Chirping, Whistling, and Tootling
Illustration by Daniel Mróz. From the “Przekrój” archive (Issue 441 from 1953)

Chirping, Whistling, and Tootling

The Joys of Recognizing Birdsong
Olga Drenda
time 13 minutes

Just as some human languages are becoming extinct, so too are the songs of various birds dying out as they’re supplanted by other birds that are more aggressive and better adapted to life in urban spaces. Although identifying those songs is a tricky, time-consuming art, it can also become a wonderful, lifelong passion.

Kroo-lik, kroo-lik (which sounds like the word for ‘rabbit’ to a Polish ear)—that’s the mysterious noise I heard one night, coming from outside my window, clearly loud enough to rouse me from my dreams. I grabbed the pencil and paper I’ve learned to keep on the bedside table in case I need to jot down a sudden idea. As soon as I got up the next morning, I started investigating on the internet. I found nothing to tell me which bird says kroo-lik, so I decided to change my approach and to focus on listening to recordings of bird calls. One of them confirmed that what I had heard was a female tawny owl. If I were superstitious, I’d have been worried (“When the tawny owl shrieks, the devils rejoice”—that’s a saying cited by an ethnographic reference book called Śmierć w obrzędach, zwyczajach i wierzeniach ludu polskiego [Death in Polish Folk Rituals, Customs and Beliefs], which adds that in Germany they call this actually rather charming bird Totenvogel, meaning “bird of the dead”). But instead I started wondering about the noises made by various birds and how to write them down because the field guides I consulted said that Mrs Tawny Owl doesn’t cry kroo-lik, but kyoo-vit.

Are You Awake? Me Too—Cries the Great Horned Owl

My first attempts at deciphering the signals on the “bird radio” were quite frustrating. While walking in the forest, I’d often had the experience of hearing an unfamiliar call, or noticing one that had eluded me before then. I tried to


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Also read:

Planet of the Birds
Illustration by Daniel Mróz. From the “Przekrój” archives (Issue 1594 from 1975)

Planet of the Birds

An Alternative Avian History
Adam Węgłowski

Ćwirek (Chirp) is an ordinary, grey representative of the cawmentariat, employed on a contract scribbled out by a chicken’s claw. He has no chicks, or any prospects of having them. Let’s make a discreet visit to his hollow tree.

In his first step, the Raven carved out the mountains and the lowlands. He fenced off the clouds, the granite peaks and the trenches of the sea. He swept the heat away from the ice floes. He ordered the clumsy creatures to come out: crocodiles, gorillas and crabs. And at dusk he cawed: “Let us crown creation with the kraptak, a caricature of the Raven! Kraptak! Spread through the forests! Clear the hornbeams and Carpathian spruces! Tease and embarrass the kangaroos and the aurochs! But kraptak,” the Raven cawed even more huskily, “I command you not to fly around the Mountain, where I reign. Yet kraptak headed toward the Mountain and the Raven thrashed him with thunder, knocked him to the ground, smote him with catastrophe…”

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