When a character in fiction makes an animal call, which is typically that of a bird. When a character makes a bird call, expect it to be for one of two purposes, neither of which are for animal reasons:
- As a signal.
- To pass it off as an animal.
Seldom played straight anymore, as it's very easy to use for humor
; typically, it will be either be for parody (the caller definitely does not sound like a bird, but it works anyway) or deconstruction (the bird call is out of place for the time or location, and the position is given away).
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Used as a signal
- Kung Pow! Enter the Fist: One of Evil Betty's henchmen calling out in a bird noise. Betty himself calls out a second later with, "I'm just a birdie too!" This may also be Type 2.
- In íThree Amigos!, Steve Martin's character calls in very badly done bird calls to get his co-stars' attention. Still, they assume it's a real bird. He eventually gets to "Lookuphere! Lookuphere! Lookuphere!" and finally resorts to just yelling, "Hey, you guys!"
- Parodied in Galaxy Quest: Guy and Tommy stay behind to watch over the scene when the rest goes out to get fuel. The signal for something going wrong is a bird call, but, when they notice something really bad about to happen, they run out into the open screaming "Caw, Jason!" and frantically flailing their arms.
- What makes it funny is that Jason tells them they don't have to do bird calls since they have working communicators, but Guy and Tommy still do it anyway out of sheer panic.
- Played with in Desert Heat: Eddie Lomax and Johnny Sixtoes perform coyote calls to alert each other. The calls are very clearly recordings looped in, though.
- Lampshaded in Monstrous Regiment. Polly, who knows something about birds, is exasperated by her squadmates' incredibly unrealistic bird calls.
- Similarly lampshaded in Going Postal. "Moist made a sound like an owl. Since he was no ornithologist, he did this by saying 'woo-woo.'"
- Played straight in Frank Herbert's Dune. The Fremen use bird calls to communicate with each other: "Jessica heard... the distant bird calls that Stilgar had said were the signals of his watchmen."
- ...Birds... on Arrakis?!
- Presumably some variety of buzzard.
- Perhaps you forget Paul's Freman name is Muad'Dib, which is a kangaroo mouse. Birds hunt mice. And a big scene takes place at a location called the Cave of the Birds.
- Swallows and Amazons:
"Now, I haven't seen your allies and I'd rather not, but just you tell them from me if you should happen to meet them, that if they want to give a signal right bang in the middle of the day, it wouldn't be so hard on their friends if they'd choose blackbirds or jays instead of owls. Your Aunt Maria wants to write to the Natural History Museum about it. She says she's never heard one at mid-day before."
- Defied in A Song of Ice and Fire. A character is told to make a bird call if she needs help. Her reply:
That's stupid. If I need help, I'll shout "Help".
- Gendry tells Arya Stark to hoot like an owl when she's taken care of a sentry. She replies that she's a wolf (the sigil of House Stark) not an owl, so she'll howl instead. But after cutting the sentry's throat it's not her that howls, but a real wolf outside the castle. As Arya has the ability to bond with her direwolf which is roaming the Riverlands nearby with a large wolf pack, this may not be a coincidence.
- In The Hobbit, Bilbo is sent to scout for danger, and told to hoot like a particular type of owl if he finds any. He's not given a chance to explain that he doesn't know how to, which becomes a problem when he does discover something.
- The heroes in The Wheel of Time use a lot of bird calls as signals. Rand even makes a magic shield use a bird call as an alarm. They intentionally use ones out of place for the location to avoid getting confused by actual birds.
- Is played for laughs in Baptism of Fire. Zoltan Chivay tells the gang he'll signal them by making a sparrowhawk's call. When they call him on not even knowing how a sparrowhawk sounds, he points out that if they hear a weird, unidentifiable noise, they'll know it's him.
- Peter Pan's famous crow, often used as a signal to alert the Lost Boys to his presence. Additionally, the Indians use coyote cries as signals.
- For Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, the signal is a cat cry. Huck's apparently so good at it that on one occasion a man started throwing rocks at him through a window.
- Used in The Hunger Games as a signal between Katniss and Rue. In a play on this trope, the girls sing or whistle four particular notes — and then they rely on the mockingjays present in the arena to carry the song to where the other girl can hear it.
- Spenser Chapman mentions in The Jungle is Neutral how he used English bird calls in the Malaysian jungle in WW2, as to Japanese soldiers it was just another strange jungle noise.
- Happens in an iCarly episode where they have Freddy sneak into detention with them.
Carly: (like a bird) Caw-caw!
Freddy: (unconvincingly) Caw-caw...
Carly: Do it like a bird!
- Played for laughs on Stargate SG-1. A pair of bumbling scientists have decided to rescue the titular team, and one of them uses a bird call to attract their attention... on a spaceship.
Jonas Quinn: Is that... a bird?
- One episode of The Wonder Years has a group of middle school kids plotting to sneak alcohol from their house late at night and use this to signal when the alcohol is recovered. When the kid acquires the alcohol, everyone else repeats the call over and over in unison and inadvertently wakes up kid's parents.
