November 25, 2012

Bird language book a call to use our instincts


What difference does bird language make to humans? 

We as people have instincts that we rarely use, especially in connection with nature. Though we can still read moods in friends or threatening expressions from strangers, we are no longer dependent on our instincts and the primordial lines of communication with other species that we once relied on. It is an extreme form of disconnection.

Young explains the subtle importance of communication among species in the wild: “How many tens of hundreds of millions of years experience with deer … have hard-wired the birds’ instincts? So they don’t become overly alarmed about a deer … It would be a waste of energy. If however a deer should get spooked and move in a way that is obviously not casual feeding, in a way that violates the baseline, the birds and chipmunks will almost certainly respond with mild agitation alarms — not fear of the deer, just in recognition that something has caught the deer’s attention.”

There is no doubt that this degree of awareness could benefit humans — whether for hunting or driving cars or evading opponents in athletics or taking photographs or even enjoying our backyards more. Bird language can keep us from colliding into the wildlife we seek, especially the species that have to flee from our stumbling interruption.

Young contends, “Our sensory equipment and brains are still designed for awareness. These instincts are still in each of us, just buried … Connecting with bird language begins the process of unearthing them.”

For more, see The site offers an e-course, DVDs and an excellent audio library of bird calls and alarms contributed by Maine guide and naturalist Dan Gardoqui.

Elizabeth Lee is a licensed guide who lives in Westport. She leads recreational and educational programs focused in the Champlain Valley throughout the year. Contact her at

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