds. So next time you listen to birds calling outside your window, consider what message they are trying to convey.
Ongoing ornithological research continues to confirm what keen bird-watchers have suspected all along – their feathered friends are highly intelligent and adaptive, with an amazing array of communication skills. A new study conducted by researchers at Queen’s University in Washington has revealed that migrating songbirds rely on the behavior of local resident birds to assist them in avoiding predators during migration.
Keen birders have long appreciated the intelligence and communication skills of birds. Apart from the fact that birdsong is delightful to listen to, it is also an integral part of bird identification for bird-watchers, as well as a means for birds to communicate with one another. Ongoing avian research is continuously revealing fascinating facts about birds, how they interact with one another and how they adapt to a rapidly changing world. Recent research has revealed that some migratory songbirds choose their nesting area based solely on the songs of other birds that are successfully raising their young.
Though the colors of other parrot species are more spectacular, the intelligence of the African Grey makes it one of the most popular parrot species when it comes to choosing a pet bird. The African Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus) is a medium-sized bird that is commonly found in rainforests in both West and Central Africa and it feeds mainly on nuts, fruits and leafy matter.