Finest mechanical bird song of 1890

This lovely mechanical contraption is designed to mechanically recreate bird song. The video uploader says this was made about 120 years ago in Paris, probably by Blaise Bontems who was known for this type of automaton. It's a fascinating, delicate device!

The Finest Bird Song of 1890


  1. that’s an amazing piece of work. just watching it work is fascinating, but (bonus!) my cat was sitting on my lap at the time and even HE got excited about it.

  2. in the same vein, 18th-century neuchatelois watchmaker pierre jaquet-droz, his son henri-louis and business partner jean-frederic leschot used to make intricate mechanical singing birds and mechanical animated tableaux for sale. here’s an example of the kind of stuff they make — a golden egg that opens up to reveal a pastoral scene with singing birds and a goatherd playing his pipes.

    jaquet-droz & co also made androids (automata simulate an action, androids perform it) such as a large mechanical doll who sits at a custom-made piano and can be programmed to actually press the keys with its fingers and play a tune (not just move its hands over the keyboard while a tune is produced elsewhere within the machinery). pretty amazing when you consider the limitations of technology in the 1700s.

    the modern-day watch company jaquet droz, taking a page from the history books, just came out with this.

    a minute repeater (mechanical watch that chimes the time when you activate a slide lever) with dial-side automata depicting a cascading waterfall and a pair of birds in a nest, fluttering their wings and feeding their offspring (who pop out of the eggs in the nest). as editor of a watch magazine, i am fascinated by this stuff — it makes me nerd out.

      1. I was feeling the same way until it struck me how much effort went into making it, and then the cutesiness that would have been sickening in a plastic and electronic device was somehow suddenly quite touching.

  3. There are a bunch of those types of automatons in an extremely fun little museum in Utrecht in the Netherlands. It is a museum of automated instruments and is well worth a visit if you ever find yourself in the Netherlands. Their website is here: Highly recommended

  4. Any idea what the species is? I linked to the YouTube video from my nature blog,, and a very good birder thinks it’s a Eurasian Skylark…

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