"Elvis Costello meets a busload of birders." – Matt Clark, director of the Johnson Creek Watershed Council, songwriter
"All my friends are raven about it." – Joe Liebezeit, conservation program manager at Audubon Portland, mandolin player
These are some reviews on "For the Birds" (hear it below, see the lyrics here), a song peppered with bird puns and the endearing wails of a musical saw.
Matt Clark, a folk enthusiast from Oregon, is the talent behind the tune. Clark, who typically writes children's music, let the first line of the song fester in his mind, till it sprouted into sprigs of bird-themed verses and choruses. He wrote the lyrics and the music, and performed the guitar line for the final recording. His wife Abby accompanied him on the vocals, while his musician friends contributed their talents on the organ, mandolin, and musical saw.
"For the Birds" contains a total of 48 bird puns. They range from subtle—"well it's that ptarmigan, wren my bird song must end"—to silly—"Snap, Grackle, Pop's, that's what I love"—to borderline outrageous—"well dowitcher wanna, with your Northern Jacana." To put the puns together, Clark rifled through his copy of the Sibley Field Guide to Birds and played around with different species names. Some, like the flammulated owl, led him too far down the rabbit hole. So rather than forcing the names into the lyrics, he found neater solutions, such as "my eagle is bruised" and "albatrossing you teal me the truth."
While Clark does have a history of writing environmental-themed music, he says that he created this song purely for entertainment. "Birds, songwriting, and puns are three things that I'm interested in," Clark said. And though it was not his intent, he said that it would be wonderful if the song draws anyone to birdwatching.
"For the Birds" is available for download on Bandcamp. All profits will be donated to the Johnson Creek Watershed Council, a subsidiary of the Portland conservation movement. The council works to restore urban stream habitats for migratory songbirds, fish, and amphibians.
Can you come up with any fun bird puns? Share them in the "Comments" section below.