There is a bird outside doing an absolutely spot-on imitation of a rotating sprinkler, a series of ticking chirps and then a long run of clicks as the sprinkler ratchets back into position. I don’t know enough about birdcalls to know if that’s a normal bird call for some species that just happens to be uncannily like a sprinkler, or if it’s something like a mockingbird, who are notorious for expanding their repertoire. Regardless, it’s hysterical. Even the timing is pure sprinkler, but there’s a chirping quality that’s bird all the way. I’m sitting in the studio grinning until my cheeks hurt.

One wonders what the point of adding sounds to mimics is. In a lot of birds, birdsong is learned–raise a bird in isolation and it sings gibberish–but they learn some fairly specific songs, albeit with regional variations. But the birds who just add noises–evidentally whole swathes of starling populations have picked up cellphone ring tones in Europe–why? They wouldn’t have any particular meaning, the way that an alarm call does in a wren, they’d just be a familiar noise. I assume it’s probably some kind of “I have a huge song! You know you want some!” thing, without any particular encoded meaning. I know ornithologists have wrestled with this for ages. I just find it neat.

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