Not withstanding the fact that I have, for years now, thought of Richard Dawkins, (one of my earliest heroes in zoology) as an arsehole these days; in his marvellous book of 1976, The Selfish Gene, he nicks Tennyson's "..nature. Red in tooth and claw" to describe the behaviour of all living things which arises out of the "survival of the fittest" doctrine - and that's a superb quote which I'll not forget.
I was reminded of it this week whilst I watched footage of two female house sparrows fight for nesting rights (one presumes) in our sparrow/tit camera box.
We, as dull-sensed, blinkered humans, don't get to see, let alone appreciate, this sort of behaviour very often. I mean... this was a REAL battle in the box. All beak and claws. Nothing gentle about this at all. Very much red in tooth and claw.]
Many humans tend to anthropomorphise other creatures in Kingdom Animalia - or worse, "Disney-fy" them.
Some people see a hedge-full of sparrows and think they're all "friends". (Social media is FULL of this sort of stuff - and sometimes I wonder if it's peculiarly British, or American too perhaps?).
Then, I suppose, there is "bird song".
I know, some "bird song" is lovely to listen to - most "song birds" have "songs" that yes... relax us.
But "songs" they are not.
Not even music.
And for the birds themselves, these "songs" are FAR from "relaxing".
Imagine as a human, if you will, walking through a town or village (or worse still... a city) at dawn. Or dusk. All the town's men (and some women too) of breeding age (so what... from 16 (ish) to 50 (ish)) are sitting on lamp-posts or walls or on tree branches, or on roofs or leaning out of their cars parked outside their houses or flats, or for that matter flinging their house windows open.
All have megaphones, or loud hailers. Or microphones attached to amplifiers.
And ALL are shouting at the top of the voice, about the HUGE SIZE OF THEIR GENITALS.
And how if you dare look at them or even start to approach them, they'll KILL YOU.
Unless you're a breeding-age woman of course. And up for breeding.
And they do this over and over and over again. For HOURS. For days. And weeks. And months.
As LOUDLY as they can.
Is exactly what our "song birds" are "singing".
So... the next time you're wandering through a lovely meadow of flowers and you marvel at the musical trilling of a male skylark high in the blue sky above you, consider the FACT that the foppish little twit is actually shouting as loudly as he can - that he has a MASSIVE WILLY! A MASSIVE WILLY! A MASSIVE MASSIVE MASSIVE MASSIVE WILL WILL WILL WILL WILL WILLYYYYYY. (Also that he is the biggest, best-looking of all the birds and he will beat the proverbial out of anything and anyone that says different).
Same for that song thrush sitting on your rooftop TV aerial at dawn.
And even that nightingale "singing" with CUT GLASS clarity from inside that bush on your dawn dog walk on a May morning.
I wonder if you'll ever hear bird song in the same way as you used to....
I do appreciate that most birds don't have willies, by the way, but instead, cloacae.
But "I have a massive cloaca!" (or a "lovely tiny cloaca" for that matter) didn't sound right to me, when I started writing this blog post.