Birdsong is beautiful. No other animals have inspired quite so much literature and music as songbirds.
Does our love of these sweet tweets betray a deeper link between humans and birds? We are very distant relatives indeed, but could we share some fundamental aspects of language?
Charles Darwin was so struck by this thought that in 1871 he wrote in The Descent of Man: “The sounds uttered by birds offer in several aspects the nearest analogy to language, for all the members of the same species utter the same instinctive cries expressive of their emotions; and all kinds that have the power of singing exert this power instinctively.”
Today, there is growing evidence that humans and birds have more in common than the simple ability to produce lots of different sounds. In fact we share brain structures and genes that are associated with speech. Some scientists now believe that birds may hold the key to a great mystery: how human language evolved.