Click here to skip to content

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.

Listen to the sound recordings on these pages with the Windows Media Player

All recordings copyright British Library Board. The recordings on this site are for private listening only; copying, broadcasting or reproduction is prohibited.

Contents

Introduction
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