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What the Robin Knows - the new book by Jon Young

  "Deep bird language is an ancient discipline, perfected by Native peoples the world over. Finally, science is catching up. . ." Jon Young shares a doorway into the secret language of nature in this exciting new book. Order Online At: Publication Date: May 8,...

What the Robin Knows

The Five Voices of Bird Language

A Key to Understanding Bird Behavior & Language

In What the Robin Knows, author Jon Young shares a key into learning the language of birds – understanding the “Five Voices” that birds use to communicate with each other.

By learning to recognize the feel and context for these different voices, an observer can learn to decipher – often with amazing accuracy – a variety of cues, including the presence of danger (such as hawks, snakes, cats and other predators). The Five Voices give bird watchers a deeper view into the secret world of the birds.

Science and audio editor for the book, Dan Gardoqui, has worked with Lang Elliot and Nature Sound Studios to produce an online audio library to accompany the book, including the voices of over 15 common songbirds. The library also contains a number of vocalizations from helpful game birds, corvids, and mammals.

(All recordings © Lang Elliott, NatureSound Studio, All Rights Reserved).

Listen to a selection of the audio tracks below to start your journey into the Five Voices of the birds right now:

 1. Song

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Bird song, in general, depicts a “baseline” state of harmony. Threats such as a hunting Cooper’s hawk or other dangers are usually not immediately present when birds have the luxury of being able to sing.

2. Contact Calls

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Mated pairs often use call notes to maintain contact when foraging.

3. Territorial Aggression Calls

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Sometimes, especially in the spring, you may hear two birds birds – typically of the same species – facing each other in a noisy interaction. At first this might be misinterpreted as a general alarm. With more attention, you will find that the other species in the area are continuing their songs, unperturbed. This is likely a case of territorial aggression and does not represent a true universal alarm.

4. Begging Calls

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Juvenile birds can make quiet a lot of noise when they beg for food form their parents, either when still in the nest or as fledglings. The young that are most likely to survive to adulthood are those that learn to be still and quiet when danger approaches.

5. Alarm Calls

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Alarm calls are made when danger approaches. There are many subtleties to the art of interpreting alarm calls to deduce the source of alarm. Pay attention to the tone and frequency of repetition when listening to alarm calls. To help separate general alarm from territorial aggression, watch for multiple species alarming in the same vicinity.

There is much more to be said about each of these categories; remember that these patterns represent tendencies that can help you start to understand more about the lives of the birds. Learn more in the book, What the Robin Knows.

Audio Library of Bird Voices:

Now that you’ve gained an introduction to the basics of the five voices, peruse our online audio library to learn more about the voices of a variety of common North American bird species.

Thanks to Dan Gardoqui of White Pine Programs, audio and science editor for the book, for producing this compilation.

All recordings used with permission of Lang Elliott, NatureSound Studios in conjunction with What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 2012).

Visit the MusicOfNature.org multimedia blog with Lang Elliot & Friends:

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