My final interview before this month's 2011 Midwest Birding Symposium is with Nicole Perretta, whose Symposium topic will be Bird Calling Workshop with the Bird Call Lady!
How do you decide what bird calls to learn? Do you hear the call and think it's cool, or do you see a bird name like the "bare-faced go-away bird" and decide to learn its call?
First, I learn calls from birds I am familiar with like backyard birds. Then I extend that to my local birds, or a species I've worked with in captivity. Also, when I travel, I will occasionally pick up a new bird call. I've even learned a few by watching nature shows on TV.
Most importantly, I need to be able to hear the call frequently, and watch the birds when making the call, so I learn their meaning. Some are alarm calls, contact calls, feeding calls, and so on.
What is one of the hardest call to do and why?
The hardest are the ones that are painful to do. The domestic goose is a very abrasive call and it really hurts after I do it.
What special skills or attributes do you possess to help you imitate bird calls so well?
Well I have a good ear for music. I also retained the vocal abilities that most children have, which is the ability to bring my voice to a high pitched squeak
Tell us about your funniest experience using a bird call in the wild.
Wow, I have had so many fun times with calling wild birds. I'd say the funniest is when I was calling California Quail for a bird count and two male quail flew out of the brush right at my face. The funniest part was the look on the bird's faces when they almost ran into me.
I notice your segment is described as a "workshop". So, will there be lots of audience participation going on?
Yes, the audience will be learning how to do some bird calls. They will learn different sounds and incorporate them into some real birds calls. Audience participation is not required, but it makes it more fun.
Can you help us attract another rare bird close by the Symposium, like the Kirtland's Warbler we saw last time?
I don't know, I think warbler is beyond my vocal capabilities. Some sounds are better left to a syrinx or ipod. However, I am sure I can call something in!!
Thanks Nicole, sounds like fun. I'll be there with my voice ready!
Nicole Perretta has been birding and bird calling for 30 years. She can imitate 158 bird calls and has performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Nicole teaches bird calling workshops throughout the western United States, has worked professionally as an aviculturist, and is a bird illustrator. Her work has been published in a variety of books and ornithological journals.
Get ready to do bird calls with Nicole Perretta at the Midwest Birding Symposium, September 15-18, 2011 at Lakeside OH! Click here to register.
Here's links to my earlier interviews with wildlife photographer Marie Read and with Ben Lizdas of Eagle Optics.