Amongst birds, it apparently matters who you spend the night with. At sunset, I love to wander outdoors to hear the raucous and high-pitched chirping and squawking from the tops of trees. The brouhaha emits intense sounds and makes me laugh. I take great comfort in the birds’ busy squabbling. Animal research has found that birds’ sounds lower human blood pressure and release endorphins, soothing us. At our primal core, our instincts register that birds’ ongoing communication with each other means that no predators are around to hear the songster’s location. A silent forest is a dangerous one. The evening avian cacophony seems to be pumping a boatload of happy body chemistry throughout my system.
As the sun dips low, what do the little feathered beings get riled up about? Google tells me the male birds, seeking dominant territory on a branch and the best mate, make most of the noise. After a day of searching for worms and insects, those birds with the fullest tummies have the energy to fight for the safest place to sleep and the most desirable mate. I imagine the strongest males bunking down on the widest, most stable part of a branch, near the trunk. Then I realize that the tree’s trunk could be a superhighway for snakes or rats. However, the tips of the branches are narrow and might wildly swing in gusts of wind. From a bird’s perspective, there must be dozens of other safety factors I can’t imagine.
Likewise, with mate selection, I don’t know if prospective bird paramours find each other via attractive pheromones or feather color or ways I can’t perceive. I only know that it involves complicated and loud communications at sunset. When camping under big trees, I’ve noticed the same phenomenon at sunrise. Perhaps birds reevaluate anew who to spend the day with each morning.
Upon reflection, I wonder if human territory-establishment and mate selection can get just as loud and complicated as the birds. People, like our winged friends, spend enormous amounts of time and energy searching for the best home. The ultimate in human territory conflict is warfare, a noisy business indeed.
The human quest for a perfect partner may be as complicated as with birds. In courting rituals, Valentine’s Day, social media, the garment and cosmetic industries and advertising all show us how to appear sexy and find a mate. As for noise, a recent BTS concert in a Las Vegas stadium was filled with 50,000 screaming fans, idolizing the heavily made-up, wildly gesticulating and loud young males onstage.
Perhaps I can imagine why birds are busy and noisy while they pursue territorial and mate-searching processes. They may resemble humans more than I thought.
Cate Burns is the author of Libido Tsunami: Awash with the Droll in Life, in which she unearths the ludicrous in the emotional live traps surrounding us — in families, friends and disastrous romances. Get it on Amazon today.