Saturday, May 07, 2005

Birdsong á la Gary Larson

Came across cartoonist Gary Larson’s book There’s a Hair in My Dirt! A Worm’s Story today in the boy’s room and it made me think again about what it would be like if I spoke bird. Here’s Larson’s take on birdsong as narrated by Father Worm (and need I say Father Worm does not have a very charitable view of birds?):

[human character] then heard a magical sound from the canopy of trees above. “Oh!” she cried skyward. “Listen to the songs of those happy, happy birds!”

“Yew, taw-kin tu mee? Taw-kin tu mee?”

“Git owda heer, buh-dee…git owda heer, buh-dee.”

“Yew en whut ar-mee…yew en whut ar-mee.”

Well, if those birds were happy, may the garden gods cut me in half with a rusty shovel! Birds sing to communicate, and what they were communicating was mostly an array of insults, warnings, and come-ons to members of their own species. (In fact, all baby birds are taught by their parents not to even smile, or their beaks will crack.)

That really clarifies what is going on in our backyard right now. It is a jungle out there I tell you. Thanks to Kate and Bart for introducing us to this funny, irreverant book about the science behind nature. Let’s just say that in this book (unlike others we own), the mama bee is not singing her baby bee to sleep. The foreword is by Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson and it’s worth a read.

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