Sunday, 17 August 2008

The language of birds

We managed an enjoyable stroll this morning without getting wet, taking in White Coppice, Anglezarke, Healey Nab and Heapey Reservoirs. Good to see some juveniles, including two great crested grebes, emerging although generally it doesn't seem to have been a very good breeding season.
We spent time listening to the strange calls of young great tits and nuthatch - practising to sound like their parents. It made me realise that just as humans are born with an ability to speak any language (we just copy the spoken sounds around us) so it seems that birds do the same.
I wonder if we have an innate ability to speak bird language and vice versa. It's a thought!

The nuthatch photo is by Nigel Fairclough. Use the link in the sidebar to see more or his landscape and wildlife photos.


Crafty Green Poet said...

sounds like a nice walk, interesting question you raise too. I sometimes make a sort of twittering sound under a tree full of birds and we sometimes seem to get a little conversation going... i was at an event about crows at the Edinburgh Book Festival and there were stories there of crows and starlings learning human language, and other stories of mimicry too

Susan Richardson said...

I saw a fascinating installation - 'Dawn Chorus' by Marcus Coates - in Bristol last year which really got me thinking about birdsong, human communication and the connection between them. There's some info about it here:

Mistlethrush said...

Thanks for the link Susan - sounds fascinating. Consoling to know I'm not the only person to wonder.

Actually I wondered whether people could sound like birds and vice versa purely because the physical limitations of their bodies: mouth shape, tongue shape, muscular limitations, vocal chord lengths etc. all of which would restrict not just the tone but, as the article in Susan's link noted, the speed of delivery.

Certainly body language transcends species. So why not vocal too?

And as Crafty Green Poet points some species of birds seem quite capable of mimicking humans and a few humans can mimic birds. I wonder how long it would take to actually work out what's being said....

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