Birds are perhaps my most neglected interest. I love learning about birds but never seem to find the time to really study them.

Today I let myself indulge in bird study as I listened to this TED talk by an orinthologist in the UK.

Among other things (such as why the study of bird song holds the promise of a cure for Alzheimer’s) he explained why the Bullfinch is his favorite bird.

He said the Bullfinch’s song sounds like a “squeaky wheelbarrow.” Yet these birds have a remarkable facility for learning songs they hear.

If you fast forward about 1/3 of the way through the video you can hear the audio of a Bullfinch singing a song taught to him by a German forester who whistled it for him.

When a Bullfinch hits a wrong note it goes back to the beginning of the song and starts over.

This ability of the Bullfinch was discovered in the 1850s and they became quite popular. Queen Victoria owned a Bullfinch. A  Bullfinch that could sing at least three folk songs was in high demand and fetched high prices.

So I think it’s cool how the Bullfinch sing other songs beautifully though its own song is nothing to write home about. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.

It appears that the Bullfinch does not live in the United States. Alas. So I guess the white throated sparrow will remain my favorite bird, even though they passed by us this spring and didn’t make their usual three week stay in our backyard and neighborhood (sob):


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