Pure Bird Song
Why are we called bird watchers? Why are we not bird listeners? The best birders listen, then
look. Ornithologist Ted Parker,
working in the rainforests of
South America, was legendary
for birding nearly exclusively by
ear. He listened for the birds in
the dense canopy, joking that his
eyes were needed to scan ahead
of his footsteps for snakes.
Here at home, I find myself
listening for birds ever since my
“green” birding year. Birding
by quiet foot or bike, I began to
really hear the birds in my neighborhood. But that’s also when I
noticed the noise: the automobile
traffic, the jets, the lawn mowers
and leaf blowers.
Even when I think I’m in a
quiet place or at a quiet time, it’s
not quiet at all. It’s nearly impossible to hear bird song over its
natural distance and full frequencies because of the omnipresence
of noise pollution.
Think your birding spot is
Nearly impossible, says
Gordon Hempton, an audio
ecologist whose recordings of the
dawn chorus—the wave of early
morning spring bird song—have
earned him an Emmy award.
birdwatchersdigest.com • March/april ’ 13 • Bird Watcher’sdigest