Thursday, March 14, 2013

Return of the Operatic Song Sparrow

Two years ago, way back near the start of this blog, I posted about a particular Song Sparrow in our yard whose song sounded remarkably like the first few notes of "La donna è mobile" from Verdi's Rigoletto (this tune). Song Sparrows produce a wide variety of songs, and individual birds each have several songs in their repertoire, so Paul and I have heard many different offerings from these birds over the years (some more Rigoletto-like than others). But then this morning, I was surprised to hear the same song that first caught our attention years ago, and I took the opportunity to record the event. And now I'm pleased to present, in his internet debut, our local operatic Song Sparrow:

Pretty close similarity, right?? (Not exactly the same in terms of pitches, but pretty darn close nonetheless.) I don't know whether this is the same bird who serenaded us years ago, or whether it's another individual who learned the same basic song from that earlier bird. Either way, I think it's a pretty cool sonic coincidence.

Even crazier, though, is the fact that Paul and I are not the only people to have heard this particular tune in a Song Sparrow's repertoire. I did a Google search for "Song Sparrow" and "La donna è mobile" and came across this passage from a 1921 field guide by Ferdinand Schuyler Mathews, Field Book of Wild Birds and Their Music (Google Books link here):

Mathews 1921, pp. 114-116

Mathews' book turns out to be pretty wacky and awesome. He transcribes bird songs into music notation, often with newly composed accompaniment, and makes these types of comparisons to classical music throughout. It's definitely worth flipping through for fun!

After all this, the Song Sparrow's name seems extremely accurate. Here's to many more concerts to come from these awesome little brown birds. :)

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful! I wonder what song could be put to the sweet piping and trilling of a Winter Wren.