“Owls hoot in B flat, cuckoos in D, but the water ousel sings in the voice of the stream. She builds her nest back of the waterfalls so the water is a lullaby to the little ones. Must be where they learn it.” (Karen Joy Fowler, in Sarah Canary)
Do all owls hoot in B flat? I don’t know. Does any owl hoot in B flat? I don’t know that either! I do know that birdsong and the sounds birds make varies a lot from species to species, and also males and females can and do make different mating calls.
What I’ve found out today is that not all owls hoot, but even those that do can make other
audible sounds too. Depending on the species, they chirp, whistle, scream, screech, bark, growl, and/or shriek.
Owls use their voices to communicate to one another and to other species – a hoot (a sort of”come no closer!”cry) to mark their territory , a low bark to communicate they are afraid or threatened, or a shriek when being chased by a predator. And owlets – those hungry babies – they shriek to communicate that they are hungry or (as this clip linked to in an earlier post) that they are missing their mother!
Communication, the simple transfer of information from one being to another, is an essential element of life.
Karen Joy Fowler (quoted above) fantastic novel in 2014 entitled We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves was deservedly shortlisted for the ManBooker International Prize in 2014. You’ll find no spoilers here, but I can give you a teaser …
As a child, Rosemary used to talk all the time. So much so that her parents used to tell her to start in the middle if she wanted to tell a story. Now Rosemary has just started college and she barely talks at all. And she definitely doesn’t talk about her family. So we’re not going to tell you too much either: you’ll have to find out for yourself what it is that makes her unhappy family unlike any other. Rosemary is now an only child, but she used to have a sister the same age as her, and an older brother. Both are now gone – vanished from her life. But there’s something unique about Rosemary’s sister, Fern. So now she’s telling her story; a looping narrative that begins towards the end, and then goes back to the beginning. Twice.
I haven’t read anything else by Karen Joy Fowler. But this quote intrigues me
Without our listening, all the stories are the same story. (Karen Joy Fowler, also in Sarah Canary)
Perhaps what is key about the owl’s hoot – and our own ways of communicating – is less about whether we hoot or not, the key we sing in, or even the notes or words we may use – but whether we are listened to.