Fizzy Fact of the Year

Our friend Steve was describing a birding trip he recently enjoyed.  In real life he doctors most of our family, but he is a credentialed ornithologist and a hoot to be around.  My husband, a bird-watcher from way back, can appreciate the rarity of a grackle sighting in our valley, and show proper enthusiasm.  Me — I sit back on my perch and enjoy their chat even though most of it flies over my head.   

Then Steve rocked my nest by casually mentioning there are dialects in birdsongs, a fact proven by sonograms of the songs.  There are variations between different parts of the country, but there can even be a variation from one valley to the next.  Why does that fizz and sizzle in my bird brain?  Does anyone else find that Absolutely Fascinating? 

I jumped on Google to scratch around.  And promptly ordered The Singing Life of Birds: The Art and Science of Listening to Birdsong (which comes with a CD).  Reviews of the book here.  I gleaned some quotes from an NPR story about Don Kroodsma and this book.

“Birds have song dialects just like we humans have dialects.”

After some intense listening and study,
Kroodsma concluded that, just as with people,
where a bird learned a song
is just as important as a bird’s genealogy.
He noticed in his travels that birds of the same species
but in different states sang the same song,
but with their own unique “accents.”

And, because I’m a “word bird” here is a great group.

Grex, gregis – Latin for flock.  From it we get gregarious (seeking and enjoying the company of others); aggregate (gathered into a group); segregate (divided into separate groups); egregious (something remarkably awful) literally means outstanding, or to stand out from the flock (the e at the beginning is a shortened form of ex, out).  But my favorite grex derivative is congregate (to gather or flock together). 


10 thoughts on “Fizzy Fact of the Year

  1. So, grackles are unusual in y’all’s neck of the woods, huh?  Not around here. Recently on one of my hikes I was thrilled to spot and listen to a scarlet tanager.  Did you see my fuzzy photo? favorite bird story of late? Eudora Welty’s Shoe Bird  – delightful music with narrative. know you’re extra busy with your new *full-time* position, so I hope that’s going smoothly.

  2. Oh, those word origins are fascinating!  Terry recently looked up some bird calls online.  I forget what bird he was trying to identify.  We have seen a Baltimore oriole this year but haven’t yet lured him to the oriole feeder.  We’ve also had a couple of red-headed woodpeckers, indigo buntings, and a bluebird!  I wasn’t much of a bird-watcher until we moved to the country and have so many in easy access.I, too, hope your new full-time position is going well. Blessings,Sandy

  3. Grackles are the shrimp of our bird feeder ecosystem – total bottom feeders!! they’ll eat anyone’s dregs…i’m a cheap date when it comes to birds… cardinals send me over the moon… gold finches make me squeal with delight. my brain is too full of boxes and tape to fully comprehend bird dialects this morning… but when i pop out of this moving stupor, i know i’ll be amazed!!

  4. O Carol!! This is wonderful news.  It still reminds me of Romans 8– I cannot wait!! But you know me, I’m a sucker- not yellow-bellied- for these bird things.  I still am fascinated just over how the chickens talk to one another!  I still cannot call their talking a song, per se, but I think the roosters’ heraldings come close.  But, chickadees are still my favorite to listen to…except maybe the doves and quail, and maybe the hawks and eagles- those are pretty wonderful too…, o yes, and wrens, and red-winged blackbirds…..

  5. All your bird talk made me smile.  I’ve grown to love them through the years.  We still miss our little flock of chickens….we called them “the girls”…and we loved them…such fun creatures.  I started feeding finches last year and was tickled when they finally started eating at my feeder…then Punkin ate one…haven’t seen a finch since.  Methinks that is wisdom on their part. RYC:  Yes, I do believe we are soulmates…or possibly birds of a feather..

  6. My husband is an avid bird watcher. I am curious to see if has heard of this. Our backyard backs up to a woods now and we are seeing birds at our feeders that we have never seen before. 

  7. this fits me: Once every day I shall simply stare at a tree, a flower, a cloud, or a person (or a bird). I shall not then be concerned at all to ask what they are but simply be glad that they are. It’s because I cannot remember their (the birds’) names!

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