I'm developing an animal that can do three things:

  • Memorization of sound
  • Mimicry
  • Long-distance sound "teleportation."

How could my animal's abilities work in reality?

Memorization of sound

The animal (a bird, if you must know) needs to be able to "record" every sound it makes and hears. Every. Single. Sound. Think of it as a recorder. These birds have excellent hearing because of their sound manipulation (see below).


This means that the bird can mimic every sound it has ever heard (which is useful because it can remember every sound it has ever heard). It can talk using human voices, it can mimic tones and accents, speak different languages, etc. It is not intelligent enough to carry on an enlightened conversation, because it isn't good at connecting the dots between outside stimuli and words it says.

But it has one thing in its favor: it remembers every sound. Even if it can't understand. And these birds have great temporal sense, so you can get them to record sound from a specific time. They are usually trained with colored bands, with each combination and order of colors meaning a different command.

This makes them valuable. They are useful to police and to spies. They can be trained to repeat messages, even once. If you tell them a phrase, they can say it once and then not again or repeat it hundreds of times, depending on the command. Now imagine if they were messengers: but how would you get them to get to one specific person? Easy answer:

Long-distance sound "teleportation"

I want them to be able to send a message anywhere in the world. Obviously they can't communicate through a vacuum, but it should be easy for them to send sound through hundreds, even thousands of miles of stone or water. It should be relatively fast. Sound travels at $343m/s.$ (miles per second.) I'm willing to go transonic $(273−342m/s)$. Not subsonic $(\lt 273m/s)$.

Of course it will be hard to focus through sound and water -- that's why I'm giving my bird the power of raw force/vibration manipulation (which is what sound is.) It's not enough to create dramatic sonic weapons (to a limit). But it keeps the vibrations at the exact frequency and intensity throughout the journey.

If the bird is trained in some way to shift the message, it can relinquish this "coating" or "shield" and allow the sound to travel and disperse normally. This should be strong enough so that the mimicry is perfect and the sound-message can be "delivered" to a specific person, even in a crowd.

My Question

How would this work?

More specifically,

  • The "sound shields"
  • the specificity of the message & speed
  • the mimicry
  • the memorization

I need the sound shields to keep the sound intact and to work by manipulating the way vibrations spread. I need the specificity of the message to be able to target one person in a crowd from the other side of the Earth. I need the mimicry to be perfectly perfect, and the bird to memorize everything from a thunderclap to the sound of a pindrop, at the same time. The memory should record every sound through its entire life (around 60 years.) I'm wondering how to alter the brain/memory of the bird so it can do this.

Thanks to all in the Sandbox who helped grow this question.

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    $\begingroup$ Please leave an explanatory comment telling how to fix if downvoting/Voting to close. $\endgroup$ May 6, 2018 at 19:28
  • $\begingroup$ just an fyi, I think it is normal to mention in the question somewhere that the question went through the sandbox. i've seen some people say it has "graduated" :) also fyi, downvote wasn't me and you currently have no vtc's. $\endgroup$ May 6, 2018 at 19:39
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    $\begingroup$ How did this get through the Sandbox as a single question? This is a multitude of interrelated but separate issues, it needs to be broken down some. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    May 6, 2018 at 20:05
  • $\begingroup$ @EveryBitHelps I have very rarely seen something like that. The important part is updating the Sandbox community wiki and shortening+deleting the draft, but whether you want to name the Sandbox in your post or a comment or not at all is completely up to you. $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    May 6, 2018 at 20:10
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    $\begingroup$ There are many bird species which are able to imitate a large diversity of sounds very convincingly. As for "sending the message anywhere in the world", this is magic. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    May 6, 2018 at 22:20

3 Answers 3


A couple of quick minor corrections:

  • The speed of sound in air is 343 meters per second, not miles per second.
  • Sound travels significantly faster in liquids (around 1440 mps in seawater) and faster still in solids (5120 mps in iron).

But to the main point: when it comes to the ability to 'fire' a sonic message an arbitrary distance through an arbitrary medium, physics is working very much against you. It is a fact that whalesong can travel thousands of miles through the ocean and still be heard, but the ocean provides a very ideal environment for propagating sound long distances -- few large obstacles in the pathway, and a refractive effect of temperature & pressure that basically "tunnels" the sound along the direction it was emitted.


On the surface of the earth you have trees, mountains, buildings, and a host of other obstacles blocking the path and breaking up and dispersing the sound -- even a strong wind is enough to foul it up. But even more than that you have the fact that sound is badly disrupted by changes in the medium. One of your birds could try to send a sonic 'beam' or whatever through the ground, but before it gets to its recipient it has to go through soil, then clay, then sandstone, then the open airspace of an underground cavern... you get the idea. The energy is dispersed to nothing long before it can reach its target.

