At this stage of summer, about 5 a.m. we awake to the crowing of a rooster at the neighbors, followed by the crows which begin a big ruckus around 5:30 a.m., at which point I usually have to get up and shut the window if we are going to sleep any longer. While the rooster and the crows are rather annoying, many birds make music that is very soothing and relaxing and it is fun to listen to what birds sing what songs in order to identify them. Besides the crows which return here in the spring, we hear the calls from robins, Canada geese, blue and stellar jays, house finches, wild turkeys, mourning doves, black-capped chickadees, house finches, rufus-sided towhees, and many more.
Like the fragrant perfume from flowers like sweet peas or roses or lilacs, bird songs have a profound effect on the human senses. Listening to the music of birds makes the world seem a little brighter and can bring a bit of cheer to the human heart. Certain bird calls can evoke memories from our outdoor experiences. The quacking of mallards reminds me of my childhood when I would go with my dad to hide and wait for the ducks to come out in the grain fields from the wild-life refuge to feed in the evening. Another memory is of our family camping by Hebgen (“Quake”) Lake near Yellowstone Park. We were awakened by a loud, strange, crying noise. We walked toward the lake to investigate and caught our first-ever glimpse of huge sand-hill cranes. The sound of Canada geese flying over, honking words of encouragement, makes me think of crisp fall days as they begin their migration southward. Another call that elicits memories is that of the common loon, whose voice is associated with the northern wilderness of the United States, often heard at a mountain lake.
Ornithologists have done lots of research regarding birds calls and music and have learned that birds definitely have a means of communicating various messages to one another. Take the common loon, for example. They have four basic calls: 1) A powerful wail which is used to search for a mate; 2) A yodel—only made by the male—which is a sign of aggression used to stake out the boundaries of its territory; 3) the hoot or talking call used to keep in contact with family members; and 4) the tremelo or “laugh” that resembles the call of a wolf. It is a signal of alarm—the only call made in flight, and is often called, “the call of the wilderness.”
The red poll uses “call notes “ to keep in touch with one another during flight enabling them to take off and land at the same time—like, “ready, set, go!’
One of our favorite birds, and one we see pretty much throughout the year is the black-capped chickadee. They are hardy little birds that will remain through the cold, wintry months and continue their bright cheerful songs and joyful activities. They are known as the “bird of the merry heart.” As they scatter looking for food in the winter, they call to stay in contact, and when one of them finds a new source of food, it communicates a message to tell the others. The bird is named after the melody it most commonly sings in the winter—“chick-a-dee-dee-dee.” When the days begin to warm and the first signs of spring appear, their song changes to “phee’-bee.” They also serenade their mate during courtship with that song. During summer and fall another call is heard which involves three notes and sounds like “cheese’-bur-ger!”
So, while the majority of the bird calls and songs we hear and enjoy are pragmatic for them as communication calls, alarm calls, migration calls, mating calls (love songs) or territorial calls. their songs are often “music to our ears.” It would also surely seem that there are times when song birds are just making music for the joy of it—like after a rainstorm when the earth has been refreshed by God. Our favorites (besides the chickadees), are the rufus-sided towhees and the house finches—all of which have very pleasing melodies. Others are rather raucous and annoying—like the jays, the crows and the flicker woodpeckers. But, just think of the varieties of languages they speak—something that surely didn’t evolve with time and chance but is the product of our all-wise, all-powerful Creator God, who on the fifth day of the creation week said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens…and God created…every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply…and let birds multiply on the earth’” (Gen. 1: 20-22). God created a huge variety of beautiful birds, each with its own language of communication, and as another act of His grace, he made man in such a way that we could enjoy their music. Each bird species also has some unique features and abilities from which we can learn a lot that we can apply to our lives. In the Old Testament book of Job, we read in Job’s reply to his so-called comforter, Zophar, “But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; and the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you” (Job. 12:7).
There are many birds mentioned in the Bible. Check it out and see how many you can find.