Somewhere in the back of my sister’s yard a lone bird house stands. It had been abandoned for years, never quite came up to code I suppose, until this year. A new season brought tenants in the form of the ordinary House Sparrow, a pair which laid five eggs and hatched five very noisy, very hungry babies and no matter how common the House Sparrows were, we were thrilled to witness their antics.
One morning we noticed that a blue jay was hanging around studying the house with the same kind of interest we were from a grove of cedars nearby, probably enticed by the tiny, mad chirping of the kids as mom would fly into the area. His motives and our’s however were probably not the same. We were on ‘alert’, ready to go save the family with a broom we kept handy, but as it turned out the babies knew what they were doing.
Many times we witnessed mom or dad perch on the box and bring the silent chicks to a feverish pitch of begging simply by landing on the house. But when Mr. Blue Jay swooped onto the house one time while the parents were away, busy with the endless foraging it takes to keep everyone happy, the house remained silent. How did the babies know it wasn’t mom or dad?
I have witnessed a similar situation while raising our litters of puppies. When the pups were only three days old, Mama Clipsy (Eclipse) would have to be enticed to go potty and move around a bit so we would send her outside and the puppies would instinctively be very quiet in her absence, but the minute she walked back through the door into the house the babies would start squeaking and pushing themselves toward the opening in the whelping box. I don’t mean that when Clipsy entered the room they did this, they did this when she entered the house. The door to the outside was forty feet and two rooms away. How did they know she was coming? We even test drove a few situations to solidify what we were seeing by opening and closing the door to the outside when Clipsy was doing her potty business. No response. I brought a wad of her hair over to the box so they could smell it but no sale on that item. Vibration? I got Clipsy’s attention on her way into the house with a treat and fed her several in the kitchen. When mama first came in, they responded but stopped after a moment when Clipsy did not move directly to the whelping box. She was moving around in the kitchen because I fed her ‘on the fly’ so her feet would be dancing along the floor. The babies only began crying once Clipsy brought her attention back to returning to the whelping box, again several room away.
Even if an individual was skeptical on the existence of interspecies animal communication (Clearly I do not fall into that category.) one would still have to agree that something is going on between these parents and their babies.
And if we can all agree something unseen is happening, and we ourselves are animals, then we must ask the question. When did we become oblivious to this in our own lives? When did we lose this skill of ‘knowing’, of ‘feeling’ and trade it for depending on more conventional skills?
Was it spoken language where we first decided we, as a species, didn’t need these other skills as much. Was it tools? Written language? Was it the social aspect; everyone gathered together in one village made the need for other talents obsolete?
The most intriguing question drifting through my mind is…what other tools do we possess that we have not yet accessed?
I do not have an answer by the way…it just makes me wonder.
Oh, the possibilities!