In his Backyard Naturalist column,  Dana Wilde wrote that the regent honeyeater bird, native to southwestern Australia, is critically endangered as a result of destruction of habitat and compromised birdsong, (“Birds, music and culture,” April 22). There are now only a few hundred honeyeaters, all that’s left from flock-darkened skies of the past.

Because of the diminished numbers of older male birds who had traditionally mentored the young males in the songs of mating rituals, the songs are being lost or adulterated with errors. The female honeyeaters don’t recognize the songs and mating is compromised, and consequently, so is the population.

The loss of songbird “language” is similar to the loss of the richness of the English language as it is used on many social media platforms.

The internet is here to stay and I recognize its value, but consider that a possible stabilizer or check against the loss of richness of human songs could be an occasional dip into or immersion especially in late 19th-century writers, such as George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, to remind ourselves what power there is in language well written or spoken.

Such writing could cleanse the palate of the constant diet of shorthand and abbreviations of all sorts found on the internet’s platforms and protect us from reduction to regent honeyeater status, our populations compromised by the quality of human songs lost.


Judith Robbins


Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.