Author: Achsel Ford, af:ordweb
We enjoyed the company of a funny little guy in the woods today. He was a grey-headed woodpecker (Picus canus), and as usual at this time of year he was extremely busy firing his machine gun rounds at an unarmed, elderly tree, so absurdly loud he was probably making veterans within a ten mile radius duck and cover by pure reflexes. Holy power tool, how those birds are not all constantly having a terrible headache, neck cramps and a broken beak, or are not constantly stone cold dead, is beyond our comprehension. But the noise is undoubtly suited to impress, we’ll give him that much. Which was of course the whole purpose; territorial marking. Add that, despite the insane sound level, the adorable little jackhammer weighs no more than about 150 grams, and apparently consists mostly of feathers and floss – and the fact that he can sometimes make the ground shiver around his wooden victim of choice doesn’t exactly become less remarkable. A Master Pecker Supreme.
And between the machine beak rounds, he made quite a few local calls to keep sure his wife, mistresses and kids were all cool and stayed where they’re supposed to stay while daddy-o is out working with important pecking stuff. And this is where the really funny part comes in:
Bird species that lives widespread and makes locally resident populations sometimes also develop significant local dialects. And then of course there’s each bird’s equally significant individual voice and individual variations on their common sound theme. A stranger, of the right species, but from a different population with a different, “wrong” dialect, who tries to blend in with the locals and stay with them, will sometimes be refused and even downright bullied and tormented by them for his funny way of talking. Which somehow resembles the behaviour of certain other animal species as well, but please, we swear, this moron from Bergen they suddenly forced upon our class in school when we was a kid, just because his family had moved to where we lived, he talked really, really gibberish. None of us never understood a word of what he said, but it was likely all meaningless or a plain insult to decent people, so who really cares? Anyway, what we’re trying to say here, is that he needed to be corrected. We actually tried to do him a favor by letting him know the way of the real world, something which school teachers always fails to teach, thus, the moron’s peers have to act responsible and take hold of the situation, you know.
Ok, this was a digression. Never mind. What we was about to say about this particular grey-headed woodfucker’s vocal performance, was that his call sound pattern per se was well within the norm; falling sequences of short “qoos”, slowing down towards the end of each sequence. And all his sequences consistently had ten qoos. Only his qoos or quos or koos – we’re not 100% sure how woodpeckers spell their favorite sound (only second to the sound of tying a yellow ribbon around and, more important, pecking the guts out of an old oak tree as if it owed him serious money, of course) – they weren’t straight greypecker qoos or quos or koos at all. Far from it; we strongly suspect that some time in the past, he must’ve had a long term love affair with a seagull and been vocally influenced by her (and seagull girls are known to be a little loose, if you catch our drift), because he sounded more like a not-too-talented seagull who thinks he is a grey-headed woodpecker, than like an actual grey-headed woodpecker.
We’re not lying when we say we sincerely try to do our absolute best not to make a habit out of laughing out loud at fellow earthly creatures and torment them because of their gibberish dialects any more, we usually let the younger generation handle the dirty work nowadays. But HELLO! We’d be surprised if this pecker’s voice isn’t actually current world record holder in the Intolerably Silly Bird Sounds category.
It totally cracked us up for a few seconds – until we came to think about the grey-headed woodpecker’s lethal Beak of Terror, and the fact that seagulls eats basically anything and everything, from fish, shrimps and yesterday’s leftovers, via rusty nails and condemned cars to nuclear waste, and are always looking for more interesting stuff to dissolve in their uncanny strong gastric acid, and fortunately we somehow soon managed to restrict our laughter (make no mistake, from a linguistic viewpoint, he needed it), and put on a straight face before he caught us in the act and eventually decided to extinguish another rude non-flying, non-pecking, sissy-gastric-acid nobody from the otherwise beautiful surface of the Bird Planet. A close shave if we ever had one.
It may actually have been his father who had this extramarital seagull affair. Hard to say. And frankly, we don’t dare asking.