News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Commentary - Bird language

Want some truly unbiased reporting? Bird language is what most creatures tune in to, in order to know about danger and opportunity in their neighborhood. Because animals can’t go to the ATM to withdraw energy, they must be extremely conscious of conserving their energy as they feed, rest, and raise young. Conservation of energy is so key that, on a cold night in winter, a chickadee disturbed from sleep that loses the warmth stored in its puffed-out feathers can die before morning.

For this reason, animals have learned to listen to birds communicating about forest activity in order to avoid danger. Many birds have a buddy system and make companion calls to stay in contact and confirm they’re OK.

The harmonious tapestry of safety calls is called baseline, and animals respond quickly to birds’ alarm calls that disturb baseline. With some dedication, most anyone can learn to read the body language and calls of birds, to know who and what is moving through the landscape. I have been using books and recordings by Jon Young to get the basic instructions, and the rest is all down to my own dedication and “dirt time.”

You can work with the Kamana program and “Advanced Bird Language” and “Seeing Through Native Eyes” recordings, or get a taste from his book “What the Robin Knows,” available through Paulina Springs Books.

I can’t recommend a better way to get to know all your neighbors, and yourself! This has opened a whole universe of understanding and lifelong learning, which is both magical, deeply satisfying, and profoundly transformative for me. I have found myself able to see wildlife and feel included in their lives in a way that makes me feel truly seen, humbled, and delighted.

With so many folks turning to the trails and open spaces for recreation and peace during the pandemic, I bring this up for two reasons.

When we go without awareness into nature, riding our bikes or letting our dog running happily ahead on the loose, it can be like turning a shooter loose in a mall for the creatures in the path.

They use up precious stores of energy to bolt from danger, and their alarm calls alert everyone within earshot to run away! Secondly, we protect what we love.

There is so much to love about this area, and learning bird language can give you an in, to a secret world all around us.

Birds treat us differently when we honor their energy budget and their presence.

Individual birds can build such strong relationships with us that they recognize and interact with us in an intimate way, even coming to ask us for help.

And they teach this recognition to their children and other forest dwellers.

It’s a real, tangible VIP pass into nature. And as an extra bonus, doing the work to tap into bird language can make us better people. We learn about ourselves, empathy, and the impact of our moods, and about how we are all interconnected. For the isolation and loneliness created by the pandemic, using these tools can bring us peace, optimism, and fortitude in learning to meet and overcome the challenges of our discomfort and our mind monsters.

All of this makes it easier to understand others and to become the kind of person that others seek out for company and connection. For young people under 13, it builds a lifetime neural network for all our senses, which otherwise gets pruned permanently when not used. Also, nature becomes our teacher, and offers individually tailored lessons, insights, and self-worth.

Bird language is good news, and absolutely unbiased reporting!


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