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Coo-coo! Coo-coo!

When a character in fiction makes a bird call, it's usually not to actually call birds. When a character makes a bird call, it's usually for one of two reasons:

  1. As a signal.
  2. To cover up a noise he made by pretending to be a bird. This is often done with other animals.

Seldom played straight anymore. If used, it will be either parody (the caller definitely does not sound like a bird, but it works anyway) or deconstruction (the bird call is out of place for the time or location, and the position is given away).

Examples of Type 1:


  • Kung Pow: One of Evil Betty's henchmen calling out in a bird noise. Betty himself calls out a second later with, "I'm just a birdie too!" This may also be Type 2.
  • In Three Amigos, Steve Martin's character calls in very badly done bird calls to get his co-stars' attention. Still, they assume it's a real bird. He eventually gets to "Lookuphere! Lookuphere! Lookuphere!" and finally resorts to just yelling, "Hey, you guys!"
  • Parodied in Galaxy Quest: Guy and Tommy stay behind to watch over the scene when the rest goes out to get fuel. The signal for something going wrong is a bird call, but, when they notice something really bad about to happen, they run out into the open screaming "Caw, Jason!" at the top of their lungs and frantically flailing their arms.
    • What makes it funny is that Jason tells them they don't have to do bird calls since they have working communicators, but Guy and Tommy still do it anyway out of sheer panic.


  • Lampshaded in Monstrous Regiment. Polly, who knows something about birds, is exasperated by her squadmates' incredibly unrealistic bird calls.
  • Played straight in Frank Herbert's Dune. The Fremen use bird calls to communicate with each other: "Jessica heard... the distant bird calls that Stilgar had said were the signals of his watchmen."
    • ...Birds... on Arrakis?!
      • Presumably some variety of buzzard.
      • Perhaps you forget Paul's Freman name is Muad'Dib, which is a kangaroo mouse. Birds hunt mice. And a big scene takes place at a location called the Cave of the Birds.
  • Swallows and Amazons:

 "Now, I haven't seen your allies and I'd rather not, but just you tell them from me if you should happen to meet them, that if they want to give a signal right bang in the middle of the day, it wouldn't be so hard on their friends if they'd choose blackbirds or jays instead of owls. Your Aunt Maria wants to write to the Natural History Museum about it. She says she's never heard one at mid-day before."

  That's stupid. If I need help, I'll shout "Help".

  • In The Hobbit, Bilbo is sent to scout for danger, and told to hoot like a particular type of owl if he finds any. He's not given a chance to explain that he doesn't know how to, which becomes a problem when he does discover something.
  • The heroes in The Wheel of Time use a lot of bird calls as signals. Rand even makes a magic shield use a bird call as an alarm. They intentionally use ones out of place for the location to avoid getting confused by actual birds.
  • Is played for laughs in Baptism of Fire. Zoltan Chivay tells the gang he'll signal them by making a sparrowhawk's call. When they call him on not even knowing how a sparrowhawk sounds, he points out that if they hear a weird, unidentifiable noise, they'll know it's him.
  • Peter Pan's famous crow, often used as a signal to alert the Lost Boys to his presence. Additionally, the Indians use coyote cries as signals.
  • For Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, the signal is a cat cry. Huck's apparently so good at it that on one occasion a man started throwing rocks at him through a window.
  • Used in The Hunger Games as a signal between Katniss and Ruse. Its symbolic as the call represents both safety, but also rebellion, as it is a call emulated by the Mockingjays.

Live Action TV

  • Happens in an ICarly episode where they have Freddy sneak into detention with them.

 Carly: (like a bird) Caw-caw!

Freddy: (unconvincingly) Caw-caw...

Carly: Do it like a bird!

  • Played for laughs on Stargate SG-1. A pair of bumbling scientists have decided to rescue the titular team, and one of them uses a bird call to attract their attention... on a spaceship.

  Jonas Quinn: Is that... a bird?

