Krillin: Um... Quack!
Dodoria: Oh, it's just a space duck.
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). Not to be confused with Nobody Here but Us Statues, which is similar to but involves hiding in plain sight.
Used as a signal
- Parodied frequently in Sturmtruppen: the owl cry used as a signal leads to various funny mishaps, including: being loudly asked who's the moron trying to pass for an owl, being mistaken for an owl with deadly results, being mistaken for a hen by an horny rooster, being answered by a monstrous roar ("Either they've changed the signal, or we're in deep trouble").
- In Bottle Rocket, Dignan uses "Ca-Caw, Ca-Caw!" as a signal during their first robbery and during the bar fight.
- In the Soviet WW2 movie The Dawns Here Are Quiet, none of the female soldiers know how to do the bird calls, though one does a good donkey bray. As there aren't any donkeys around, their commander teaches them a duck call.
- Played for laughs 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.
- 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!"
- In ¡Three 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!"
- 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.
- 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.
- 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."
- 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.
- 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.
- In Peter Dickinson's The Kin, Mana uses a bird call as a pre-arranged signal that cannibals are approaching. The bird she imitates is local to the region, and thus doesn't tip off the raiders; Mana calls once more than the bird would so that the Kin can tell the difference.
- In The Lord of the Rings, the Rangers of Ithilien use bird calls to communicate with each other without breaking cover. In the film, Gollum recognizes their calls as fake and hides himself, while Frodo is suspicious but doesn't catch on in time.
- In Mr. Standfast, there's a scene where Hannay is exploring one of the spy ring's hidden meeting places while a colleague keeps watch and hoots like an owl to warn him when somebody approaches.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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."
- Subverted when Titty hears an owl hoot and thinks it's her siblings signaling her, but it turns out to just be a real owl.
- 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.
- Done by Genre Savvy Abed in Community episode Modern Warfare.
- Pierce 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)Gilly: Shut your mouth.Whore: What did you say?!(the "owl" hoots again)Whore: It's just an owl you dumb bitch.Gilly: No, it's not.
- 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!"
- 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!
- In the Only Fools and Horses episode "To Hull and Back", Rodney is left on lookout while Del discussed diamond smuggling with Boycie and is told to make an owl noise if the police arrive. The strangled noise he actually makes is mistaken by DCI Slater for a crow. At least partly because Dirty Cop Slater has no interest in stopping them, since they're just patsies in his smuggling operaton.
- 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?
- Used in the Unnatural History episode, "Maximum Insecurity" to lure the Villain of the Week.
- The Walking Dead: Rick and Daryl use bird-like whistles to signal to each other once the group is separated in season 5's The Distance.
- 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.
- Ellis of Left 4 Dead 2 attempts to locate other survivors with "Ca-caw! Ca-caw!" if he's sufficiently far away from the others... Or if he's the last man standing.
- In Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando, Angela attempts this when she's discovered during a covert video call by meowing like a kitten when she's discovered by the leader of Thugs-4-Less. This causes him to saw "Aww..." and reach to pet her, until he realizes the ruse and snaps out of it.
- In Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, Bentley uses his Grapple-Cam to guide a blinded Penelope through Bloodbath Bay by making bird noises to get her attention.
- 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.
- Thief II: The Metal Age 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.
- Battle for Dream Island: Match has Bubble act like a tree in order to fool the Puffball Announcer (Bubble is not an official contestant at this point, but Match and Pencil wanted him in anyway). At one point, Bubble makes leaf blowing noises directly towards the Announcer. It somehow works even when FreeSmart is at the summit of Yoylemontain.
- RWBY has Nora's sloth call.
Ren: Nora, I don't think sloths make a lot of noise.Nora: That's why it's so perfect!
- Amphibia: In "The New Normal", Prior to entering her house, Anne tells the Plantars to hide in a trash bin and only come out after she's signaled them with a bird noise once she ease her parents about where she's been. Not too soon after reuniting with her parents, a bird flies by making a noise, which Hop Pop mistakes as the signal and comes out from the trash.
