Chairman of the Reserve Bank and current Vice-Chancellor of Waikato University, economist Neil Quigley is one of the most multi-talented people I’ve ever met.

Following the election he will have his hands full building our long overdue 3rd medical school.

But a little known fact about Neil is he’s soon to see published, not only his first book but the first of its type in world history. This is an English-Sparrow language directory.

For the last 30 years Neil has daily recorded sparrow chirps and discerned 68 different ones.

For example, he has identified the chirp when he feeds them breadcrumbs, as opposed to the nuanced difference chirps with other chopped items, such as, mince-meat, carrots, apple or whatever.

As part of his research he had made an electronically controlled mock cat and has recorded the appropriate chirp, basically saying “run lads”, when he has it appear.

Sparrows are highly promiscuous. His chapter on this topic had a range of risqué different chirps, some so bawdy they certainly wouldn’t pass muster with woke human females.

Neil did not stop there. With the aid of a singing teacher he taught himself to chirp and is now a fluent sparrow speaker.

An unintended problem arising from this, is when talking to his wife, as with all multi-linguists he sometimes unintentionally lapses into sparrow, if what he’s saying is better expressed in chirps.

Wellingtonian, Dr Bob Brockie, who gained his doctorate studying hedgehogs, tried a similar exercise some years back. He abandoned it when he discovered they’re terse buggers who have almost no verbal communication with one another.

But as we all know, not so with sparrows who are non-stop chatterers.

Neil’s book is more accurately a record sleeve as obviously, apart from a 20 page Introduction outlining his research, it consists of a C.D. in which he demonstrates then translates the various chirps.

Neil plans to introduce a 3 year degree course in speaking sparrow, once he has trained some tutors for which he’s currently interviewing applicants.

Following publication of his book I suspect Neil in pioneering bird communication will see him a shoo-in to capture the Noble Prize for science, to add to his many credentials.



Oh boy! I find that these little feathered buggers like the roof of my car and most days they leave me much in the way of sign language!
Annoying as it is quite acid at times and requires a watery response asap.

Yes, we all need another language…

Makes more sense than learning Maori. More native speakers and it’s international!

Churp churp ! Ha ! I love it.

I find seagulls far more interesting. Had an argument with one and it shat on me.

Tell Neil to be more ambitious… get amongst the ‘native’ birdlife and get a real marketable language. Govt is always calling out for more native speakers.
For the Full Monty, add native sign language as well.

Churpa churpa cheep cheep churp!

As the famous song goes Bob…..

Your mates certainly cop some banter

In England we know that robin calls vary from place to place and experts can differentiate a Kent robin from a Sussex robin from its call. In New Zealand A Kaikoura bellbird has a different call from an Akaroa bellbird. Perhaps Dr. Quigley may only be in the early stages of the research needed to get his Nobel prize as Gore sparrows might speak a different language or merely have a different dialect. There could be twice the number (136) of different calls and this possibility should be excluded before any nomination is made for the prize.

Brilliant…and why you must keep posting..:)


There’s been a noticeable uptick in the use of pidgin recently too.

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