Tag Archives: bird dialects

A Song of Birds

Everyone knows that there are many different accents when it comes to the spoken word. When I was in London, England, I managed to get turned around in Leicester Square. I went up to a storekeeper to ask for directions to the Tate Museum where my bus would be waiting to take me back to Oxford. What came out of this very helpful gent’s mouth for directions wasn’t anything that I could figure out. I knew he was speaking the Queen’s English, but it appeared that he was speaking something that the first Queen Elizabeth might have understood. Thankfully for me, he pointed and off I went.

Strangely enough, the same thing can be said about birds. Hard to believe – I envision something like a bird from Boston saying “Paaark the caaar” while one from Ohio would simply say, “Park the car.”  One of the reasons for these regional dialects is because of urban settings. It appears that birds with higher-pitched notes have less echoes from the tall buildings in a city. So those notes are stronger and would give a bird an edge, at least if that bird was in the city. And since the baby birds learn from their parents how to “speak,” these dialects continue. Country birds have less need for their song to carry as far because of the open spaces.

Another reason for the different songs might be the age of the birds. Younger birds are still finding their voice, settling on the song that they will soon sing each time they vocalize. And even within the bird world, birds have different levels of song: some might only have a few songs while others, like the mockingbird, have over 100.

Who knew? Or as any Brooklyn bird can tell you, “Fuggetaboutit!”

Until next time!