As I sat on my screened in porch one morning I heard the varied songs of my feathered friends. When I heard one near me, I attempted to imitate his message in an effort to be friendly. He replied and then I mimicked his sounds again. Back and forth we went. Suddenly I begin to think about the consequences of this mimicry.
The Warbled Thoughts Begin (The Bobwhite)
It all started when I was a kid, with a bobwhite, a form of quail. I was out in the country at my grandfather’s farm and heard the song, “Bob Bob White.” (or so it sounded to me.) Since it sounded so easy to reply, I did. Even with my poor imitation: “Bob Bob White!” I was instantly surprised to hear the echo coming back from that country bird. And back and forth we went. I was surprised at the bird’s tenacity in responding. Finally, I gave up, having other things to do and left him probably wondering, “What a rude bird to lead me on and then stop!”
Now that I am older I whistle back at some birds that have a one note sound and actually get a reply, or are they just humoring or ignoring me. Of course I have no interpreter so I don’t know if they know that only a mortal is answering them instead of a virile male or gorgeous female bird.
There are two pairs, I think, of such birds called Towhees who live near me. I never saw one until last year. But they have a perfect example of this kind of song. I can whistle very much like they “whistle-tweet.”
All of the birds, squirrels and occasional rabbits take their fill of the seeds. They all love the bird seed I put out in front of our porch so Norie, my cat, can daydream about catching one but is prohibited from doing so by the screen.
What are my poor imitations telling those poor birds? What if the warbler is looking for a mate and my whistles are telling him that he’s a real loser of a bird? What if I am making male bird sounds back to a male bird? Is he feeling challenged for his territory? What is he thinking?
A Baby Blue Jay
Worse still, what if I am telling some male bird, ” Come on over Big Boy!? ” So he flies around looking for a gorgeous, feathered female, and he only sees a lumpy, featherless, pale, huge human? What if he is so lovesick and disappointed that he attacks his reflection in a window somewhere and commits bird suicide from frustration. I would be sad if, inadvertently my inaccurate warbling or whistling, caused his desperation and sadness.
Potential Dangers of Mimicked Warbling (The Hawk)
I actually rescued a hawk once. It was an amazing experience.
It is a good thing that I sit in a screened in porch. What if I was toying with the likes of a hawk, making love songs of a tasty sparrow and that hawk was very hungry?? Wouldn’t he be pretty angry or frustrated that there is no food where the bird sounds were being emitted from? He might be pretty frustrated that I led him on with my tasty and sweet sounding chirps.
And what about sea gulls at the beach? I would never try to imitate the sounds they make. I could accidentally summon them to think there was a huge cache of food waiting for them. Boy that could be a problem if there were as many as there are in the next picture. Besides you know what gulls do when they fly over you sometimes after eating. It’s not very nice!
I took this picture of thousands of sea gulls who migrated to Wake County in Holly Springs, NC. I was on my way home after working night shift and saw this sight reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds”!
The cardinal, also known as the redbird is the state bird of North Carolina, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia. The female, as does many other female birds, has a less brighter color, a yellowish brown.
A male cardinal
The House Finch
Another bird which shares the male cardinal’s red color is the male house finch. The male sports the rosy red color, while his mate has a much less distinctive coloring, a grayish brown.
Here is the song of a house finch: https://www.bird-sounds.net/house-finch/
The Eastern Towhee
One bird I just discovered is the Eastern Towhee. I kept looking at what I thought was a robin but had white on it’s wings and body. The Towhee male has several calls. I can imitate one and weakly another, because it sounds like a short whistle starting low and rising up and rising through five notes higher. But it can warble a little too, which I failed miserably at.
Of course actually none of my bird calls would ever be mistaken for the real thing; so there is really not a problem for me. But there are professional bird callers who can tweet with the best tweeters. I wonder what they say or if they know what they are saying to the birds.
If you are interested in learning which bird is which and which one is calling, you can upload a free app on your phone named: “BirdNet.” You can record a bird’s call; then move cursors to “select” the segment you want to analyze. Press analyze and wait. You can “submit” what you recorded and see a picture of the bird with information about them! You can opt to save what you captured too.
Birds add so much beauty and interest to our lives. Take time to look for them, listen to them, watch them as they interact. And feed them wild bird seed when you can. Enjoy your world when you can.