Do we talk parrot? No, we rely on them to speak human. Do we talk whale? Why not? They are always singing to one another. If we record dolphin talk and play it back to them underwater, they will stop to have a conversation. When we can’t answer, they swim off thinking we are idiots.
We can’t communicate with other species on this planet. That is why space aliens leave us alone.
I must boast here. I speak bird. It took a while but they managed to train me. The garden is surrounded by tall cedars, home to nesting redwing blackbirds--otherwise known as the bird most likely to peck the back of your head. We have a pact. They nest and I garden, and we don’t interfere with each other. Except, I will scare away prowling cats. They give me a heads up call, and I know what to do.
I got home one day to find my hedge trimmer guy holding a garbage can lid, loppers and a long stick. Hold that over my head, he said, giving me the lid. He gave me the stick, wave this about and it helps if you yell. I explained to the birds that no one was nesting where he was going to lop. They let him do it as long as I stood next to him.
So I was very surprised when I went out one spring to garden and was greeted by a chorus of warning cheeps. I looked for predators. Nothing. I went into the shed for some tools. Silence. I came out to screeches of terror. I went inside, silence. It’s only me, I told them, as I took the saw over to a fallen cedar branch.
A female red wing blackbird flew next to me. She landed on a branch at eye level. Leaning as far towards me as she could get, she said, Cheep! Cheep! Cheep!
I explained, while she listened intently, I am only going to trim the broken branch. I trimmed the branch. Silence. I started to walk to put saw back in the shed, and the birds went crazy calling to me.
I got a chair and sat down where they could see me not doing anything, hoping it would calm them. My husband came outside to ask, what’s wrong with the birds? And then I saw it--a fledgling crouched under the lilac shrub. I’d walked past it many times. It was a wonder I hadn’t trodden on it.
You see, birds have a sense of honor, of right and wrong. No bird wanted to peck me on the back of the head, their usual method of communicating with humans who get in the way. They hadn’t tried to mob me. They’d sent a messenger to explain there was a baby bird on the ground near my feet. If space aliens visit, they’ll want to talk to the birds.