20 Oct 2022

NSW schoolkids pick up lost art of bird calling

From Checkpoint, 5:49 pm on 20 October 2022

A bunch of school kids in New South Wales have signed up to the lost art of competitive bird calling.

Dubbed the Bournda Bird Olympics, it's run by an environmental education group, and it's aiming to help school children to connect with wildlife.

And the youngsters are pretty convincing.

Now the organisers are floating the idea of a trans-Tasman competition next year.

Doug Reckord, the principal of the Bournda Environmental Education Centre, which runs the event, said as part of their science and technology lessons the children were encouraged to listen to bird call clips from YouTube or other websites.

As part of the event, the children name birds in photos, match the birds that some beaks and claws have come from, identify bird calls at a wildlife centre and finally the main event - do their own bird call.

A trio of judges awards points for clarity, enthusiasm and accuracy. 

One of the judges who is 83 entered a similar competition in Sydney when he was just 13. 

"So you can imagine his delight at seeing these young kids step up.

"The key thing for the younger kids is that they're not self-conscious like adults can be and they bring a charming innocence to the whole equation. That's the confidence with which they squawk and squeak and get their calls out there which is something to see."  


The kookaburra  Photo: 123RF

The kookaburra was probably the most popular to copy, Reckord said, while the Australian raven also featured often. 

"Some people would say that the raven probably sounds like the Australian accent a little bit with a bit of strine [slang for the way Aussies talk about their country]. There's a real variety of birds that we get." 

The winning entry this year came from a girl who imitated a king parrot.  

"We knew it was good call because when she did her call into the microphone we had a responding call from a king parrot in the trees in the sanctuary who happened to be there. We thought that's a pretty convincing endorsement of the accuracy of her call when she got a response from an actual bird." 

Australian king parrot

The king parrot.  Photo: 123RF

The winning school held up the trophy like they had won the FA Cup or the Bledisloe Cup, he said. 

"So that's a great thing to see."

There has been some international interest and he was enthusiastic that some New Zealand schools might join the competition next year. 

"It would be great if we could get some New Zealand schools that would reciprocate. We could have an online event."