- Played straight in Avatar: The Last Airbender with Jet. When he's first introduced, he uses bird calls to communicate with the rest of his group.
- Brave: One of Merida's brothers uses a bird sound to signal an all-clear to the others.
- Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles:
(a Roughneck does a bird whistle to fool the Bugs)
General Redwing: That's the worst bluejay I've ever heard.
Private Higgins: The Bugs don't know that, General.
- In the Family Guy episode "Peterotica", Peter and Carter team up to steal Lois' wallet. Peter distracts her by riding a unicycle while Carter pickpockets her, followed by him shouting "Caw-caw! I got her wallet!".
- Kung Fu Panda 2: Monkey says he'll warn the group of any approaching threats with a "Caw-CAW, Caw-KEE!" like Crane's. Crane gets a bit huffy ("Excuse me, when have I ever made that noise?"), but the payoff comes when Monkey is too distracted and lets the enemy get too close.
- In Monsters vs. Aliens, B.O.B. calls out the others when they are in Gallaxar's ship. Dr. Cockroach comes up from behind and Dope Slaps him to remind him that they're all already there.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "One Bad Apple", Apple Bloom hears "Moo!... Moo!... Moo!...", when she looks out the window, the cow shakes her head to find Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo making the noises.
- Robots: While infiltrating the Bigweld Ball, Rodney and Fender discuss using signals in case they're found out. Fender suggests a very loud "Ca-caw!" call, which he calls "the sound of the deep doo-doo bird".
- In South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, Christophe the mole instructs Stan and Kyle that if anything goes wrong, to make a sound like a dying giraffe. Played for laughs when they do have to make the sound later - and distract two guards who correctly identify the intended sound.
Po: (frustrated) Monkey!Monkey: (Weakly) Eh-heh... caw-caw?
- In Squidbillies episode "Young, Dumb, and Full of Gums", after Dan Halen causes everyone in the town to abandon all use of dental hygiene leaving them without any teeth, Rusty calls out to a group who smuggled in dental products with an owl noise to meet up with them.
Used to pass for an animal
- In an early AIR episode, Yukito is trespassing, and has to conceal his presence. He utters a very non-convincing "Nyaa~", which has the sisters react in the following way:
Kano: Hey, did you hear something?Yukito: Nyaa.Kano: Oh, it's just a cat.Hijiri: But we don't have a cat.Kano: Then I guess it was just my imagination.Hijiri: I guess you're right.
- 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.
- Subverted hilariously in Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, where Yamada tried to use this to avoid getting mistaken for a pervert (once again) during a hot spring scene:
- In The Smurfnapper, The Smurfs accidentally wake Gargamel while trying to rescue their friend, so one of them makes a meowing sound to make him think it was Azrael.
- Played for laughs in Down Periscope, in an exaggerated way. At one point, the chasers of Stingray are clued in on its position when one of the crewmates fails to stay quiet (hint: stale food). What follows, is an extended sequence of accurately replicating two whales singing to each other, until attention is turned away from the Stingray again.
- The Emperor And His Brother: During the prison infiltration when the hero and his Action Girl partner tries to bust out their friend, the girl lures out the guards... by meowing. For some baffling reason, this is enough to lure both guards away from their posts, for the hero to knock them out.
- One of the funnier moments from Legendary Weapons of China has Tien Hao and Lady Fang, two assassins whom are not on the same side, trying to sneak upon Gordon Liu's Tan Ti in an attic, but ends up confronting each other. To avoid detection from their mutual target, both of them start making meowing and squeaking noises, pretending to be a cat and mouse in the attic, while furiously fighting one another.
- Little Nicky: The voyeur played by Jon Lovitz tries to pass himself off as a giant bird this way. He gets shot out of his tree by the son of the woman he's spying on for this, and quickly learns what a giant horny bird actually looks like... in Hell.
"I DESERVE THIS!"
- 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.
- In the 1993 film adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, Benedick, while hiding, makes an indignant shout, then covers it up by pretending to be a bird. It doesn't fool Claudio, Pedro, and Leonato for a second, and they smile at each other while making bird-flapping gestures with their hands because they're still fooling Benedick and can't go off script.
- In Sonic the Hedgehog (2020), Tom finds Sonic in his house. Sonic, in plain view, tries meowing at him to drive off suspicion. He gets a tranq dart in the leg for his troubles.
- 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?Shemp: Just garbage! (Cue out-of-view Dope Slap)
- 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!"
- Yet another version has three men trying to have their way with the farmer's daughter down the hall. When the first makes too much noise and wakes the farmer up, he quickly says "Meow!", and the farmer goes back to bed. The second one does the same thing (the first telling him to do that if the farmer wakes up), and when the third one wakes the farmer up, he says "It's me, the cat!".
- 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. Since everyone knows dogs don't talk, it usually passes, but more observant humans will 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."
- Humorously lampshaded shortly afterwards:
- Hilariously played with on El Chavo del ocho.
Cleotilde: Who's there?
Cleotilde: Ah, Satan, is that you? (Later...) Who's there?
Chavo: Another cat!
- Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens originally recorded in 1947 by big-band leader Louis Jordan. As might be guessed, it's an overtly humorous spin on the old "farmer's hen-house" joke listed above.
- In Baldur's Gate, when doing a Thieves' Guild quest to rob a guy while he's asleep, making too much in his room will cause him to start to wake up, at which point one of the dialog options is "meow." Make noise again and he'll realize that he doesn't own a cat, at which point you reassure him that you're a stray. Make noise a third time and he'll complain that you're the noisiest talking cat he's ever met, realize what he's just said, and actually wake up and attack you.
- Shortly after recruiting Lid in Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart, she tries spying on Noire in the shower to learn some dirty secrets. When Noire hears her, she tries making a cat noise to cover her tracks. Noire doesn't buy it and pummels her.
- 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 Persona 3 Portable on the male protagonist's side, during the Kyoto trip he has to cover for a how Junpei's towel is about to fall on top of Yukari by imitating a cat. When Yukari asks if the sound was a fox, he can insist it was a cat.
- Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town: The assassin sent after Iori, one of the marriage candidates, tends to meow like a cat in response to his presence being detected. In the first cutscene allowing the Player Character to know Iori a little better, Iori is able to pretend his one-sided conversation with his would-be assassin is with a cat that is trying to steal his fishing catches precisely because the assassin consistently resorts to meowing.
- Parodied in Consolers. Hideo Kojima manages to hide from Konami by hiding in a box... and making "box sounds". She falls for it.
- Hiimdaisy's Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater comic has Snake doing this after Eva starts whining about being hungry and injured.
Guard: Who's there?!
(Guard sees Snake, covering Eva's mouth with his hand)
Guard: It's okay, you guys! It's just a bird!
- In another part of the comic, he gets rid of a guard by holding branches and saying "I'm a tree!" On the other hand, a different guard gets freaked out and suspicious regarding his alligator mask, but is told It's Probably Nothing by his superior.
- The Flintstones: At the end of "Peek-a-boo Camera", Fred and Barney try to escape retribution from their wives when they get busted for lying to them so they can go to a bachelor party. The girls have Dino track them down and he barks up a tree, but the boys, hiding in a pterodactyl's nest, make bird noises that convince the girls to look elsewhere.
Fred: Keep chirpin', Barney. You never know when they'll be back.
- How Murray Saved Christmas: Attempted when Murray, Subbing for Santa, wakes one of the house's residents.
MAN: What was that noise?MURRY: Mice?MAN: Oh. Wait who said that?MURRY: Cat?MAN: Oh. Bettyfred, get my gun!