Archive for November 11th, 2008

Interpreting Bird Calls for the Hearing Impaired

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

Passport to Texas from Texas Parks and Wildlife

Always an Expo favorite, The Birds of Prey show brings in live eagles, owls, hawks, and other raptors for a spectacle of sight and sound.

[owl call] There was a variety of sounds like the way the owls call during the mating season, and sometimes there are two birds. I think my favorite, of course, is the hawks. The hawks are the most beautiful.

[hawk screech]

Laurie Petty is a sign language interpreter for Parks and Wildlife. Those with hearing impairments rely on her use of ASL gestures [American Sign Language] and finger flutterings to relate to the distinctive vocalizations the birds make.

Some of it is finger spelling, like the hoot owl. You just do the “hoot.” And then, of course, the screech owl, it sounds like an, “Eeee!” you know. So you actually make that “Eee” sound or scream sound, with a way a person would scream. And so that’s how you’re able to do it.

Of course, sound is an experience that cannot be directly expressed or translated into words, but her physical movements offer viewers a semblance of the sound that can be understood visually.

It is a very difficult thing to sign sounds that are coming from a bird. But I try to move my fingers the best I can to where people can get a visual on what is happening at that moment, and on what is being heard; so they know there is a noise coming from the animal.

More about birds of prey and their calls is on our website:

That’s our show…with research and writing help from Sarah Loden… For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology [learn about birds and listen to their calls]

Learn American Sign Language:,