A few years ago, ECU faculty member Julie Andreyev began putting out water for the crows that lived near her house. In response, they began leaving her gifts, and from that interspecies friendship came the idea for Bird Park.
Bird Park is an ongoing artwork and research project between Andreyev and the birds around her home, in the form of a field station on top of Andreyev’s home in Vancouver. The park features shallow pools of water, refilled daily; food in specialized, sustainably-made baskets; and spaces for birds to perch, play, and cache their food. Andreyev records video and audio of bird activities using GoPro cameras and concealed microphones, data that allow her to learn more about their communications and culture.
Since setting up Bird Park, Andreyev has made modifications to the station based on the behaviour of her visiting birds, which include crows, chickadees, doves, and sparrows. She added places to hide or stash food to keep it safe from seagulls, and designed food baskets for the chickadees with the help of undergraduate student Astrid Dakowicz.
Another student, Morgan Gilbert, helped to design rock-like enclosures to conceal a microphone and speaker. These instruments record sounds in the park, and also play them back to the birds to involve their listening processes in the research.
Andreyev’s recordings illuminate little-seen activities and interactions between birds, including soft calls and communications between the crow pair, and playful behaviour using the pebbles and water. A selection of videos from Bird Park can be seen on her Vimeo channel.
Future Bird Park endeavours include setting up twin GoPro cameras to capture 3D video of the birds, and setting up another field station on Vancouver Island, in collaboration with University of Victoria researcher and artist Paul Walde, to document the activities of other bird species. Andreyev’s research team is also working on fabricating weather-resistant items that will extend the seasonal usage of the park into the rainy fall and winter.
Andreyev hopes that Bird Park encourages people to consider how they can learn about and reciprocate with the other animals that share our environment, and help to create more bird-friendly urban spaces.
Bird Park is an off-site exhibition of the Vancouver International Bird Festival (August 19-26).