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And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” ~ Luke 1:46-47

Bird vocalizations come in at least two flavors: songs and calls. Most calls are chips, peeps, or twitters. Songs, as the implies, are typically melodious, often sing-songy. While songs are primarily employed in service of breeding, establishing territory and attracting a mate, calls serve to communicate other information, typically warnings, anger, and just keeping in touch with others. Birders know that “pishing” (making non-vocal noises that sound like the word) can help to attract small birds, enticing them out from hiding. The reason is that it mimics the sound that they make when agitated by a danger, such as a predator on the prowl. Little birds have learned that there is power in numbers, so regardless of species, they will work together to run off the threat. Basically, it means that humans have translated bird language for “help!”

The distinction between songs and calls is not precise. Great Horned Owls sing “who’s awake, me too” when looking to attract a mate and then sing the same tune again as a duet with that mate after nesting has commenced, effectively “hi, honey, I’m home” and “did you remember to pick up something for supper?” The repeated dueting of the courtship gets replaced by a check-in at the beginning and end of the night. The rest of the time, silence at the nest sight is preferred in order to keep its location a secret. Not to mention that the male’s daytime rest will be non-existent if the crows catch on to where he is roosting. Just like the smaller birds calling for help to harass that dangerous larger bird, crows will call in the cavalry to bother the owl into leaving. Perhaps they learned the trick from those pesky little birds doing the same to them.

Speaking of crows, it is hard to say that they do anything other than speak. I mean, what part of the cawing, croaking, gurgling, and squawking is their song? Perhaps like human music there are genres. If wrens are jazz singers, then maybe crows are hip-hop artists. Maybe there are more ways to sing than we imagine. Traditionally, the Magnificat, Mary’s words after Jesus and John the Baptist meet in utero, are considered a song. So why does the scripture tell us that she said those words? Was she reading lyrics? Maybe she was rapping. Or maybe a song is something that comes from the spirit, something that emerges from our hearts, regardless of our ability to carry a tune. It is true that all God’s creatures have a place in the choir, and sometimes our part is to preach, especially without words.

Prayer: Great Song, thank you for making each of us your singers. Amen.


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