Bird Language Explained
What is Bird Language?
Interpreting bird language is not the same as identifying songs from individual species; rather it entails understanding the context of what birds are saying and how they are saying it (regardless of who is saying it). Birds are keenly aware of their surroundings and often very vocal about what they observe (especially songbirds). They put an audible soundtrack and visible body language to the happenings in the landscape around us, noting subtle shifts in the movements and energies of other species nearby.
Learning the meanings of these messages unlocks a whole new dimension to comprehending the natural world and greatly enhances your outdoor experiences, as well as your awareness of all that is occurring around you.
Why is it Important?
Bird Language is an ancient skill that people have used to help them survive (and thrive!) for thousands of years. Birds are the news media of the ecosystem as they describe where food, water, shelter and most importantly, where danger is located. Specifically, bird language teaches to you how to:
- Improve your pattern recognition of sounds and behaviors
- Refine your understanding of local ecology
- Become more attentive to your surroundings
- Deepen your listening capabilities
- Increase awareness of your intuitive faculties
- Walk in the woods with a quiet mind
- Minimize your disturbance of animals as you move across the land
- Deepen your intimate knowledge of, and connection to a place
- Feel more comfortable being a part of nature
What the expeditions will teach you...
You will learn the "five voices" and how to differentiate between bird songs, companion calls, territorial calls, juvenile begging behavior as well as how to identify various alarm patterns. This will teach you how to gain insight into the current state of play of the environment immediately around you in addition to the movements of predators and other events that are unfolding on the landscape.
Perhaps most importantly, bird language is universal meaning that the basic patterns that you learn in a particular region are applicable all around the world. So you can take what you have learned on the expedition and use that when you return home to enrichen your experiences in nature right outside your back door, thus beginning a lifelong journey in expanding your knowledge and awareness and forging a deeper connection to the natural world.
While bird language is an ancient tradition, it is relatively a new study in the western world. However, there are some excellent resources available to get you started on your journey so that you can begin practicing right outside your own home, regardless of whether you live in the countryside or in an urban area.
8shields and Jon Young
Jon Young has been a pioneer in "rediscovering" bird language, including spending considerable time studying the methods used by various ancient cultures who still practice this skill. He is the owner of the website birdlanguage.com which is an excellent resource for all things related to bird language. The products he has authored include the following:
- Bird Language DVD Set, a two volume disc tutorial that covers the basics of bird language and how to expedite the learning process by using a group learning model.
- Advanced Bird Language: Reading the Concentric Rings of Nature, an eight CD audio course that covers the importance of bird language in primitive cultures as well as the benefits to modern society
In the spring of 2015, the New York Times wrote an excellent piece detailing modern scientific research underway at several universities that is revealing the secrets of bird language and its ecological significance. See how some students who partook in bird language exercises described their experiences in blog posts (scroll to bottom of page).