A Biosemiotic and Ecoacoustic History of Bird-Scaring

Jacob Smith*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Timo Maran has defined “biosemiotic criticism” as the study of human culture with an emphasis on the recognition that all forms of life are organized by sign processes. That approach guides this investigation of the sonic devices and practices that have been used in encounters between birds and humans in agricultural spaces. “Bird-scaring” has been a long-standing component of the semiotic relationship between humans and birds in what I am calling the agricultural semiosphere. The struggle between humans and “pest” species over the control of agricultural resources has spurred technological development, and an examination of the sonic tools that have been involved in bird-scaring practices, from wooden rattles to digital sound recordings, intersects with scholarship on sound technology and media studies. The field of ecoacoustics provides a conceptual framework for the sonic dynamics of the interspecies communication under examination. To the extent that the essay also explores the sign relations between humans and birds it has a place in the growing corpus of biosemiotic criticism. The historical account of bird-scaring practices is presented in three sections, demarcated by changes in technology as well as shifts in the mode of semiotic reference. Across the analysis, a historical approach to bird-scaring is interwoven with a discussion of biosemiotic and ecoacoustic themes and concepts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-83
Number of pages17
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2022


  • Agriculture
  • Birds
  • Ecoacoustics
  • Habituation
  • Media
  • Mimicry
  • Semiosphere
  • Sound

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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