Your birds would be much more effective for the purpose you have for them, if they share some kind of communal telepathy. It doesn't have to be so elaborate or sophisticated such at any one bird of the species could contact any other specific bird of the species anywhere at will. It would be enough e.g. that, say, a group of the birds raised in close proximity will develop & retain contact with each other for the rest of their natural lives. The telepathic connection itself would be geared to transmitting newly-learned bits of mimicry, although it could have other uses, e.g. keeping a parent in touch with its young while it's away from the nest.

But I'd give up the idea of 'shielding' and directing sonic vibrations the way you're describing. It stretches the real-world physics of sound travel to the breaking point, i.e. it would truly be a "magical" sound as you describe it in the title... and if you're working with magic, then it's better to not bother tying it to physics and physical explanations/effects at all.


Two different things.

Memorization and mimicry are normal bird things. That seems fine. You take it a little farther with thunderclaps etc but ok.

The super accurate projection thing is something else. Why would anything evolve that ability?

The workaround is from the same source as the colored bands. I conclude from this remark that the people who are working with these birds are using tech to augment / improve their abilities (the colored bands being the example given). I propose that the long distance projector is another augmentation. We have long distance projectors that we can use to send our voices - radio. In your world there can be a crystal or machine or artifact that serves this purpose.

Also, there potentially can be a lot of birds. A lot of superpowered birds can mess things up. Your distance crystal can be rare which also limits how much world altering mayhem they create - sort of like a sound distance Palantir. You can then explore separately other applications of the sound transmitting device and other applications of your bird (can it reproduce the brown note?).

  • $\begingroup$ Omg. The brown note! That is definitely something i have to incorporate at some point. $\endgroup$ May 6, 2018 at 23:18
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    $\begingroup$ Have tested an LRAD many times on unsuspecting people (thanks Navy!). I have seen no evidence for induced poops. Very sad. $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    May 6, 2018 at 23:42

Much like fellow user JDM-GBG pointed out, I agree you have a huge problem in the medium you are trying to use, but that isn't necessarily a dealbreaker. You have already outlined a very different world than our own, so I would suggest you make a few adjustments.

First, you don't necessarily need "bird-telepathy" if you don't want it, you just need a better medium. Say these birds can be trained to chirp in very specific sound ranges. Since finding out about this, people have found a use for a previously well known metal with the very interesting(but previously useless) of property true oscilatory propagation. People train the birds to speak in very specific frequencies in such way that multiple birds can share the same physical channel at a time with reasonably little interference. You can then use your bird's "true hearing" property on the other side to translate the high frequency sound back, if you know in which frequency the message is being transmitted.

You can compliment this system through the forging of bands with very specific resonant frequencies that match the one specific birds are speaking in. So if you want your messages to be private, you must personally touch your band to the birdwire, and then the resonance device vibrates in such a way to recreate the message in normal ranges.

You will also need an "operator" frequency band, so that people in other stations can get information about bird-encoding(recipient and sender bird, channel availability, etc). You would also have a lot of message collision, the same thing that happens in computer networks when two computers try to send data over the same wire at the same time. You could try to mitigate that with one masterbird that is constantly looping through the frequency channels and reproducing a list of available channels, but the delay for a message to cross the world at speed of the sound is pretty great, so there might quite a few collisions. You might want to use multiple wires or increase message price, so that there is a greater chance the channel will be free when you transmit a message to the other side of the world.

Now, lets tackle evolution:

This is a trait of communication, so you have few evolutionary reasons to develop it. First is predator avoidance, but language would be more useful here and I cannot think of a reason to develop the ability to speak in multiple sub-hearing ranges, unless EVERY SINGLE THING in the world hunts these birds, and they all have very different hearing ranges.

My best guess would actually be mating calls. Much like the lyra bird, these birds developed incredibly intricate mating calls, and the female bird chooses the mate based on the sound it likes most. The incredible range could be explained by the bird's habit to hunt down and kill other males chirping in ranges similar to it's own, to thin competition. This creates incredible evolutive pressure towards acquiring higher and higher vocal and hearing ranges. Vocal so that the growth of the bird population requires the increase of the population vocal and hearing range.

In regards to memory, you will need a very long lived bird, since you want them to be able to remember upwards of 60 years. You will make this memory a necessary evolutionary trait by making this a very promiscuous(but loyal) bird. It gains one of two new mates every mating season, but also needs to remember mating call from previous seasons, and it developed a good memory to do that. I'm not sure their memory would naturally evolve to be as perfect as you want, but you could say selective breeding on our part made for better bird memory.


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