What if birds aren’t singing but actually screaming because they’re afraid of heights ?

What a dreadful thought so let’s address that straight away. Passerine birds can perch. Robins love to ground-feed. They sing when doing these things and are often on or near the ground. So they would have to be pretty darn traumatised to carry on screaming.

Of course swifts are different. They cannot perch and thus keep flying all day (even the nest boxes we put up have to be specially designed in a vertical manner to help them use them). They may therefore be screaming that they want to stop…but perhaps they are screaming like a kid at a fairground because they “just wanna go faster” !

I prefer this idea. I think they are singing the bird equivalent of “wheeeeeee” as they swoop and dive and frankly, why wouldn’t they ?

This does all beg an interesting question : like a human child, has a baby bird ever said “I don’t want to learn to fly” or “I’m too tired to catch food” or “You just don’t understand me, I wish I’d never been hatched” or is that sort of self-indulgence an inherently human one ?

One thought on “What if birds aren’t singing but actually screaming because they’re afraid of heights ?”

  1. Love these thoughts!

    I’m sure you know many of the reasons biologists have figured that birds sing, so I won’t bore you with that. However, what you might not know is that songbirds aren’t born knowing their song. The ability to sing is innate, but they have to learn the language and they do it in much the same way that we do, by babbling and mimicking their parents. This is why for species whose populations span large geographical areas (like yellow warblers here in North America), you end up with dialects. So, in Florida, for example the little guys have their own southern drawl 🙂

    By the way, Swifts belong to the order Apodiformes, which means ‘footless’ in reference to their odd way of resting. Great post!

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