Nicole Perretta has appeared on Ellen show and Jay Leno because of her unique talent imitating bird calls realistically. She’s now up to 165 calls. Nicole has written several books, like How to talk to birds, and performs at birding events and teaches classes about bird calling. She was a zookeeper at the San Diego Zoo for 7 years and is available to call birds for you!
Transcript of the 1st 5 minutes.
Nicole: Hello, how are you?
Jeffery: I’m good. So we’ve been chit-chatting a little before starting to record and this is going to be a really interesting call. We met at, you know, I heard you perform at a birding event and you described besides doing a lot of interesting bird calls, and I’d like to hear you do some of those during our call; but you described how you discovered this talent, you know, I’d like you to start there and tell folks how you discovered your talent for this.
Nicole: Oh, sure, you bet. So I was doing bird calls at the Anza Borrego birding festival. I started when I was pretty young. I can’t remember, maybe six years old about, and I was very fortunate to grow up in East County San Diego and we used to own some property out there that was out in the wild and I had a lot of birds, you know, hawks and ravens and quails and I used to listen to them all the time.
First of all, I think I have to say that I grew up in a very open type family. My mom loves animals and my mom is the kind of person that if she sees a cat or a dog or a bird she’ll talk to it in its own language. So she’ll see a cat walking down the street and she’ll go, “Meow,” and the funny thing is the cat will turn and run to my mother, like, she can call any cat and it will come to her. So I grew up with watching my mom bring animals to her. So I saw that and said, “Hey, maybe I can do the same thing.” So I practiced and practiced and it wasn’t until I was in elementary school that I really started to get the hang of doing the bird calls. And one time I was walking home from school and I saw a pair of ravens sitting in a tree and I heard them calling and I decided to call back. And this is what a raven sounds like [making bird call sounds], so I did that, I went [making bird call sounds], and then the Raven answered me back like that [making bird call sounds], and I’m like, “Wow! This is really cool.”
So I just stood there and call at them for a while, but then you know like most kids I had to get home by a certain time so I said, “Okay, I better go.” So I just kept on walking and the ravens kept calling. So I’m walking home and I’m a couple of blocks away and I’m going [making bird call sounds], and I can hear them for way [making bird call sounds], like that. So I keep walking and calling and all of a sudden I hear, [making bird call sounds], like, right above my head and I look up and the ravens are right in the tree right above me. They had basically followed me on my trail home. And so I kept walking and basically got into my house and I had two ravens circling over my house. I kept calling them from the window and then there’s these two birds just keep circling and calling so it was a wonderful introduction because as a child I said, “Wow, if I can get these birds to come to me,” and that was it, that was a very beginning.
Jeffery: That’s amazing, Nicole. It’s very, very rare that people discover this kind of talent. What happened then? I’m sure you kept talking to different birds and having different experiences. Are there other interesting stories like that that you can relate along the way when you were little older?
Nicole: Okay, yeah. When I was in elementary school, again, I was playing in the playground and I saw a red shoulder hawk soaring in the air — and they’re very vocal birds and they’re often up there soaring and then you can hear them going [making bird call sounds]. So I decided to imitate that call because that’s one that I’ve been practicing. So I called back to them and sure enough this bird had been a speck in the sky and had dropped down almost right above my head, I mean, maybe roof level and it was circling around calling and calling because it thought I was another bird. So it was pretty amazing to see that happening and I just kept doing it. I started going bird watching and part of bird watching is walking around and looking at birds and if I heard a bird I didn’t recognize I would follow it until I found it.