For as long as I have lived outside, here or where ever there is wild life with vocalizations, there is this form of "warning," and/or "talking," As a child, my ears were still good enough to hear mouse whistle at night. I miss that.
I'm not sure if you are asking me but I will answer and other can correct me if they do not agree. There are many fine instructors out there, way more than there use to be, but this is one of those things that have so many other facts involved. You are talking about linage knowledge, base line animal ethology, regional variances and the list goes one. After teaching this for many decades, and living full time outdoors most of my life, there are just things you can't teach, you must learn them experimentally, and this is one. The animals and environment, as is in most cases, will teach you more than any instructor could ever try.
If I started writing now about this I could fill ten books and not even scratch the surface. So much of Indigenous life skill and bush craft is way more complicated than what we could write in a forum, this is only about sharing basic concepts and tenet. The best I can do as a mentor and facilitator, is point you in the correct direction...go ask a bird.
If you don't understand what she says, keep listening till you do. I use this metaphoric tenet a lot with my students. Learn to sit and be patient. What separates us as mentors is not our blood linage, or even our experiences, it's our patients to listen, watch and learn. I have met very young bush instructors with way more natural talent, than folks 3 times there age, just because they can sit and be patient. Devon ask yourself this, how long have you sat in one spot with out moving very much other than to take care of the needs of breath and body. When you get to over a month, then you will begin to see the world in ways that very few do.
The best way to learn is from direct experience with birds. Just go and sit on your porch while you drink you morning coffe and observe. One day you might notice a bird that your recognize do something out of the ordinary. Then you might realize the next time that you see that behavior that it is a reaction to something, a neighborhood cat for example. Now you can tell when a cat is going to come into your yard. That's bird language.
When you're watching songbirds you're looking for 2 categories of vocalizations; baseline, as in everything is ok, and alarm behaviors. The baseline vocalizations are; Song, Companion Calls, Juvenile Begging, and Territorial Aggression. The 5th voice is alarm. You can tell what type of predator is causing the alarm by the way the bird alarms.
I recently finished a DVD called Bird Language with Jon Young. It's 2 disks with a laminated reference card that teaches the basics of bird language and how to setup a group. It sells for about $40.
I'm also soon going to be posting a few new videos on the youtube channel describing the vocalizations of our '5 best bird language birds'. Look out for that in the next copule weeks.
Also, my friend's website has a good library of recordings of birds with descriptions about what they are "saying" here: Bird Language Library
Jay is also right. There are lots of good instructors. Where are you? I might be able to hook you up with a community of people practicing bird language.
Great post! One of my favorite garden past time hobbies is to attract birds by playing their "talk" from recordings off of the computer thru my stereo. It works every time. Cardinals, Scarlet Tangers, Owls , etc., what fun it is to bring them into the garden, offering them favorite foods, and listen to them respond to the calls. It's the best permi-entrainment ever!
I also use animal warning calls to protect my free range chickens. Birds, squirrel and the hens themselves all have a distinct warning call. When I hear it I look up and usually see an overhead predator or know something is hunting in the garden.... time to move the hens to safety like a good human rooster!
It is interesting to watch how my free range chickens take cues from wild birds. The roosters especially look up at every sound to make sure their flocks are safe. When crows raise a ruckus, the chickens run for cover along with the other small animals. On the opening day of bow hunting season, a neighbor asked to hunt in our woods. As soon as he went in there a flock of crows flew into the air and circled overhead, making a din that must have lasted for a quarter of an hour. I am sure they were telling the deer to stay away. The crows are the watchdogs in the sky, and I am glad to have them here.
I saw a song sparrow collecting nesting materials in my yard this morning. It inspired me to give you 15% off the 2nd edition of our bird language DVD. This is an excerpt is one of the new scenes added to the dvd for the 2nd edition. Don't feel left out if you bought the first version. I will post all the new material to youtube. Just subscribe to us at http://www.youtube.com/villagevideoorg