Sunday, 16 September 2012

Me, Me, ME!!

There is an election coming up in Brazil, the most obvious manifestation of which is the use of vans playing annoying, repetitive, jingles, very very loudly. As with most things, there is a natural equivalent.

The master of "political" advertising is the male Screaming Piha (Lipaugus vociferans), a grey thrush-size bird that lives in the tree canopy in northern Brazil and Amazonia. The call is not unpleasant the first time you hear it, but you tend to hear it a lot, and he is one of the loudest birds on Earth! The Piha's call reaches 111.5 decibels, whilst for comparison, an electric drill is 98 dB, and a power saw 110 dB. The aim of course, like that of the advertising vans, is to draw attention, although in this case he is after mates, and is presumably more positively received.

The Screaming Piha works on the "lek" system, which is basically like an election, all the candidates in the same place screaming for attention. Apparently there is little difference in content in each lek, just in volume, but the calls change a little over the years.  Perhaps we have more in common with birds than we think.