What does the tweeting mean?

It turns out that some people not only enjoy listening to birds singing, but actually understand their language. Asaf Ben-David from the research staff at Ramat Hanadiv with collaboration of prof’ Ido Itzhaki and Tamar Dayan learned the birds’ language, and in honor of World Wildlife Day he has happily given us some tips for understanding their language.

Sylvia melanocephala

“If only birds spoke like humans,” wrote Naomi Shemer, but they don’t. The good news is that with a little patience and curiosity even we can feel like Dr. Dolittle. OK, so we won’t speak exactly like the animals, but we can definitely understand their language. Asaf Ben-David says that if we listen to them attentively we will discover that birds’ patterns of communication are not much different from ours.

Those who roam around in nature can learn from the birds’ language when a predator is approaching and even where to find a nearby source of food. This fact has been known to people from different cultures. The Bedouin in Sinai, for example, avoid hunting wheatears because they know that their flocking indicates the presence of snakes nearby. The fascinating thing is that those same patterns of communication that we use to understand human communication can help us understand the language of birds, says Ben-David.

We are all fascinated by birds singing, but how can we understand their language? Song birds continuously examine their surroundings.


if we listen to them attentively we will discover that birds’ patterns of communication are not much different from ours.

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Sylvia atricapilla

They respond to the season, hour, passing birds and potential predators. Each living organism from warbler and up will receive a gesture – whether it’s a tweet or a movement.

The Amplitude of the tweet, its length and its frequency can indicate different situations in the daily routine of a bird. Birds’ Mobbing sounds will usually be expressed as a short series of sounds deviating from the regular background conversation, at higher or lower frequencies from it. Usually they include a number of short syllables, and silence the conversation that preceded them. But why should I warn when I need to escape? It turns out that warning teaches us about the fitness of the warner, but also awards him “altruism” points among his peers. Warning may prevent predation of family members and provides motivation for continuing the family’s genetic code.

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Sylvia melanocephala – Warning:

The accepted practice is to distinguish between three types of warning sounds according to the type of “event”. The first is an alarm, being a high, monosyllabic sound at constant frequency. Such alarm sounds will be sounded while the bird is escaping. The second type is flocking sounds. This is a vociferous type of behavior that animals perform against a predator, and includes repetitive monotonic sounds on a range of frequencies, which often continue for half an hour until the predator leaves the area and the danger passes. It can provide information on the predator and on its distance from the flocking bird. We will also hear song birds make flocking sounds with great

intensity during the nesting season. At this time the flocking is intended to distance us from the nest.  The third type indicates sexual aggression. The sounds are sharp and frequent, and resemble flocking sounds, and will usually be made before sunset. These sounds are particularly prevalent among males during the courting season, and we will be able to distinguish them from flocking sounds if other birds in the area don’t follow up with warning signals.

Sylvia melanocephala – Flocking :

So the next time you go out to the nature park, lend your ear and listen, and you’ll discover a whole new world.