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Music of the Birds (not what you think!)

posted by Jeff Bilsky at
on Tuesday, July 19, 2011 

Ever since I started really noticing birds a few years ago, I've also had an increased awareness of when they're featured in mass media or some other artistic or musical reference. It's funny to notice how bird songs and calls are placed in the background of movies and often without any relevance to the habitat. Embarrassingly perhaps, I find myself noticing when a bird call is misused in the background of a movie: "What the hell is a Swainson's Thrush doing singing in that person's backyard and in Florida?" Maybe if there's a job for bird consultant in feature films I can apply. The most egregious misuse is the Red-tailed Hawk call being used for every raptor - especially a Bald Eagle! I'm sure if you lined up non-birders and played for them a Red-tailed Hawk call they'd say: "Oh that's an Eagle!" Annoying....

On the other side of annoying are the musical references. This whole post idea was schemed when I stumbled on a song by one of my favorite artists today. The artist is Matt Pond PA and the song is Sparrows.

The Sparrows in the rafters make a racket when the morning breaks.

Indeed; I'll bet they do, and I thank you for singing about it.

Of course there are the ones everyone knows like Blackbird . From the lesser known realm, the indie band Shearwater is one of my favorites. Their name is of course a reference in itself. Their songs often conjure avian images as well; for example, the one below, titled Rooks.



I could probably create an entire playlist of songs that make bird references, and perhaps I will, but maybe we can make it a bit interactive first. Anyone out there in tweet/facebook/+1/google groups/blogger world want to chime in? What are some of your favorite songs about birds?

Hope you're all well and enjoying your summer.

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10 Comments:
OpenID abqbirding said...

Shearwater is a great band and "Rooks" is a fantastic song from start to finish. I was thinking about birds in songs last night while listening to _The Crane Wife_ by The Decemberists. Besides the obvious crane, the song "The Island: Come and See" contains the evocative lyric "where curlews carve their arabesque"

July 19, 2011 at 10:34 PM  
Blogger Ryan O'Donnell said...

My personal anthem is "I Like Birds" by the Eels. It can be yours, too:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSi3_izdRZE

July 19, 2011 at 11:21 PM  
Anonymous Jerry Liguori said...

Neil Young sings a song called "birds" and sings about birds in "The Thrasher" and a few others. Ian Anderson has a great song "The Secret Language of Birds" at the link below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJUhwzBnlHo&feature=related

July 20, 2011 at 8:57 PM  
Anonymous Norm Jenson said...

When my wife and I returned home from birding yesterday, my son had this song
this song playing

July 21, 2011 at 12:11 PM  
Blogger Stephanie Greenwood said...

Haha, Oliver and I were just talking about this yesterday! In the animated series Futurama, they ALWAYS play a Red-winged Blackbird in the background whenever they go to a planet that's tropical or swampy. Oliver was also acknowledging the Red-tailed Hawk call whenever any kind of raptor is on a show.

Song with a bird reference: CSNY's Suite: Judy Blue Eyes "Ruby-throated sparrow, sing the song, don't be long. Thrill me to the maaaarrroooowww!"

July 21, 2011 at 12:37 PM  
Blogger Stephanie Greenwood said...

(@Norm, LOLOLOL)

July 21, 2011 at 12:39 PM  
Anonymous Glenda Cotter said...

Nice post, and thanks for the introduction to Shearwater.

The song "June Hymn" from The King is Dead by The Decemberists also contains these lines: "And all the bulbs all coming in, to Begin / The thrushes bleating battle with the wrens."

If you're keeping a list, there's a red-tailed hawk call at the very beginning of the film Benny and Joon, as the opening credits are rolling.

July 21, 2011 at 1:36 PM  
Blogger Tim Avery said...

Speaking of egregious... How about the use of the Cactus Wren in movie is from Australia, Africa, Europe, and Bangor, Maine? The repetitious cackling of the wren is often used but almost never in the right setting.

But that is not the worst. No no no, I have a major bone to pick with the creators of the "modern" Charlie's Angels movies. There is a scene in which one of the "angels" IDs a bird she hears over the telephone as a Pygmy Nuthatch, indigenous to the Pacific coast. Well three problems. 1 is that species isn't indigenous to the area. Two is that the bird then shown is no Nuthatch, in fact it's not even found in America. The Troupial (an Icterid, related to Orioles) is the bird used in the scene:

Photo of a Troupial

And the song, although I can't remember it right now, was not a nuthatch either. So basically they made a triple whammy on the "we didn't do our research/we didn't care to do our research" scale.

It always grinds my gears when I see or hear birds in movies and TV that are out of place.

Cheers
Tim

p.s. Have you heard? The BIRD is the word! (if you missed Norm's link go back and watch it--one of the all time best family guy episodes)

July 21, 2011 at 2:01 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

@Ryan: Thanks for my new anthem! It's posted on my FB page.

@Norm: That's hysterical!

July 21, 2011 at 6:15 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Dan Fogelberg did one that, to my knowledge, only appears on his "Greetings From The West" (live) called "A Cry in the Forest" . . .

There's a cry in the forest, it's feathered and brown
And it echoes off of nothing as the trees come down.
It's the sound of a sparrow hittin' the ground
It's the sound of one eternity bound.

July 21, 2011 at 10:05 PM  

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