- Used in the Unnatural History episode, "Maximum Insecurity" to lure the Villain of the Week.
- On an episode of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., Sgt. Carter tells Gomer to signal him by hooting like an owl. When the time comes, Gomer says "Hoody-hoo, Sergeant Carter! Hoody-Hoo!"
- Done by Genre Savvy Abed in Community episode Modern Warfare.
- Peirce also does this, to make people think birds are stealing Abed's food, not him. Except they're inside. And sitting right in front of him as he does it. They're all too stunned to do anything but stare.
- Game of Thrones. Heard just before the massacre at Moles Town by a Wildling raiding party. Gilly, a timid Wildling girl who's hiding in the local brothel, is being hassled by one of the whores.
Whore: Little Wildling bitch, should have stayed with your own kind—
(an owl hoots)
Whore: What did you say?!
(the "owl" hoots again)
Gilly: No, it's not.
- Thief II has Garret use a bird whistle in the first mission. It's used to get your NPC companion to start his run to rescue his lover.
- Played straight in Star Wars: The Old Republic, where Republic players on Belsavis can be sent on a quest to find out how Rattataki convicts are repeatedly outmaneuvering Republic prison guards despite having no radios or other visible signals. One simple Escort Mission later, the survey droid reports that there are always an increase in avian calls before an ambush, and closer inspection with advanced sensors reveals the calls are outside the range of the local fauna, finally explaining how the Rattataki operate. Future patrols are then sent out with devices that detect those artificial calls.
Used to cover noise
Anime and Manga
- Dragon Ball Z Abridged: "What's that?" (Krillin ducks behind a rock and starts shouting the word "quack".) "Oh, it's just a space duck. What a majestic creature."
- In an early Rurouni Kenshin story arc, Kenshin and Sano are secretly following Yahiko to make sure he's safe. As he begins to twig on their presence, they try to pretend that they're just cicada. In the manga, at least, Yahiko's not convinced, as it's too early for those to be chirping.
- In one film adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, Benedick, while hiding, makes an indignant shout, then covers it up by pretending to be a bird.
- In one The Three Stooges short, the police are searching for a group of robbers. An officer hears some rustling from a nearby garbage can.
Officer: Who's in there?
Just garbage! (Cue out-of-view Dope Slap
- Wilbur from Meet the Robinsons imitates a dove's coo twice in the film. The first time is when he tries to act like he's not there, despite Lewis already seeing him. The second time is when he and Carl go to save Lewis from the Bowler Hat Guy.
- There's a joke about three blondes who escape from prison and hide from the pursuing police officers in three burlap sacks. The officers nudge the sacks in turn. The first blonde says, "Meow!" the second says, "Woof!" and the third says, "Potatoes!"
- In another version of the joke, they're each hiding in a tree; the first one says "Meow," the second says "Tweet tweet," and the third says "Moooooo."
- The Trope Namer might be this joke: A farmer wakes up at night from some noise coming from the chicken coop. Concerned that a fox or worse might be in there, he walks out and shouts: "Someone in there?" Answer: "Nobody here but us hens!"
- A dog variant appears in the Discworld novels. Whenever Gaspode, a talking dog, lets something slip around humans, he usually says "Woof?" to cover it up. Some humans then notice that a dog should woof; it shouldn't say "woof."
- Swallows and Amazons: They take advantage of Peggy's ability to imitate a duck quacking to successfully cover up when someone makes a giveaway splash during a Stealth-Based Mission at night.
Again there was a splash in the deep reed beds at the river's mouth. Again a duck quacked loudly. It quacked two or three times, until a voice said sternly, "Stow it, you goat. Don't overdo things."
- Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens, done as an Overly Long Gag by novelty act Jump 'N the Saddle Band.
- One of Frank Muir's stories on My Word involved him describing a Naked People Trapped Outside episode. During it, he attempted to conceal himself by crouching doown by the side of the road and making a sound like a small hawthorn bush.
- In a minigame in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, you have to follow a girl to watch what she does without her noticing you. If she hears you (if you run, for example) but you're out of her sight, Link will freeze and meow like a cat.
- In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, when Mario spies on Grubba through the air vents, Grubba will hear the partner talk. The player has the option of choosing one of three possible sounds to make. Choosing 'burp' will make Grubba think there's 'burping beetles.'
- In the text-adventure Radical Dreamers, the guards catch our heroes hiding in the treasure vault. One suggests it's a cat ("Meow!" says the guile heroine) or a dog ("Woof!") or a heckran ([lengthy baffled pause] "Heck-eck-eck-eck-rraaaannnn"). They are discovered shortly thereafter.
- How Murray Saved Christmas: Attempted when Murray, Subbing for Santa, wakes one of the house's residents.
MAN: What was that noise?
MAN: Oh. Wait who said that?
MAN: Oh. Bettyfred, get my gun!