3 - black and white birds.jpg

Image credit: Madeleine Kelly, Canberra Birds 2019, encaustic wax and pigment on cardboard, dimensions variable

Unlikely - Journal for Creative Arts Issue 8:
Birds and Language

Call For Submissions

Proposals Due 15 December 2021

Guest editors: Madeleine Kelly and Jen Valender

Issue 8: Birds and Language

What is it to talk of birds and language? How might such a question provide the impetus and grounds for an interdisciplinary encounter between the natural sciences, the humanities, and the creative arts?

The sounds birds make form structured series, comprised of complex syntaxes, nuanced in tone, precise, sometimes excessive, often regarded as being of compelling aesthetic value. We do not hesitate to refer to many of these sounds as songs, or, more prosaically, calls. We move, easily, too, towards thinking about these sounds as a species of language.

More, we readily speak of the visual rhetoric of birds: ideas of performativity, display, mimesis and deception. We sometimes dare to think of birds as artists—not only singers, but bricoleurs, assembling extravagant, colour-coded nests, as in the case of the bowerbird. More recently, we have become more comfortable with thinking of some birds as capable of higher-order reason, as experiments with crows demonstrate capacities to think through and solve complex physical problems.


This issue responds to themes presented at the Birds and Language Conference hosted by the University of Sydney, its companion exhibition at Wollongong City Gallery, and beyond. Proposals may explore bird species, mimicry, display, the bird song/call dichotomy, or non-human animal music-like practices.

Contributions might include, but are not limited to:

We are inviting submissions of:

Researchers in the humanities (particularly musicology), creative arts, science, and other relevant interdisciplinary fields are encouraged to apply. Final scholarly submissions should be in English, in MLA format, and sent as a doc(x) file. Texts should be between 2000-6000 words including works cited.


Fill out the Submittable form specifically outlining your proposed contribution (250 words) in terms of both the thematic focus, and its proposed form via this URL: https://slamsydney.submittable.com/submit/207034/unlikely-journal-for-creative-arts-issue-8-birds-and-language.

All submissions should be accompanied by a biographical note on the applicant, no longer than 100 words, noting recent key achievements such as publications, awards, grants, residencies, prizes, press coverage or degrees. The editors will respond, inviting selected contributors to develop their proposal into a full submission to be peer reviewed.

Please include your email address and contact number. You will be contacted via personal email regarding the outcome of your proposal, not by the Submittable system. Also, please ensure that your support material is labelled in the exact format below before uploading:



For any queries or to discuss proposed contributions please contact directly: