"And I say to Sam now: 'Sam-here's the book.' It's so short and jumbled and jangled, Sam, because there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre. Everybody is supposed to be dead, to never say anything or want anything ever again. Everything is supposed to be very quiet after a massacre, and it always is, except for the birds. And what do the birds say? All there is to say about a massacre, things like 'Poo-tee-weet?' "
“Billy and the rest wandered out onto the shady street. The trees were leafing out. There was nothing going on out there, no traffic of any kind. There was only one vehicle, an abandoned wagon drawn by two horses. The wagon was green and coffin shaped. Birds were talking. One bird said to Billy Pilgrim. ‘Poo-tee-weet’?”
I was pondering birdsongs earlier as I was walking down the street and listening to a bird singing a particularly interesting one. We “civilized” folk like to group all their songs in together, but of course each species has a different sound all its own, and within that sound they’ve got different songs that in turn sound different from each other. And the more I learn about the intricate details of nature, the more shameful I feel that even while appreciating nature, for most of my life I grouped in all the trees and plants as wallpaper and the birdsongs as background noise.
So anyway, here’s what I was wondering: what birdsong from what bird species was Kurt Vonnegut quoting in Slaughterhouse-Five? Theoretically, it’s a species of bird with a habitat that somehow encompasses Dresden, Germany. But it could also be that Vonnegut was actually quoting a bird song where he was living at the time (Iowa City, Iowa). I’ve never heard that particular pattern, though I admit I also haven’t been listening very closely to bird calls until recently. But can any birdsong lover tell me which species of bird can be thanked for its wise commentary on the evils of war?