I was watching the Ximungwe female recently when the call of a Village Weaver caught my attention.
I happen to know this particular call very well because of a village weaver that I found fallen from its nest after a storm and which I reared. It’s obviously due to my relationship with that tiny bird that I reared that that particular call has a special significance for me, but it got me wondering about people’s relationships with bird calls in general.
I’ve noticed over my time as a ranger that guests tend to be quite in tune with the more prominent bird calls out in the bush. The soft coo of a Cape Turtle dove, the high pitch call of an African Fish Eagle or the friendly whistle of a Whitefaced Duck… these are some that catch people’s attention.
What many people don’t realise though, is that some bird calls have a far more prominent relationship with people than a simple noticing of an ambient noise.
Handel, Beethoven and Vivaldi all at one time or another incorporated the call of the cuckoo into their music, while even Mozart was said to have used notes uttered by his pet starling to compose with (although at one point there was horror when the starling sang in G# instead of G!).
It is not for nothing that many birds are said to sing rather than call, and larks and nightingales, some of the better known song-birds, have both had their vocalisations incorporated into music.
It is even possible that the origins of human melody lie somewhere in birdsong.
Ancient Hindu Vedic chants in the Andru Pradesh region have been found untraceable to any ancient tongue, yet they have been proven to closely mimic the songs of two migratory bird species; the Blyth’s reed warbler (Acrocephalus dumetorum) and the common whitethroat (Sylvia communis).
It seems clear then that there is a far deeper relationship between humans and birdsong than just a superficial appreciation of their pretty noises. At least in some cases.
Now that it’s summer and there are literally hundreds of species in song on the reserve, it’s easy to tune most of them out as simply white noise. However, knowing what I know now about our history with birds, and particularly the more tuneful ones, I think I’ll be paying closer attention, and not just to the Village Weavers…
Filed under Birds Featured General Nature Wildlife
research at the University in Antwerpen learned that the brain of birds change in mating time ,as they use a bigger variety in songs , later on the “tumor” disappears again
I always love your blogs Jess. Bird songs are the music of the bush, or in our gardens. I can’t imagine waking in the morning or going to sleep at night without the bird sounds.
Jess, I love birds too, but however most of the people I am with on game drives do not like looking at birds!
Your words ring true referring to the relationship between humans and birds. The melodic sounds are delightful and soothing….. although there are a few species that resonate more shrill than sweet. It is interesting to note that birdsongs have been used throughout history by composers and clergy to create music and chants. Thank you for the reminder.
I was wondering about this, but do you find it helps you to remember the call when you have a picture of the bird calling and can associate the bird with the call? For someone unfamiliar with the calls and most of the specific IDs of the some of the less common birds, it seems a bit daunting to remember or be able to know which bird is calling and what it looks like. Of course I am familiar with birds and their calls here in the States, but wanted to know if that helps in any way?
Lovely blog, Jess. I’m one who appreciates birds and feeds them year around. Consequently I wake-up early every morning to symphony of birds singing and welcoming the day. Wonderful way to begin a day. And nothing is cuter than looking up and seeing a wee fluffy bird, perched on a limb, with it’s head back and joyfully singing a song louder and bigger than he is. So glad our world isn’t silent, aren’t you?
My husband and I have enjoyed the birds at Londolozi on each of our stays there – the sounds included. But, to be honest, we love them everywhere and worry about their struggles. Thanks for a touching piece – I did not know about the chants and the birds!
When I hear the call of the bushveld birds, then I know I am on holiday in Kruger , a gteat feeling!