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In This Place

The Bird Grammys

David Cook Wildlife Photography
Superb Lyrebird

Did you catch the Grammys this weekend? Let’s face it, except when they exhumed the bones of Aerosmith and reassembled them on stage, you had no idea who the majority of those musicians were. Even I, culturally literate, perennially hip bird guy that I am, found myself Googling the nominees because I have never heard of Tyler, the Creator and was only vaguely aware of Billie Eilish. If you find yourself disoriented and puzzled by today’s music, fret not - I’m here to offer you an alternative, something real to cling to in these confusing times – the Bird Grammys.

This award show is not well known, mostly because I just invented it today. But for the sake of this piece, let’s just assume that Bird Report culture correspondents and ornitho-musicologists have been traveling the globe to assemble the nominees. Without further ado, here they are.

First, the winner in the Classical category, the Musician Wren of South America. This obscure but remarkable species of deep Amazonian jungle has been studied by musicologists, who have published papers noting the wrens’ use of consonant fourths, fifths, and octaves, which is unusual among birds, as well as similarities between their songs and passages from Haydn’s Symphony #103. The question is, who stole from whom? The courts will have to decide.

Staying in the jungle for a moment, our next category is “Solo or ensemble performance on jungle movie soundtracks”, and the nominees include Screaming Piha, the self-styled voice of the Amazon, and the Limpkin, whose screams are characteristic of marshes and swamps from Florida to Brazil. But the hands-down winner is the Laughing Kookaburra, an Australian kingfisher whose iconic performances appear inappropriately in jungle-set movies all over the world.

Next up we have the “Best Cover Artist” category. Nominees include the Northern Mockingbird,

the European Starling, and the Mynas, all of which can imitate almost anything they hear, but the winner is the amazing Superb Lyrebird of Australia, for their creative use of the more industrial sounds around them. 

For the kids out there into Euro-style EDM - that’s Electronic Dance Music to the uninitiated - the hands down winner in that category is the Jack Snipe of Eurasia, with this eerie, trance-inspired number recorded at a studio in a Swedish bog.

For the category “Best guest appearance in a human song” we had to go back a few years to find our winner, the Common Blackbird, a European species closely related to our American Robins, as heard in the Beatles song of that name.

Thus ends this international installment of the Bird Grammys. Stay tuned next week for the North American version, unless of course I decide to do something else.