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Listen to nature: the language of birds

The language of birds is an introduction to how, why and when birds communicate. Written by Jeffery Boswall, a teacher of weekend courses on birdsong, it was first published in Proceedings of the Royal Institution Vol.55: pp.249-303 and is reproduced here with permission of the author and the Royal Institution.

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Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) (20K)
Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella
1. Song
1.1 The dawn chorus
1.2 Vocal appropriation
1.3 Duetting
1.4 How does one bird hear another's song?
2. Calls
2.1 Calls as deceitful mimicry
2.2 Calls of young birds
3. Bird to man communication
4. Birds that talk to themselves
5. Instinct or learning - nature or nurture?
5.1 "Talking" birds
5.2 The functional use of sounds by a trained parrot
5.3 "Singing" birds and birds taught human tunes
6. How does a bird sing?
6.1 Instrumental sound production
6.2 Do birds have a musical sense?
7. Human appreciation of birdsong
Further reading
Listen to nature