  • One episode of The Wonder Years has a group of middle school kids plotting to sneak alcohol from their house late at night and use this to signal when the alcohol is recovered. When the kid acquires the alcohol, everyone else repeats the call over and over in unison and inadvertently wakes up kid's parents.
  • Used in the Unnatural History episode, "Maximum Insecurity" to lure the Villain of the Week.
  • On an episode of Gomer Pyle USMC, Sgt. Carter tells Gomer to signal him by hooting like an owl. When the time comes, Gomer says "Hoody-hoo, Sergeant Carter! Hoody-Hoo!"
  • Done by Genre Savvy Abed in Community episode Modern Warfare.

Western Animation

 (a Roughneck does a bird whistle to fool the Bugs)

General Redwing: That's the worst bluejay I've ever heard.

Private Higgins: The Bugs don't know that, General.

  • Robots: While infiltrating the Bigweld Ball, Rodney and Fender discuss using signals in case they're found out. Fender suggests a very loud "Ca-caw!" call, which he calls "the sound of the deep doo-doo bird".
  • In Monsters vs. Aliens, B.O.B. calls out the others when they are in Gallaxar's ship. Dr. Cockroach comes up from behind and Dope Slaps him to remind him that they're all already there.
  • In South Park Bigger Longer and Uncut, Christophe the mole instructs Stan and Kyle that if anything goes wrong, to make a sound like a dying giraffe. Played for laughs when they do have to make the sound later - and distract two guards who correctly identify the intended sound.

Examples of Type 2:

Abridged Series

Anime and Manga

  • In an early Rurouni Kenshin story arc, Kenshin and Sano are secretly following Yahiko to make sure he's safe. As he begins to twig on their presence, they try to pretend that they're just cicada. In the manga, at least, Yahiko's not convinced, as it's too early for those to be chirping.


  • In one film adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, Benedick, while hiding, makes an indignant shout, then covers it up by pretending to be a bird.
  • In one Three Stooges short, the police are searching for a group of robbers. An officer hears some rustling from a nearby garbage can.

 Officer: Who's in there?

Shemp: Just garbage! (Cue out-of-view Dope Slap)


  • There's a joke about three blondes who escape from prison and hide from the pursuing police officers in three burlap sacks. The officers nudge the sacks in turn. The first blonde says, "Meow!" the second says, "Woof!" and the third says, "Potatoes!"
    • In another version of the joke, they're each hiding in a tree; the first one says "Meow," the second says "Tweet tweet," and the third says "Moooooo."
  • The Trope Namer might be this joke: A farmer wakes up at night from some noise coming from the chicken coop. Concerned that a fox or worse might be in there, he walks out and shouts: "Someone in there?" Answer: "Nobody here but us hens!"


  • A dog variant appears in the Discworld novels. Whenever Gaspode, a talking dog, lets something slip around humans, he usually says "Woof?" to cover it up. Some humans then notice that a dog should woof; it shouldn't say "woof."

Live Action TV

 Cleotilde: Who's there?

Quico: Meoooow!

Cleotilde: Ah, Satan, is that you? (Later...) Who's there?

Chavo: Another cat!


  • One of Frank Muir's stories on My Word involved him describing a Naked People Trapped Outside episode. During it, he attempted to conceal himself by crouching doown by the side of the road and making a sound like a small hawthorn bush.

Video Games

  • In a minigame in The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker, you have to follow a girl to watch what she does without her noticing you. If she hears you (if you run, for example) but you're out of her sight, Link will freeze and meow like a cat.

Visual Novel

  • In the text-adventure Radical Dreamers, the guards catch our heroes hiding in the treasure vault. One suggests it's a cat ("Meow!" says the guile heroine) or a dog ("Woof!") or a heckran ([lengthy baffled pause] "Heck-eck-eck-eck-rraaaannnn"). They are discovered shortly thereafter.

Web Comics

 Guard: Who's there?!

(Guard sees Snake, covering Eva's mouth with his hand)

Snake: Caw.

Guard: It's okay, you guys! It's just a bird!

    • In another part of the comic, he gets rid of a guard by holding branches and saying "I'm a tree!" On the other hand, a different guard gets freaked out and suspicious regarding his alligator mask, but is told It's Probably Nothing by his superior.
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