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.
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.”
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).