Bird whistles | State Library of New South Wales
Bird whistles

Bird whistles, 1960s
Henry Grace
Tin and brass
R 408 to R 417

Henry Grace (1884–1966) was a passionate bird watcher and listener. After retiring from his job as an electrician, Grace spent hours in the Royal National Park recording bird calls using his own ‘bird-code’ notation based on Morse code and shorthand. Working from his shed in Jannali, Grace then invented intricate bird whistles made from metal tubing, wire and rubber bands, on which he could then play each individual bird call.

Grace spent days out in the bush with his camping gear loaded on his old pushbike. He could imitate around 60 native bird calls with his whistles, often so well that he fooled the birds themselves. When his hearing deteriorated with age, Grace constructed metal ear trumpets in order to be able to hear his beloved birdsong. He delighted in listening to the dawn chorus — it ‘only lasted 20 minutes, but it was always one of the greatest pleasures of my life’.